BLOOD GAMES

Richard Laymon, Author . Leisure $6.99 (467p) ISBN 978-0-8439-5181-3

In the early 1990s, as the horror market bottomed in the U.S., several established American authors, including Laymon (To Wake the Dead , etc.), were unable to find domestic publishers for their work. Laymon continued to hit bestseller lists overseas during this period, though, and this is one of the novels he wrote during that time. Like so much of his mid-career work, it's a middling effort, and it's also a mixed bag—nearly literally, as it offers a present-day scenario interspersed with flashbacks that are, in effect, standalone short stories. In the present, five young alumni of Belmore University are on their annual get-together; this year, the choice of what to do has fallen to Helen, a horror buff, who arranges for the group to camp out at a deserted backwoods lodge where guests were slaughtered by locals several years back. In time, the group encounter various townsfolk, including a witch, whom they must fight for their lives, resulting in a characteristic Laymon bloodbath. The action here is fast but predictable. Of greater interest are the flashbacks, showing first how the gang got together, then detailing their various exploits—taking revenge on some frat guys by setting fire to their house, on a cruel dean by trashing her office, on a nasty homeowner on Halloween by destroying his living room; seducing a young male surfer during a foggy nighttime trip along the California coast, etc. It's in these scenes that Laymon displays some, but not much, of the surreal nightmarish sensibility that hallmarked his great later work (The Traveling Vampire Show , etc.). Overall, then, this is brisk but routine entertainment from the controversial author, who died in 2001. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 11/03/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
Hardcover - 470 pages - 978-0-7472-3821-8
Paperback - 492 pages - 978-1-4778-3703-0
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