Out Are the Lights

January 30, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

lightsOut Are the Lights by Richard Laymon


So, I’m three books into Laymon’s oeuvre, and trying to figure out how he managed to get a book deal out of them. They’re pretty bad. The early 1980s, though, was the boom of horror fiction, so maybe publishers were just going with anything that involved death and torture to keep riding that money train.

There are two stories taking place in Out Are the Lights: one is about a director who creates horror movies by torturing and killing people for real; the other is about a man who’s trying to get married to his ex-girlfriend in order to win the woman he cheated with, which made the other woman his ex-girlfriend. I’m not sure why the stories are meshed together the way they are. They wind up being related, but just barely (and you’ll probably see it coming from miles away), but the story involving the ex-boyfriend is just boring. Now that I think about it, the one involving the director is pretty boring, too, so I’m not sure what there is to this novel at all.

The biggest problem with the novel is how unrealistic the movies are. We’re to believe that the movies are made by people who live in the community where the movies are shown, and their victims are people who are also in that community, but no one seems to recognize any of the people in the movies, victims or perpetrators. The filmmakers also overdub the actual dialog to remove any implications to themselves, but no one watching the movies seems to realize that the dialogue doesn’t match the visuals. It’s like Laymon came up with the idea and started writing without thinking through the logistics of it.

The ending comes on like a Mack truck, happening in about ten pages. In fact, it happens so suddenly that I thought I must have been missing part of the book. But no, that was how Laymon wrote it. It didn’t help that the copy I read included a bunch of short stories making up at least 30% of the book, and it made me think there was a lot more to the story, but it still just … stopped. That, along with my complaint about the unrealistic nature of the movies, makes me think that Laymon was just winging it with this book.

Like Laymon’s other books, this one has a lot of sex to it, but at least this time around, the story more or less requires it. A good chunk of the novel is about someone cheating on his girlfriend, and getting jealous when she finds a new beau, so it doesn’t feel as out of place as it did in The Woods Are Dark.

I will give Laymon credit for a neat angle in his story. The main character, Connie (the ex-girlfriend) is deaf, which plays an important role in the plot. Laymon doesn’t make a big deal out of it when he reveals it, but it’s enough to realize that it’s going to be significant to the story. How he uses it, though, is pretty cool, and unexpected.

I wouldn’t recommend this book — or any of his first three books — to anyone, but if you ever find yourself stranded in an empty room with just his first three books to occupy your time, choose The Cellar. Or maybe just count cracks in the ceiling. You know what? Just go with the cracks in the ceiling. You’ll thank me.

Unfortunate Musical Connection: “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)” by the Pat Travers Band

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