Dallas' Book Report: One Rainy Night by Richard Laymon (1991)
Horror is my forte.
Whether it is a film, video games, and--obviously if you are on this page--literature, I have always had a soft spot for scary places. Coworkers of mine had stood there, puzzled, when I said I visited The Winchester Mystery House. Others have thought that I needed either a shrink or a priest when I have claimed that I would buy a house at a dirt-cheap price--even if several of the former murdered residents now haunt the grounds.
If it deals with the spooky, the unknown, or the downright terrifying then it will have my full attention. And few authors write about scary events like Richard Laymon. And his 1991 novel, One Rainy Night, is no exception--even if it is not his greatest work. Taking place in a small town in California, One Rainy Night follows the exploits of several townspeople who have to survive a night in hell after a mysterious black rainstorm rolls into town. Leaving behind a black sludge, whenever anyone is touched by it they turn into a raving psychopath that will commit any atrocious act that comes to mind.
The best thing about One Rainy Night is its tone and how it takes something as mundane as rain and makes it cause for alarm. When the rain first hits the town, the exposed people describe a sense of euphoria, the way the author describes the feeling is almost sensual with adjectives describing heat and a strong sense of desire. Considering that this is a Richard Laymon work it is no surprise that he packs the story with lots of violence and lots of sex.
This is not a book for the squeamish or easily offended because he pulls all of his usual stops. Characters get hacked to bits, set on fire, bludgeoned to death, and various other nasty things that are sure to make the pearl-clutching soccer moms throw a fit. But for the horror/gore hounds, it's a day in the life. The writing of these events is pithy, packs a punch, and is told with the utmost attention to pacing that only Laymon can deliver. One Rainy Night is a page-turner, to say the least.
This, however, is where my praise stops. The strongest criticism that I have is that of characterization. Long story short they are (no pun intended) paper-thin, lacking the gravitas that is in Laymon's other work such as The Travelling Vampire Show. To be even-handed, I think the point that he was trying to make was that this is a survival horror piece more focused on what normal people would do in a situation that is beyond all reason and not a character study.
As for the ending, this is a spoiler-free book report, but the explanation for the rain and the rushed and slap-dash resolution was equal parts ridiculous and a ham-fisted attempt at social commentary. All personal gripes and attempts at social commentary aside, One Rainy Night is a brisk read full of horrific mayhem and whether or not it is your cup of tea depends on how much you enjoy reading about folks going nuts.
One thing is for sure, Ombrophobes have another reason to stay dry when the clouds turn gray!