Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dick Laymon Told To Lay off The Rough Stuff

Richard Laymon, one of my favorite writers (and horror writers) of all time, a writer whose sensibilities and subject matter resonated with me from the moment I opened his first published novel, THE CELLAR, also wrote one of the greatest non-fiction books on writing and publishing of all time: A WRITER'S TALE.

These scanned pages (below) are a mere sample of the 350 pages of raw wisdom, pain, and truth (always truth!) found within this now hard-to-find book tome that is worth its weight in literary gold.

Before his death, Mr. Laymon's experiences with American publishers (one in particular: Warner Books) were pretty terrible, and one badly mismarketed book (THE WOODS ARE DARK) sealed his fate, resulting in the withdrawal of marketing support for years and the trashing of his reputation in US publishing circles. In the book, he documents the gory ups and downs of his entire career in painstaking detail, the likes of which I've never read before.

In the scan below, the writer details a terrible situation in which his US agent, Jay Garon, withheld money owed to him for up to two years (!)

Fortunately, a month later, he received a tremendous break courtesy of Dean Koontz, who emerges smelling like roses from this book. 

Fortunately, English publishers were kinder to Dick Laymon, and his reputation was rescued somewhat by publisher Hodder Headline.

A fascinating piece (scanned here) involves Mr. Laymon's young adult suspense novel, MY SECRET ADMIRER, a book that was to be his first and last for Scholastic, despite healthy sales.

Throughout the book, he offers tips on writing, cautions about publishers, lists his favorite horror and non-horror writers, goes into graphic detail about how he was marginalized, and provides shitloads of wisdom about a mostly indifferent publishing world where the good guys are few but still out there. The trick is finding them.

Some Laymon novels such as the excellent QUAKE are still barely published in the US , which is a tragedy, and the recent campaign to reprint earlier novels and others not published at all Stateside went down in flames when Leisure's horror line crashed recently.

This scan from the book (below) is especially interesting to me. Dick Laymon discusses a book he never completed to final draft  called Lo Down, a rape/revenge novel. 

The author writes, "The book was a little too nasty."

Mr. Laymon thought it too nasty (hard to comprehend!), or was he expressing the concerns of others?

"I'd been advised to back away from the rough stuff," he says. Advised by whom? Publishers? Friends? Family?

So, are we to infer that everything he wrote after he wrote the above was an example of him backing away from the "rough stuff"?  I'd like to know what Dick Laymon's definition of "rough stuff" was.

I sense the "rough stuff" was probably sexual violence-oriented, but I can't say for sure. What else could it be?  

I've read pretty much everything Mr. Laymon ever published in the UK and the US, and would say my favorites are THE CELLAR, THE WOODS ARE DARK (the unabridged version), QUAKE, ENDLESS NIGHT, FLESH, OUT ARE THE LIGHTS, ALL HALLOW'S EVE, SAVAGE, FUNLAND, ISLAND, BITE, INTO THE FIRE, BEWARE!, and ONE RAINY NIGHT. 

Critics of Laymon criticize the raw sexual content in his work, some thinking it goes too far (THE CELLAR often a target) and crosses sacred boundaries. Bullshit! I reject these criticisms and feel that few writers have written as honestly about the euphoria of human lust and its good and bad consequences as Laymon. In all his books, Laymon wrote with great honesty, never caring if he offended those who wear their sensitivity like a badge of honor.

A WRITER'S TALE needs to be reprinted. Mr. Laymon ripped his soul open to write it.

This beast of a book, a tribute to the writer from professionals and non-professionals courtesy of Cemetery Dance, is a treasure trove of short stories inspired by him, unpublished works from him, and passionate remembrances of him.

Contributors include Tom Piccirilli, Gary Brandner, Steve Gerlach, John Pelan, Ann Laymon, Adam Pepper, Dan D'Auria, Richard Chizmar, Bentley Little, Brian Keene, Ryan Harding, Norman Partridge, and daughter Kelly Laymon.

The impression the book leaves you with is Dick Laymon was a magnificent, generous, encouraging, hard working human being who inspired everybody he came into contact with.



  1. This is why I need to visit you more often. I've never read any of Laymon's work so I just picked up THE CELLAR. Thank you for once again expanding my universe.

  2. Trix -- You're very welcome, Trix. And, please, drop by more often. You're one of my blog's earliest 'followers'.