Out Are The Lights

     Out Are The Lights - Richard Laymon 3/5


     Richard Laymon is by far one of the greatest horror writers you have never heard of. My writing is hugely influenced by him, and no one comes to close to matching his style. When you read one of Laymon's novels you are in for one hell of a ride, and it's easy to see why he has such a large following. I have been waving the Laymon banner for years and have written quite a few reviews of his work. This man was a splatterpunk legend and took horror to a place it needed to go. It was not the typical stuff that seasoned horror fans were accustomed to and they reacted accordingly. You will see tons and tons of bad reviews that dismiss Laymon and call his work shit, but they're idiots. Laymon was a genius and I could write an entire blog telling you why but for now let's just review Out Are The Lights.

     I own two version of this and the one above is the Warner edition which I purchased because the cover was just too terrible to pass up. This is why Laymon's career stalled in the States. You have these great books with shitty cover art, and usually the cover art had nothing at all to do with the book. Also, forget the blurb on the back of the book because it's only a portion of what this book is about. Let's focus on the other cover for a second. This is the Headline version from the UK.



      This is the version you should pick up. Not only is the cover better, but Headline features five bonus short stories. As a Laymon collector I usually buy the Headline versions. Not only is the art work better but the books themselves are well done. You can find the Leisure versions, but again you're running into bad cover art and the look of the book itself is no match for the Headline edition, I have yet to read the short stories housed in the Headline edition because I forgot I had it. I read the Warner edition which sadly contains a few typos, and what the hell is up with that cover? This was typical artwork in the 80's and yeah it looks pretty bad. It has nothing to do with the book, What the hell is up with the shadow hand? It's just reaching out there and the girl in red looks like she has to take a shit.

     I digress. Out Are The Lights is an early Laymon novel and it shows Laymon trying to find his balance and stay original. With later books we know what to expect, and he already has found his comfort zone, but here we find a writer exploring his surroundings and getting a feel for the area. The strength of Lights is his pacing and storytelling. You have a twisted plot that seems to have no connection at all and sometimes it feels a bit disjointed, but Laymon knows exactly what he's doing and has no problem guiding us there. This may be a short novel but it packs one hell of a punch. Laymon is laying the ground work for his style and while there is a bit of gore and sex it's also a novel that explores our love of horror and how far we would go to be entertained.

     The Shreck films are cleverly disguised as snuff films, but the issue here is why Shreck is creating these films. It's an interesting plot line, but it doesn't really go anywhere. Laymon leaves this one wide open and there's never really any closure. These interludes are shocking and violent, but they serve no purpose. The real plot here is Caroline and Del, and Elizabeth who is married to a man she almost killed. This is the oddest and creepiest aspect of the novel. Once you get into this story line the Shreck portions of the book seem to be filler that Laymon could have left out of the book. That is the only weakness of Lights and it dragged the book down a bit.

     For an early Laymon novel this isn't terrible. It's an entertaining and fast read that show glimpses of what would come. Laymon never really pushes the envelope he actually balls it up and throws it away. He doesn't follow any rules and that's what makes him so great. Lights has an element of realism to it and that's something you don't see enough of in horror novels. Each of Laymon's characters are flawed in some way, they're all a bit broken. The one thing that is glaringly obvious is that most of the book is implausible. None of this could really happen, but so what. That's the reason why Laymon's so entertaining. This is a novel that will have you groaning at the cheesy dialogue while frantically flipping pages trying to figure out what happens next.

     Laymon is a great story teller that makes his characters parodies of ourselves. His villains are based on real people that you probably encounter at the grocery store, or maybe even work with. Lights is a fast paced horror novel that doesn't try to be anything other than a horror novel. You aren't going to get a nice reality based piece of literature. Our Are The Lights is well paced and shows glimpses of what Laymon would soon become. He takes a few risks and sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't. This is horror that you become absorbed in, and there's nothing cooler than that. Laymon was a master of giving his fans what they wanted, He wrote novels that defined the splatterpunk genre.

     Out Are The Lights has its flaws, but in the end it's a novel worth reading. This may not be one of his greatest novels but it's still pretty damned good. Laymon has a cult following for a reason and Lights isn't like other Laymon novels. It's an experiment of sorts. You have the exploration of Shreck and his crew creating these short horror films and the story of Del, Connie, Pete, and Elizabeth, All of the plots line up and the ending does leave a bit up to the reader to figure out. Is it one of my favorite Laymon novels? No, but it does remind me that with Laymon you just never knew what to expect. I miss the hell out of Laymon, He was true master of horror and his passing left a huge hole in the horror genre.