By Richard Laymon
The Cellar is the
first book in Richard Laymon's Beast
House series. The story begins
when a young lady named Donna Hayes discovers her husband has been
released from prison. Donna takes her twelve-year-old daughter, Sandy,
and flees town. Her Husband, Roy, is a dangerous, abusive man; and
his interests in their daughter are less than paternal. The things Roy
did to Sandy were, in fact, the reason behind his going to prison.
Donna drives out of Santa Monica with no fixed destination in mind, but
ends up heading north. She takes the coast road and is making good time
until a heavy fog starts to drift in from the sea. The conditions are
too dangerous for driving, but Donna is scared that Roy will manage to
follow them and she knows that if he finds them he will kill them.
Filled with fear she continues driving, the fog gets ever thicker and
the car leaves the road and plunges downwards.
Donna and Sandy are not severely hurt, but they are going nowhere now,
and have no choice but to wait in the car for the fog to clear. Then a
man appears and wants to get in the car with them. Donna and Sandy are
both too scared to unlock the door, a confrontation ensues, and the man
is injured. When she goes to see how badly she has hurt the man, Donna
realizes that, although a strange Character, the man is a little
backward and so, feeling a little less apprehensive about him, she
accepts his offer of a lift to the nearest town.
The man's name is Axel and he drives the girls to Malcasa Point and
drops them off at the Welcome Inn. Before leaving he gives them some
complimentary tickets for The Beast House. The Beast House is the local
tourist attraction and is the supposed home of The Beast—not a man,
but a monster—and no one ventures near Beast House at night. Through
the day it is a different matter. Axel's mother Maggie Kutch owns the
house and it she who conducts the tours, even though her husband and
children were killed by the beast.
Sandy wants to go on the tour and, as their car is damaged and waiting
for parts, Donna agrees.
"You may be asking yourselves why," Maggie's spiel goes, "a woman'd
want to take people through her home that was a scene of such personal
grief. The answer's easy m-o-n-e-y."
Beast House is in bad taste, but it gets plenty of business and
brings a lot of m-o-n-e-y into the town. Maggie no longer
lives in the house though, she lives across the street from it, in a
house with no windows—one at all. Very strange!
Donna might have a sadistic husband on her trail and a car that—for
the moment—is going nowhere, but she still finds time for love and is
quickly swept off her feet by bounty hunter, Judgement Rucker, who is
in town to slay the beast. Not that Jud really believes it is
a beast—he thinks that it is a man—but he intends to find out one way
another. Roy, meanwhile, is hot on his family's trail, he's already
killed again and has acquired a new girlfriend, who is much too young
and still in shock after seeing what Roy did to her parents.
is 254 pages long and, despite the fact its subject matter may offend
some readers, it
is a very good book and inspired three sequels: The Beast House,
Tour and Friday
Night in the Beast House. The Cellar will not
to everyone's taste though. Some readers might find it offensive
because one of the characters is a paedophile, but
does not glorify child abuse—in any form or in any way.
Neither does it provide lurid details of sex activities between man and
child. The reader is always aware of what kind of
a man Roy is though; he is bad to the bone and totally without remorse
The characters in Laymon's novel are very believable. It is easy to
like and identify with some of them, and it is usually these characters
that find themselves in the most danger. Or dead. The bad guys in
Laymon's novels are equally believable; the reader quickly grows to
hate them and is eager to reach the part of the book where they receive
their just desserts. Rest assured that the worst
of Laymon's villains usually pay a high price for their actions on the
I have read The
Cellar twice and ejoyed the book both times. I think that
many other regular readers of horror fiction will probably enjoy it as
well, but, if the thought of a character
like Roy leaves a bad taste in your mouth , I suggest you give this
one a miss.
List of Richard Laymon books reviewed on this site ~