Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Glory Bus by Richard Laymon

This latest offering from Richard Laymon is filled with mindless gore, vile characters, and a plethora of devious acts committed by them that gives one pause on the nature of modern man.

It is, in short, a terrific horror story.

After passing away in 2001, Laymon left us with a legacy of over thirty novels and a myriad of short, brutal stories that saw publication in magazines like Ellery Queen and Cavalier. There have been four books published since his death that are, in my humble opinion, not under the usual scope presented in such classics as The Stake, Savage, and Blood Games. They are, in fact, better - and The Gory Bus is no exception.

In the opening sequence we are treated to the usual Laymon fare: a sadistic psychopath named Rodney has finally kidnapped the girl of his dreams (Pamela) after recognizing her picture in the paper as the school girl he once lusted after. This adolescent obsession has ripened during the years and he's just aching to whisk her away to begin to enact out his fantasies. And that's where things get interesting.

After a colossal standoff in the heart of the Mojave Desert, Pamala finds salvation from a highly unlikely source: an old converted school bus captained by an eccentric who has the appearance of an ex-Marine and a disposition to carry around fully dressed mannequins as passengers on his desert prowling bus. Utterly relieved to be saved from the clutches of Rodney, Pamala decides she'll not prod the reason for his unconventional vocation and decides instead to follow him into the dark heart of a town called Pits . . . a place with a very small population but whose inhabitants are on the look-out to increase it.

Our second plot strand revolves around young student Norman on his way back home from College. Shy, not normally one to pick up passengers, Norman has no choice when rebel James Dean look-alike Duke hops along for the ride. He's even more powerless to intervene when nymphomaniac hitchhiker 'Boots' tags along with them - leading both boys down a path of murder and sex. From here, the plot-strands intertwine and the two groups will meet in Pits to experience the local's unusual hospitality and even more peculiar eating habits.

The Glory Bus, like most of the author's creations, grabs you from the get-go and shackles you in a pious grip that never lets go until the conclusion. I admit to having some problems with latter novels such as Island, often putting the book down for great periods before finishing it. But I found none of that here, and was gratified to enjoy such voracious horror from someone who was a legend in his time.