Sunday, June 7, 2009

Summer Reading: TO WAKE THE DEAD by Richard Laymon

Until the last decade, Richard Laymon's books remained relatively hard to find in the US, and sadly, Laymon died suddenly in 2001, just as Leisure had begun re-issuing several of his titles for readers who once had to seek out relatively expensive British editions. His style makes him ideal for summer horror reading: crisp, intensely visual sentences, with narratives driven by punchy dialogue and marked with generous servings of sex and violence. In recent years, I've enjoyed discovering (or re-discovering) favorites like ISLAND, THE BEAST HOUSE, ONCE UPON A HALLOWEEN, BITE, and the absolutely masterful THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW. To the best of my knowledge, TO WAKE THE DEAD (British title: AMARA) did not see publication in any form until 2002--a shame, since it joins these others as one of his most entertaining efforts.

As usual, Laymon pumps this book full of adrenaline, giving us a blissfully entertaining mummy novel, the kind that Bram Stoker would NEVER have imagined for JEWEL OF THE SEVEN STARS. Laymon's mummy, Amara, has earned the gift of eternal life after giving the Egyptian god Set a son. Her resurrection takes place in the Charles Ward Museum (wink, wink to Lovecraft readers), ultimately affecting the fates of a large cast of characters. In fact, TO WAKE THE DEAD represents a departure from the usual structure of a Laymon novel, as he weaves together different narrative arcs, many of which do not have an obvious connection to Amara's path of terror until the very end. Discovering Laymon's overall narrative design marks part of the pleasure of reading this novel, but the rest stems from the delirious violence that takes place, as Amara rips, bites, and shreds her way through the cast of characters. Laymon wrote novels that seem designed to entertain himself, and fortunately, we now have the option of sharing in the joy, as TO WAKE THE DEAD so aptly provides.


Steve said...

I read this one a while ago. It's not my favourite Laymon, I enjoyed reading it.

I seem to remember that the novel seems to be an expansion on one of his short stories. I can't remember which one, but I think it might be from his Dreadful Tales anthology.

The story was about a guy living in Egypt who got freindly with a local guy who aranged a date for them both with a couple of hot twins. The father of the girls throws the guy down a shaft for revenge and there are a lot of dead bodies down there to keep him company. The whole story turns up as a chapter in To Wake The Dead (unless I am confusing it with another book).

The Headless Werewolf said...

I'm not surprised that Laymon published part of this as a short story. In fact, other sections would probably work well as self-contained shorter works, especially the part involving the imprisoned sex slaves.

Steve said...

I just checked my copy of Dreadful Tales. The story is called Into The Pit.

Dreadful Tales is a great anthology. It was the firts Laymon book I read and I was so impressed that for a long time I was reading Laymon books back-to-back (two or three a week).

The Nobody said...

Hey, I am THE NOBODY. Wanted to say thanks for having my blog featured on yours. I really like your blog and am adding it to mine as well. Also, I love Richard Laymon - very underrated author. THE TRAVELLING VAMPIRE SHOW was really great!! Love the name of your blog too.