Richard Laymon
Flesh Cover



In Flesh, Laymon gives us his own take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this time using a snake-like creature that lodges itself into its hosts' spines and making them kill and eat other people. He touches on issues of paranoia, but the killing and the cannibalism takes center stage in the story. It's like he could have added some good theme to the book, but decided to focus on the gruesome and the gore instead.

The book is overlong with detail, which I thought at first might add to the characterization, but turned out to be just a lot of unnecessary detail. Murders take place here (Laymon), as well as a lot of hanky panky (again, Laymon), and much attention is paid to the minutiae of it all. One character has to clean up after a murder and make sure he's left nothing behind to implicate himself, and this takes at least a dozen pages to cover it all. Were this book a police procedural, I might go for it, but in a horror novel, we don't need to know that much about the situation. Just get back to the creepy and the disturbing, please.

I also noticed that Laymon's characters fall in love with each other like there's nothing to it. In Dark Mountain, the two teenagers meet and declare love before they even kiss, the second night into their camping trip; in Flesh, the main female character and the police officer fall for each other after just one night. Love isn't declared, but this does take place after the female character breaks up with her boyfriend because she thinks he wants nothing more than sex, and all she knows about the officer is what he looks like without his shirt. It's a little sudden, and a little backward for her character.

Speaking of her breaking up with her boyfriend, and the book being overlong, there was a lengthy scene (a whole chapter, really) spent showing what led to the breakup, which was not only silly, but also way too much detail. The story wasn't about a young woman being in a relationship with an older lech, so there wasn't a need to cover that breakup so thoroughly. I don't know if Laymon was trying to add complexity to either character, but it didn't have any significance to the larger story, unless he intended that chapter to be a red herring.

There's still something compelling about Laymon's stories, even if they're somewhat thin, in characterization, theme, and depth. I can't find myself wanting to recommend his books to general readers, and what I look for in horror novels now is so different from what I'm finding in Laymon's books that I can't recommend them to readers of horror, either. There are a lot of books that I think do horror better than these do, but since I've come this far into reading his catalog, I feel like I should stick it out and finish them. At the very least, they read quickly.