June 6, 2009

Book Review: "Bite" by Richard Laymon

Title: Bite
Author: Richard Laymon
Publisher: Leisure Books (Dorchester Publishing)
Published: June 1999 (paperback)
Genre: Horror

Have you ever seen the movie From Dusk 'Til Dawn? Great flick, and one of my favorites involving vampires. Here's the thing though: I had absolutely no idea there were vampires in that movie until the first one showed itself halfway through the film. Everything prior to that moment had me thinking I was watching a classic Tarantino/Rodriguez crime thriller.

I couldn't help but get a similar feeling while reading Laymon's alleged vampire novel, Bite. I opened this book thinking I was going to get another slant on vampirism by a renowned horror author. What I got instead was a diversion into a suspenseful world with enough terror to make me forget all about the threat of vampires. Oh, there's a vampire, but he's the least of anyone's problems before this novel ends.

Sam's just a young twenty-something guy living in L.A., when his ex-girlfriend, Cat (the only gal he's ever loved), comes to his home during the night dressed in little more than a seductive nightgown. And she needs his help. She's got a vampire problem, and she wants him to be the man to remedy it. Crazy story or not, he still has feelings for her and wants to help her as desperately as she wants to be helped.

Well, before long, he's stripped down to his underwear, holding a mallet and wooden stake, hiding in the closet, while Cat lies naked on her bed waiting for the vampire to arrive, which has tormented, raped, and drank from her for nearly a year.

I really don't want to get any further into the story because, if you haven't read it and decide to, I want you to get taken for as much of a ride as I did. I've only delved into the first fifty pages of the novel, anyhow. Let's just say that if you think Sam, Cat, and Elliot the vampire--yes, that's his name--are some depraved characters, then just wait until you meet the rest of the small cast of characters … particularly a man named Snow White.

I liked the story quite a bit, as it was easy for me to picture the scenes as they came and went. It had a very cinematic feel, and I could almost envision it turning into a Tarantino/Rodriguez type of flick. The one thing that really bugged me, however, was the narration. It came off as plain much of the time, and read like it was written by Sam as he wrote everything as a stream of consciousness, including every piece of minutia imaginable.

I think a good twenty-to-thirty pages could have been shaved from the novel if Laymon had bothered to leave out some of the truly unnecessary details of the non-action. Maybe it was the tone he was going for. Who am I to judge? But, I doubt this will go down as his best work as I read more of his stuff … and I definitely plan to read more of his stuff after sampling Bite.

The novel is ten-years-old or older, so if you do decide to look for this title, you're likely to find it on Amazon or at a used-book store. If you're a vampire junkie, this may not be your cup of tea because it certainly isn't a gothic tale of bloodsuckers who look like Brad Pitt. This is visceral, desolate, and looking to put you on tenderhooks while you try to figure out when the proverbial ax is going to drop.

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