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A Passion For Horror

Book Review: The Cellar by Richard Laymon


The Cellar by Richard Laymon

The Cellar

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 three 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 or 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 for him, and still in shock after seeing what Roy did to her parents.
The Cellar 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, The Midnight Tour and Friday Night in the Beast House. The Cellar will not be to everyone's taste though. Some readers might find it offensive because one of the characters is a paedophile, but The Cellar 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 or morals.
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 written page.

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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 ~


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