Spooky Reads

Woah! Yes, that’s right. Woah! How else can one start a review of a Richard Laymon ‘Beast House’-based book, but with an exclamation. It probably should be an expletive, given Laymon’s predilection for all things excessive, but I’m feeling a little reserved at present, so a simple woah will suffice. So, where to proceed to next, expletives aside, with this review of The Beast House, sequel to the bloody, over-the-top murder and shock-fest cult pulp-horror book The Cellar?

I guess with a simple summation. This book is very different to what one might expect – in regards plot development, that is; the late great-Laymon still goes fruit-loop schlock-horror crazy with everything else. Whereas, from the title, one might expect the titular beasts of the ominous, and genuinely deadly and deranged house in Malcasa Point, California, to start leaping from the prose at earliest opportunity, that’s not precisely the case.

It’s the human characters here that are actually as lethal as the beasts; whilst many spend a great deal of the book positioning to line up meat-grinder style for the various horrifying plot devices, a couple too are responsible for despatching the aforementioned. So it’s not just the beasts, first revealed in The Cellar, which come into play killing us human folks. It’s a human, or two, also. Not in unlikely atypical splatterpunk aplomb.

It’s certainly an interesting group. We’ve the pair of hot young women, Nora and her friend Tyler, the latter of who is headed to Malcasa Point to locate an ex-flame she’s still got feelings for. Their paths soon cross with writer Gorman Hardy and his assistant Brian Blake, summoned to the town by the promise of exclusive material that should help the author close what will no doubt be a hugely successful novel. Then there’re the ex-marines, Jack and Abe, travelling through on a break before moving on to new pastures in the civilian world. These folks rescue the women from local ‘trouble’ and it’s not long before things are getting hot and heavy, Laymon style. And then there’s the blood, killing, massacre and such forth.

It’s a quick moving book, action-packed, and with the lines drawn a little more unconventionally in regards to who’s a psychopathic killing machine outside of the Beast House itself, it certainly doesn’t lack for twists, turns and general abhorrent-but-accepted-horror-pulp behaviours.

One of the strengths of The Beast House is that it plays it sequel origins so very plainly, but in doing so actually turns a cliché into an interesting development. Laymon knew he didn’t have The Godfather part II here, but what he did have was a really cool idea that he ran with, and grew and developed into something more than the sum of its (body) parts. Small elements weave between this book and The Cellar, and toward the end clear developments from that book into this one are clear and bridges established that setup story for further books (of which there are two).

Dan, the policeman ex of Tyler, is the cop murdered by the beast in the first book, something she discovers only whilst taking a tour of the house in one of the more macabre story unravelling; the origins of the beast are nicely developed with the aid of a nice ‘loony’ Beast-obsessive who’s tracked the origins of the creature to a remote Australian island, and these help to tie-up as well as offer up further knots for Laymon’s pen to tie into place further down the line.

This is the type of paperback stuff that earned such books the dime-store horror-pulp moniker, and rightfully so. But it’s nonetheless good, old fashioned horror reading, and doesn’t disappoint in its aims and objectives. If you’ve not read Laymon, then The Cellar is as good a spot at which to jump in and join him, and once you’ve read that you could do much worse than reading The Beast House. Just keep the lights on though folks.


Ash by James Herbert
Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough