Come Out Tonight, by Richard Laymon

come-out-tonight-by-richard-laymon coverGenre: Horror
Publisher: CD Publications
Published: 1999
Reviewer Rating: fourand a half stars
Book Review by Paul Kane

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I’ve always thought that Richard Laymon books are a little like Chinese food. They look appetizing, you get plenty of tasty portions, they can sometimes make you feel a bit sick, and an hour or so after finishing one you fancy reading another (I can still recall the time I read ten of his novels on the trot – man, that was some afternoon). Generally these fall into two groups. 1) Violent thriller with slasher tendencies, in which lots of nasty things happen to lots of teenagers and/or twenty-somethings (especially women) – Quake, After Midnight, Endless Night…And 2) Violent supernatural or monster thriller, in which lots of nasty things happen to lots of teenagers and/or twenty-somethings (especially women) – Beware! The Beast House, FleshCome Out Tonight definitely belongs in the former camp, a fast-paced headcase-on-the-loose yarn with a terrifyingly realistic premise.

Sherry and Duane have only been going out with each other a short while, but tonight’s the night they intend to seal their relationship. There’s just one problem, Duane’s last condom has split. Unwilling to wait ’til tomorrow, Duane ventures out into the night to buy more contraceptives from the Speed-D-Mart, telling Sherry he won’t be long. The minutes tick away and now Duane has been gone for half an hour or more. Then, to make matters worse, Sherry hears a noise in the distance that might be a door slamming, or a car backfiring. Or maybe even a gunshot.

Worried about her beau, she sets out herself, the high winds battering her as she goes. Duane’s van is still parked next to the Speed-D-Mart, but there is no sign of him inside. So she wanders across to the laundromat over the road, where she bumps into a student from the school were she subs. “Oh, yeah, I saw that guy,” he says. “He went off walking down the street. But he wasn’t exactly alone.” Before she knows it Sherry’s search for her boyfriend has turned into a nightmare of epic proportions. There’s a maniac after her and he won’t stop until he gets her. It’s going to be one hell of a long night, but just who will survive it? And at what cost?

I’ll start off by telling you that I really enjoyed this gripping, heart-stopping adrenaline rush of a novel. Laymon pulls out all the stops in an effort to confuse, alarm and ultimately entertain the reader. Right from the start you just know something bad is going to happen, but you’ll never in a million years guess what it is. Characters don’t behave the way they’re supposed to in a thriller of this sort, running away instead of confronting the bad guy, then ending up wounded (or even dead) anyway…Nor does the narrative conform to type, going first one way, then doubling back on itself or rocketing off in a completely new direction – all of which adds to the unpredictability of the thing. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it contains some of the best twists and counter-twists since Psycho.

As is the norm in Laymon’s books, the players are expertly drawn and credible, with backgrounds to match (I especially liked the glimpse of the killer’s home life – an attempt to at least explain, but never wholly justify, his actions). Plus there are a number of requisite ‘look away now’ scenes – one in particular springs to mind of which Abel Ferrara would have been proud, involving a power drill and an eye socket – though these are shrewdly offset by touches of well-timed humor (‘Grinning, he raised both arms high like a knife-crazed Rocky Balboa.’). And as for the gore-soaked race against time ending, well all I can say is wow!

Here Laymon is back doing what he does best, cranking up the tension and leaving your nerves in tatters. If you like your horror with a capital ‘H’, then come out tonight and get your copy.

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