Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Come Out Tonight by Richard Laymon (unabridged audio book read by Gene Engene)

Sherry and Duane are about to consummate their love (or whatever it is they have together) when some poor planning sends Duane out on a jaunt to the all-night Speed-D-Mart two blocks away for the appropriate supplies. After waiting for over an hour, and hearing what sounds very much like a gunshot, Sherry gets concerned and goes out to look for Duane.

This simple summary is the set-up for a night of terror that will soon involve Sherry's family, her sister's friends, and a trio of strangers with somewhat questionable motives, all doing their best to avoid and defeat a crazed teenager with the unforgettable name of Toby Bones. Come Out Tonight is a perfect example of Laymon's inimitable skill, and an excellent introduction to his particular style of writing.

Before I read Come Out Tonight, my favorite Richard Laymon novel was In the Dark, but two reads later, this one has displaced it. Sherry's and Toby's stories stay lodged in my memory unlike any other novel Laymon has written.

Laymon piles on all of the usual deviant behaviors found in the horror genre but levies them with his signature dark humor and a pure skill with words, resulting in a novel that was one of my quickest ever reads the first time around (less than 24 hours for a 400+ page book). The unabridged audiobook, read with range and insight by the prolific Gene Engene, took longer, of course, but it allowed me to get deeper into the characters by not allowing me to read any faster than Engene could speak.

What makes Come Out Tonight so memorable is Laymon's ability to truly get inside his characters. The chapters where two teenage boys nurse back to health a naked, nearly dead young woman found outside their house are some of the most realistically played scenes (from the standpoint of character motivation and action) of any novel I've read.

Laymon focuses on the conflicting emotions and thoughts that would occur in that situation, while never letting us know exactly what will happen next. In Come Out Tonight, as well as his other novels, he chronicles every detail of each event while never allowing a full description to slow down the action. And that is his appeal. The man is truly an artist; sex and violence are simply his medium of choice.

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