The Woods Are Dark

The Woods Are Dark - Richard Laymon  Original Version 3/5 - Restored 5/5

     This is the book that pretty much killed Laymon's career in the US which can be explained rather easily. Warner Books not only heavily edited the original manuscript but gave us this lovely cover. Atrocious isn't it? The problem was that even with this awful cover and numerous typos this was a classic horror novel. Laymon went places that no other writer dared, but sadly no one read it.


     The thing is that Laymon had built up a rabid following and despite Warner Books almost killing his career here in the States.  The UK loved him and this Ohio born horror fan stumbled onto his work. I read the original version of The Woods Are Dark so I knew what this book was all about. I knew that people were turned off by Laymon's style and penchant for over the top violence. What I loved, and still loved about The Woods Are Dark is that this is a novel that does have a lot of violence, but it's a part of the story. This is a writer who is building a solid foundation and creating a legacy. He wasn't one to follow everyone else if it had been handled the right way The Woods Are Dark could have brought him the success he deserved. For all that was wrong with Woods what Laymon was trying to convey was still there, but Warner of course dropped the ball, and dropped it big time.

      For years the Warner Edition was all that we had. We knew that this wasn't the version that Laymon had hoped to see released and finally it was. Cemetery Dance had released the restored version in a limited edition hard back in 2008 and if you're lucky you may still find one, but it'll cost ya. I did get my hands on one, but there is a cheaper Leisure version out there if you look hard enough. The covers are different and that's all I know.


   What's so different? The text is repaired the damage a copy editor had created and after chapter nine the story differs quite a bit. Warner had cut out the Landers Dill chapters which left a huge gaping hole in the story. In the original The Woods Are Dark is just a slasher piece, but with the restored version you can see that Laymon had intended this to be something much bigger, and something that horror fans hadn't seen before. This is a story of survival and a man's descent into madness. The book gives a bit of history on the Krulls and who they are. They are a group of nasty people that prey on the offerings that the residents of Barlow leave them, and in exchange they are left alone. This is a truly horrifying novel that moves quickly, Laymon pulls no punches and drops you right into the horror. If you're looking for an easy read this certainly isn't it. Laymon at this point was staking out his turf and knew that if he were different then people would notice. This is where the men became boys and the horror landscape was altered forever. This is one of the foundations of splatterpunk and Laymon was slowly emerging as a God. If you've never read Laymon this is a good place to start. Terrifying and brutal, Woods is a horror classic that leaves the reader holding one hand over their eyes as they turn the page.

The Restored version of The Woods Are Dark give us the vision that Laymon had intended. As a writer we can see that he's still finding his footing, and it's that rawness that really make the book shine. As a Laymon fan this is a must read, and for non Laymon fans this is still worth checking out. Horror is always about taking risks and creating something that defines, or even expands the horror genre and this novel does that, While the original release was lacking it was still readable, but now thanks to Kelly and Cemetery Dance we have the novel the way it should have been in the first place.