Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-334-8
Horror, 2016 (Reissue)
The late Richard Laymon is still one of the most popular names in horror today, although I personally find his books often hard to get into because of his writing style. In fact, I don’t recall reading Night Show when it was first published back in 1984, so I assume it’d be interesting to give this reissued edition a try. This one is a bit low key and even tame compared to some of the author’s more well-known titles, though. And this one ranks low in the list of this author’s books that one should try.
Anthony Johnson fancies himself the Chill Master – he sets up elaborate scenarios to scare the wits out of his victim, and each success gives him a kind of sexual high that he is addicted to. As you can tell, he’s not the person one would want to be stuck in an elevator with. After graduation, he takes off to Hollywood, with his eyes set on Dani Larson, one of the hottest special effect creators. She specializes in gory stuff, hence Tony’s interest in her. No, he doesn’t want her dead – he wants to be her apprentice and boyfriend, and, eventually, he will take over her place as the reigning scare-maker in town. So, he stalks her in a hearse (no, really).
Tony is being stalked himself. A girl that he kidnaps early in the story is now on a warpath, and Linda Allison won’t stop until he’s finished. She’s mad not only because Tony and his friends kidnapped her for his sick idea of gruesome scare, she was also hit by a car when she was running away. So, she’s now taking down Tony’s accomplices and going after him. So, will she get Tony first, or will Tony get Dani first?
The author has a writing style that is mostly tell-all, show-little, and, in Night Show, his narrative feels especially flippant and even lazy at times. Worse, there is very little scare here – for a long time, Tony acts like an outlandish buffoon who never feels genuinely threatening, while Dani is like one of those really bad Hallmark movie heroines: she actually encourages Tony’s attentions in an effort to discourage him, therefore making this story far longer than it needs to be. Linda’s plot arc is easily the most interesting one here, but the intersection of her story and Dani’s is anticlimactic. It all boils back to the author’s writing style: his pacing is plodding, there is no momentum or build up going, and the author seems to be writing as if he has a plane to catch. The characters are flat, and I never feel any connection with Dani or her boyfriend to be afraid for them.
At the end of the day, this story is just flat and dreary. It’s not scary, and it’s not entertaining as well. There isn’t much of a show here, I’m afraid.
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