Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Smith In The Vein of Laymon

On the back cover of Bryan Smith's Queen of Blood (Leisure, '08), the sequel to House of Blood (Leisure, 2005) Michael Laimo (Fires Rising) is quoted as saying that Smith's work is "In the vein of Bentley Little and Ed Lee."

I know Little's work very well (The Mailman is my favorite)...
and I've read pretty much everything by Lee (The Big Head always comes up trumps!)
...but if we're talking veins that criss-cross (and run parallel at times), I'd pair Smith with Richard Laymon.

Smith's Queen of Blood is salacious B-movie horror. Stylistically, it's vivid and not as spare as Laymon's work (whose is?) , but it revels in the filthy accouterments of modern horror. It's written by a horror fan for horror fans.

This exchange, from p. 234, would have brought a smile to Laymon's dial:

Dream eyed her up and down, a mocking glint in her eyes. "I'd tell you not to get your panties in a knot, but you're not wearing any, are you?"

The younger black-haired girl cackled. "Yeah, that's some robe, baby. Shit, it's like she's the female Hugh Hefner and this is the house of horrors version of the Playboy Mansion."


Of interest to me recently is the illustrative and tonal similarities in the horror cover art of these two fine writers.

Even the angling of the houses is the same.

It's also fair to say that a low angle on any house is inherently more dramatic.

These are iconic, Haunted House images.

This cover art impalement is to be loudly applauded; I'm sure it sent the book bolting off the shelves.

This head-on illustration of the Queen of Blood house suggests something more realistic and sinister to me -- not necessarily a supernatural presence.

Looking at this for the first time, I imagined acts of bestiality, child molestation, cruelty to animals, and incest occurring behind these walls.

After reading the book, I realized I was off the mark.

Still, caressing the imagination is what a good cover illustration does.
The above two covers are like brothers. Both are big on red, and boast lurid, carnival-style graphics and storylines inspired by the midway.
Mr. Smith's Deathbringer is not only a great piece of horror writing, it sports a brilliant cover illustration.

The fish-eye angle on the walking dead is perfect, as is the ashen, bluish tone.

When I first set eyes on this book, I didn't even need to read the back cover.

My only thought was: That's fuckin' fantastic!

My reaction to Deathbringer mirrored my reaction to Laymon's Resurrection Dreams (Onyx, '89).

After reading "The Dead Are Rising - To Live and Lust Again", I knew this was a must-have proposition.


But what intensified my eagerness to get stuck into the book immediately was the illustration.

There was something nasty and sexy and nihilistic about it.

It created questions and inspired an internal dialog.

For starters: Where was that skinless bastard from a Zebra Books novel going?
Had he just performed reverse necrophilia?

Why was this babe with an Adrienne Barbeau haircut looking kinda longlingly at the guy?

Had he just given her something that the living could not?

Or was she half considering a walk on the wild side with him -- and his calcium-ridden kind?

Whatever he was doing, and wherever Laymon was going with this, I wanted to be part it.

Smith's Soultaker (Leisure, '09), his latest, is the horror writer's answer to Tom Leykis.

It sounds a warning to men of all ages about the pitfalls of the fair sex.

It does so with excellent characterization, some deliciously repulsive sexual interplay, and a pace that doesn't let up.


The art associated with a writer does define the writer to a large extent; it's the first port of call for the curious reader.

Luckily for Bryan Smith , his cover art is consistent with his growing oeuvre.

from Laymon 's Nightshow (New English Library, '84)

Ruby Jean Jensen's Chain Letter (Zebra Books, '87)

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding Post ~ this is why I am a fan/reader! :-)

    ReplyDelete