Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lake Mountain by Steve Gerlach (horror)

If you told me that author Steve Gerlach was channeling the spirit of the late Richard Laymon, I would believe you based on the evidence presented in Lake Mountain. Gerlach writes so much like Laymon that it is a mystery why someone would pay the extra money for this Gerlach limited edition when, for eight dollars in paperback, they could get the Laymon novel that this book was most reminiscent of: After Midnight.

Lake Mountain is narrated by Amber Hamilton, who lets us know right away that she is not even as pretty as her name, let alone as pretty as her roommate, soulmate, and best friend Raven (who has been lovingly portrayed on the book's cover by Vince Natale). Amber obviously has a problem with low self-esteem, a fact that becomes more and more annoying as the story progresses.

Ah, yes ... the story. Raven is a stripper whose landlord Duke visits her during her shift one night and gets out of hand. After getting the brush-off, Duke follows Raven back to her trailer, lets himself in with his key, and tries to rape her, getting killed for his trouble. Now, Raven and Amber have to get rid of Duke's corpse. Only they don't get around to actually touching it for another hundred pages!

Despite the ridiculous actions of the characters (and my better judgment), I was riveted to Lake Mountain like something unhealthy, not coincidentally the same compulsion I find when reading Laymon's work. Just like his predecessor, Gerlach painstakingly describes every moment of each event — part of the reason the story stretches to 500 pages — but somehow it is not bloated. It kept me reading all the way to the end and even offered up the first truly shocking and appalling scene I've read in years. (Hint: it involves lovingly described necrophilia.) Gerlach may be a copycat, but at least he's a damned good one.

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