The Cellar

January 27, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

cellarThe Cellar by Richard Laymon


Richard Laymon was another author I read when I was still reading horror almost exclusively. I only read a handful of his books, but they had memorable moments and were easily readable, even if the stories didn’t have much of a lasting effect on me. Laymon is considered to be another of the extreme-horror authors, like Jack Ketchum, though based on what I remember of what I read, that revelation came as a surprise to me. His works have disturbing imagery, but they’re not overly graphic, nor do they disturb the way that Ketchum’s best works do. Since I finished up Ketchum’s body of work, though, I thought it would be good to move on to Laymon since I remembered liking his work when I was younger.

The Cellar is the first in what would become a series of four books about the Beast House, a house that has been the location of several gruesome murders, and some suspect of containing a supernatural beast that comes out at night. In this book, the main character, Donna, is a woman whose ex-husband, who has been in prison for raping their daughter, has been released, driving her to leave their home with her daughter and travel north to escape him. On the way, she gets stranded in the town where the Beast House stands, where she meets two men, one who survived an attack from the Beast, and the other the man he’s hired to kill it. The four of them band together, not just to survive the Beast, but also to survive Roy, Donna’s ex-husband.

The novel’s theme is one seen over and over again in horror fiction: the monsters of our nightmares are nothing compared to the monsters in the real world. Laymon pairs Roy and the Beast against each other to make that point. Both antagonists are killers, as well as sexual predators, but in the end, the people are the worst of the bunch.

Despite Laymon having an easy style and compelling plot skills, the book has a lot more warts than I expected. The characterization was weak, with most of the characters just having one note to signify them, and the plot ends suddenly, with a twist that doesn’t make much sense. I did feel caught up in the story, and was interested to see where it was going, but once I finished it, I couldn’t help but see the ways it could have been better. It’s not such that it puts me off reading the rest of his work, but it’s not the best of beginnings.

It’s worth noting that a significant part of the novel focuses on Roy and his 10-year old captive, who he sexually abuses on his trek to find his wife. There are no graphic descriptions of his activities, but there are still descriptions, since Laymon wants us to despise this man as much as possible. It’s not for everyone, that’s for certain.

Laymon picked up a great reputation among horror readers, and I look forward to reading the rest of his work. I don’t think the book has much audience beyond those who already like his style, as I don’t see it being a good choice for a casual reader. Still, it’s a pretty solid read.

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