Thursday, February 15, 2007

Book review: BITE by Richard Laymon

(Originally published in 2000.)

I’ve been hearing about Richard Laymon for years now. He’s got quite the cult following, and many pros talk about his books with a certain reverence. But American publishers haven’t released any of his novels in this country in years, so I haven’t been able to read him.

Until now. I was excited to pick up Laymon’s BITE, previously only published in the UK, and now available in the States thanks to Leisure Books. And so, Laymon novel in hand, I started to read.


And then, after 80 pages, I was tempted to throw the book across the room and shout “BITE sucks!”

You see, the characters in the beginning of this novel just don’t act believably, and the action is so very over the top. Cat, Sam’s former almost-girlfriend and the object of his obsessions, comes to him in the middle of the night, after a decade or so apart, reveals that she’s been living in the same town as Sam for years, and asks him to kill the vampire that attacks her many nights a month. He thinks about it for a minute, says yes, hides in her closet, and kills the vampire.

All of this happens in the first 33 pages. And I didn’t even mention the kinky sex.

But you see, the slain vampire doesn’t disappear in a puff of dust like they expected. And so, for the next 350 pages of the novel, Cat and Sam are on a quest to dispose of the body of the vampire that they just killed.

That’s when it starts getting good. And that’s when it starts getting funny. And funnier. And funnier. It’s still over the top, and it’s still unbelievable, but BITE ends up being a truly enjoyable romp of a crime novel.

It’s really an interesting concept, using the vampire not as a villain, not as a character even, but as a catalyst for the twists and turns of the plot to come. BITE is hardly your average vampire novel. For that alone, it gets my recommendation.

Maybe I didn’t understand the tone Laymon was going for in the first 80 pages. Maybe I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe those pages just didn’t work as well. I don’t know, and I don’t care. I had fun.

I still don’t like the first 80 pages, though.

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