by Richard Laymon
Leisure Books, $5.99
reviewed by Monica J. O'Rourke
The Traveling Vampire Show was my first Laymon novel, surprisingly enough. I'd just discovered his work and then began to hear the controversy - how his graphic novels were perhaps a bit too graphic, that they were, for many, profoundly disturbing, almost humorous in a winking, let's-share-a-secret sort of way. The Traveling Vampire Show is also one of his tamer novels - certainly there was nothing graphically disturbing about it - but since reading it, I've managed to locate at least six other Laymon titles, and I look forward to reading them in the same enthusiastic fashion that I read The Traveling Vampire Show.
The Traveling Vampire Show is the story of three teenage friends and their one-day adventure revolving around - what else? - a traveling Vampire show. The focus of the story is 16 year-old Dwight, and the heart of the novel is in its characters, in Laymon's realistic depiction of a horny teenage boy, and his crush on his girl friend Slim, who changes her name every time she reads a new novel. Rusty rounds out the trio as the more stock character, the overweight, selfish and cowardly teen.
The story is told chronologically, in first person narrated by Dwight, which adds to its immediacy and makes for an exciting story. A few red herrings are tossed into the fray - the thing that may or may not live beneath Janks Field, or why Janks the person was introduced in the first place, giving the reader the suggestion that something supernatural might evolve with this character; or why the theme of unusual dog patterns of behavior was introduced but never fully explored.
The ending - without revealing anything here - was abrupt, as if Laymon tired of writing this story and just wanted to offer a resolution. The ending is good - satisfactory, no loose ends - but it switched quickly from a fast pace to a sort of passivity. A rather shocking event takes place, and then the narrator simply ties up loose ends.
Still, the abruptness of the ending doesn't detract from an otherwise compelling and engaging story. The sparseness of Laymon's writing lends to a more riveting story, one that flows quickly, one that you just don't want to put down. For as soon as you're sure you know where he's going with the story, everything changes. As soon as you're sure that you've guessed its secrets, you discover you were wrong, and you scratch your head and turn the page and enjoy the heck out of the rest of the book.