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The Stake

Novel by Richard Laymon (USA) 1990.

This one's something of an oddity: here we have a horror writer, Richard Laymon, writing a vampire book about a horror writer, Larry Dunbar, writing a vampire book! Larry, with his wife and the neighbours, is on a trip to a local ghost town when they accidentally discover a naked young girl in a coffin hidden away in a basement. Strange enough, but she also has a stake driven through her heart. Soon Larry is having dreams about the girl and soon brings it back to his garage to write a book about the whole story.

Obviously substantially autobiographical, Laymon doesn't deliver for quite a while on this one. His previous novel, Funland, quickly grabbed the reader's attention and kept it; The Stake takes some time to get going. As an insight into the mind of a horror writer, this is continually fascinating; there's even a part where Larry finds writing his book easy simply because he's in it! Various real writers get mentions, though none appear as such: Brandner, Williamson, King. And Shaun Hutson has a paperback floating around Larry's house: no surprise that the 'Stephen King without a conscience' reads 'the bad boy of horror'. As a novel, the two strands of plot, one dealing with Larry's escapades and the other about a local rapist and murderer, are segued together with style; but some of the prose in The Stake is so flowing that it seems overdone, a la quite of bit of King. In the end, it's a few points off for the beginning but a couple back for the ending which is handled very well indeed.


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