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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

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 manner.

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 wet).

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.

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