Once Upon a Halloween

Richard Laymon, Author Cemetery Dance Publications $40 (260p) ISBN 978-1-58767-012-1
Laymon and Halloween. That sounds like a perfect mix, with the author of the gleefully malevolent The Traveling Vampire Show (Forecasts, Apr. 24) taking on the spookiest night of the year. But his fans know that Laymon can be erratic, sometimes delivering shocking yet emotionally astute entertainments, at other times turning in tangled terrors drenched in sex and gore. The latter, unfortunately, more closely describes his new novel, despite its fast, smart start, in which horror descends like a howling banshee on two young women dispensing candy to trick-or-treaters. A teen boy, Hunter, comes banging on Shannon and Laura's door, claiming he's being chased by a pack of naked adults--witches? Soon the house is under attack by nude sword- and axe-wielding maniacs. A local dad escorting a bunch of kids gets caught in the ensuing mayhem, which features numerous cuttings and, in time, the spectacle of Shannon and Laura stripped and trussed together in the local graveyard as the villains prepare for human sacrifice. Laymon ups the ante to supernatural horror by tossing in a homicidal spirit who's haunting Shannon and Laura's house, but that element only adds to the confusion already made rampant through frenzied racing and chasing by too many characters who don't grow from beginning to end, despite their ordeals. Laymon boasts an intensely loyal following, so this novel will likely sell out its limited print run, but while his fans will love the richly depicted seasonal setting and Laymon's ability to make pages riffle as if in high wind, they'll also sense that, ultimately, this is one sputtering jack o'lantern. (Oct.) FYI: Edited by Laymon and also available from Cemetery Dance is the just-released Bad News, a limited edition of original short stories on the title theme by numerous greats in the horror/dark crime field, signed by all the contributors.
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
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