June 20, 2009

Book Review: "The Glory Bus" by Richard Laymon

Title: The Glory Bus (part of the Richard Laymon Collection Volume 18)
Author: Richard Laymon
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Published: 2005
Pages: 371
Genre: Horror
ISBN: 978-0-7553-3186-4

"Stephen King without a conscience," is how author Dan Marlowe describes Richard Laymon. And I'm not one to argue. This is the kind of horror novel that may well have you wondering just what the heck goes through Laymon's mind on any given day.

Pamela's just had her world burned to the ground, literally, as a psychotic secret crush has killed her husband, burned her home, and abducted her. Rodney is one sick son-of-a-gun, but he doesn't last long. It's the guy who saves Pamela, a guy named Sharpe, that may be an ever greater threat to her ... if that's even possible.

While hell in a desert plays out for Pamela, Norman has his own problems. In a parallel storyline, the college kid is driving his daddy's car through the same wasteland, heading home, when he ends up with an unwanted passenger named Duke while at a gas station. Norman's a docile young gent, but Duke's going to do just about all he can to change that. And Boots, a teen hitchhiker with a moral compass as askew as she can have, plays an integral role.

Through the first half of the novel, you find yourself questioning why we're being told Norman's story. There's no conceivable connection between him and Pamela. They're just two people having extraordinarily bad experiences. As the story continues it's runaway train progression, you realize these two are inevitably going to cross paths, and likely bring their cast of macabre supporting characters with them. The question you will keep asking is what the hell is going to happen when those two proverbial trains meet.

I'm not about to spoil any of that for you, but I'm willing to bet the climax won't resemble anything close to your early predictions. I could call this story gritty, debauched, and gruesome. But, I don't think that quite covers it. I think the best way to put it would be as Dan Marlowe put it: Stephen King without a conscience.

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