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Midnight's Lair

Novel by Richard Kelly (USA) 1988.

Well, Richard Laymon had been promising it for a while. Of his previous nine novels, four get a nine rating here and only two clock in at less than an eight, but it is nevertheless surprising that he finally grabs a maximum under a pseudonym (Laymon also wrote a couple of horror novels for a younger audience as 'Carl Laymon'; and a western, The Lawmen, as 'Lee Davis Willoughby'). Later reissued under his real name, this was the second of two 'Richard Kelly' novels, and it's hard to find fault with it.

Presumably borne out of another Laymon family holiday (a la The Cellar, Tread Softly, The Woods are Dark etc.), this unsurprisingly brings in more recurrent themes - the Viet Nam vet, the pervert kid (this time with a pervert dad in tow); and men whose wives have left for other men is another very common Laymon leitmotif. This follows the fortunes of a group of tourists and their guide who have all been trapped in darkness on the subterranean lake in Mordock's Cave. This is a popular spot (motel with added tourist attraction) that naturally hides a dark secret: the current Mordock is the latest in a long line of perverted killers who enjoy nothing more than raping cute visitors and disposing of them alive down a long chute into a walled off section of the cave. After a century or so, there are a lot of subhuman abominations down there. And the trapped tourists are about to break through the wall in an attempt to get out.

A simple story but wonderfully told. Laymon produces a bunch of magically ironic touches to go with his usual sex, gore and incredible characterisation. He even puts in some hilarious and presumably autobiographical anecdotes in the form of character Wayne Phillips, horror writer; and also shows us the inspiration for the Krulls in The Woods are Dark, subhuman creatures who obviously formed the springboard for this novel. Laymon has a number of excellent novels under his belt, but this has to be the best.

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