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Spotlight on: Blood Games by Richard Laymon

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Blood Games by Richard Laymon Richard Laymon, Blood Games

Different people read Richard Laymon for different reasons, but I read him because he combines those bastions of the horror genre, sex and violence, with a sense of fun that is infectious, making his novels more pleasurable than most other horror. Of the three novels I've read (the other two are Island and In the Dark), Blood Games is the least of the bunch, but it is also the one which seems to be the most typically Laymonesque, as if he had cranked up the output on all the things for which he is known.

One of the best known aspects of his work (whether it is appreciated depends upon the individual reader) is that his female characters have a tendency to disrobe early and often. After all, why else would Blood Games feature five lead female characters, if not to have them be comfortably nude with each other? (In fact, they first meet as a group in a dormitory shower, with one of them videotaping the rest.)

This is a major aspect of the novel, with many loving descriptions of exposed, swaying breasts, and wet, clingy clothing showing that Laymon is interested in raising more than just his reader's heart rate. It certainly stretches the suspension of disbelief, but I believe that Laymon is merely following a popular novelists' maxim of writing the book he would like to read. But there's also enough suspense to carry over those readers who have had their fill of vivid descriptions of feminine anatomy. Actually, Blood Games is mostly suspense, with very few nasty events occurring, but their potential everpresent.

Five college friends -- known for their rowdy escapades back in the day -- gather for annual reunions at one's choice of location, in order to continue their adventures. This year is Helen's turn and, being a horror fan, she has brought Finley, Cora, Vivian, and Abilene to the abandoned Totem Pole Lodge, the site of many grisly murders years ago. At first, the atmosphere is enough to shake up the group, but then someone starts messing with their stuff, they lose their car keys, and one of them turns up dead. Now they've got to use all the physical and mental talents at their disposal to survive while they continue to search for the keys.

To give us occasional breaks from the relentless suspense, their struggle is peppered with flashbacks of their college pranks and of their first two reunions. This gives us, along with a chance to take a breath, the opportunity to delve deeper into the five characters. At the beginning, it is difficult to tell a few of them apart, but continuing to read opens up their individual personalities and makes them more recognizable by their actions and dialogue.

Richard Laymon has taken a plot and characters that could have easily gotten out of hand and kept tight control over them, exhibiting his novelistic skill while providing a hell of a good time. I can't imagine what a cut version would have been like, as any piece missing detracts from the whole, but this restored version from Leisure is ideal in its completeness. Blood Games may not be as instantly stunning as Island or In the Dark, but it is still a phenomenal piece of work and one that will continue me in my pursuit of more Laymon titles.

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