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Savage

Novel by Richard Laymon (USA) 1993.

A welcome return to form for Richard Laymon who gives us one of the most interesting books of his career. In 1888 in Mary Kelly's room in Whitechapel, Jack the Ripper is dispatching the last known of his victims. Underneath the bed is a fifteen year old boy, Trevor Bentley who takes it upon himself to rid the world of the terror of Victorian London. But succeeding only in chopping the Ripper's nose off, Bentley finds himself held captive on a boat heading for the colonies. From Whitechapel to New York and on to Tombstone, Bentley finally catches up with Jack again.

What we have here, after the opening horror of the Mary Kelly murder, is a western. Laymon is not averse to a bit of Wild West action having contributed to Razored Saddles, the landmark western/horror amalgam edited by Joe R. Lansdale and Pat LoBrutto. And he also has a true western under his belt: The Lawmen, written under the pseudonym of 'Lee Davis Willoughby' in 1983, is an entry in the Dell/Bryans series 'The Making of America'.

The book is consistently fascinating, Laymon showing all his usual flair for character; but it does have flaws. Extremely episodic, Bentley frequently finds his life completely changed for a short period, then onto another phase and another and another. After the boat trip to America, he finds himself looked after by a retired general and his friendly granddaughter; then he gets thrown off a train, hooks up with outlaws, witnesses a snake oil merchant in full swing etc etc. The only Laymon book to have a setting outside America, and the only to have a setting a hundred years back in time, this is undoubtedly his most interesting book, and is also one of his best.


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