One Rainy Night
By Richard Laymon
Leisure Books, 410 pp, 2000
This book is a lot of fun. A rock 'em,
sock 'em type that starts quickly and never lets up. It's not very deep.
Don't look for any grand themes about the meaning of life or anything
like that. But that's part of the book's charm. It doesn't try to be
anything more than what it is: a scary and entertaining horror novel.
The night after a black high school
student is brutally murdered, a black rain begins to fall. Anyone who is
touched by the rain turns into an uncontrollable homicidal maniac, and
kills the first person they see. It doesn't matter who - husband, wife,
child, girlfriend, whatever.
Police office Trevor Hudson sees the
black rain's effects when his police sergeant comes in from the storm
and shoots the police dispatcher. Trevor has to kill his friend. With
him in the police station is Francine and her daughter Lisa. Lisa dated
Maxwell, the murdered student, and is telling Trevor who she thinks
killed him: Buddy, Lou, and Doug, three local bullies. All three decide
the rain is to blame for the sergeant's actions and the women help Trev
dress in a makeshift watertight (hopefully!) outfit made with garbage
bags. Then they jump in a police car and try to find out what's going
on, but Trev also wants to find Maureen, a saucy waitress he's been
pining over for weeks.
Maureen gets hit by the rain when
delivering a pizza to Buddy's house. When Buddy opens the door, she
tries to kill him, but Buddy easily overpowers her. With Buddy are Lou
and Sheila, and Doug and Cyndi. Buddy decides to keep Maureen for
himself, and carries her upstairs, throws her in the tub, strips her,
washes off the rain, and when she wakes up, rapes her. But with the rain
off, Maureen is back to normal.
Denise's parents are out of town and
she's itching to invite her boyfriend Tom over. Instead, she gets a call
from Lynn, asking if she can babysit eight-year-old Kara. Denise
reluctantly agrees, and drives over before the rain starts. She and Kara
hit it off, and watch videos. They decide to invite Tom over. They know
it's raining but have no idea what it's doing to people. Tom doesn't
know either and agrees to come over. We know he'll get wet and go crazy;
Denise and Kara have no idea.
Lynn and husband John are off to dinner
to meet a journalist and photographer with a celebrity magazine. John's
an artist, Vietnam vet and third degree black belt, but hates fighting
and wants to be left alone. They make it into the restaurant just as the
rain starts. The people waiting outside aren't so lucky.
So that's the setup. The book follows
these characters as they try to survive the rain.
Laymon is a very skilled writer, and he's
at the top of his game. The first chapter, in which deputy Hanson
returns to the scene of Maxwell's murder, offers a classic example of
letting the reader know what happened without coming out and saying so.
It's worth quoting:
He (Hanson) was kidding himself if he
thought he might find anything new. The boys had gone over the area
thoroughly last night, and again in daylight. They'd photographed,
picked up, tagged and taken away everything: the poor bastard himself,
his clothes, matches and cigarette butts, the gasoline can, candy
wrappers and other shit that probably had nothing at all do with the
crime, even some of the sod surrounding the main standard where the kid
had been tied. There'd been talk of taking the goalpost, as well, but
the chief decided against it. They had stripped off the charred remains
of the padding for evidence.
So we know that Maxwell was tied to a
goalpost and set on fire. But Laymon presents it a much more interesting
Laymon also uses dialog to move the story
along and reveal characters better than most writers. It's hard to do,
but he has no problem. He also uses irony (Maureen smashes into Trev's
car as she's trying to run over Buddy) and foreshadowing (Denise
inviting Tom over, having no idea what will happen to him when he gets
If you like a fun and easy-to-read horror
story with a fast pace and well-done literary techniques, pick this up. You'll like it.