Book #10 – Out are the Lights by Richard Laymon

From reading Laymon’s A Writer’s Tale, I remembered that there had been problems with the books he had published through Warner Books after The Cellar.  I remembered that one of the books had suffered from a terrible line editor and one had been the victim of a terrible cover.  Out are the Lights is the latter.  Story goes, from Laymon himself, that he used to tape note cards over the back cover to block out the pithy “teaser”  because it gives away the whole book.  And it does, though a reader really doesn’t know that until the very end of the book.  After having read the back cover I spent most of the book very confused.  None of the things mentioned on the back were happening.  Basically, I just shrugged it off and read.

In hopes of giving away less than the back cover, it must be said that the book follows two story lines that don’t converge until the very end.  And we’re talking the…very…end.  Not fifty pages from the end, but five.  For me, this didn’t work, probably because there was no indication that many of the events were taking place separately.   I kept looking for ties, spent effort trying to find ties, and of course there are none.  There’s also a gimmick.  I don’t understand why the gimmick was kept for the reader for so long.  I didn’t need to be.  Didn’t buy the character of Connie either, but I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to the physical abilities of women.  Even with the proper training (and Connie isn’t given enough grounding in that training, in my opinion), a woman is going to have a hard time overcoming a man, much less several men.

Craft-wise (Lesson 5 we’ll call it):
Laymon doesn’t repeat much.  He uses shorter sentences during action and tension scenes, but varies sentence length greatly in those cases.  For fright, he relies on the horrific action that is occurring.  He doesn’t embellish, just lays it out.

All in all, Laymon is sparse with description, something I think you can get away with when writing contemporary, earth-bound novels.  One thing I envy about his style is the lack of dialogue tags.  He writes damn good diagloue, so snappy, you always know who’s talking.

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