Richard Laymon has been around for a while and as such, he has garnered praise from the horror community, and has had a plethora of works published. Sadly, he died in 2001, and several of his works were published posthumously. The Lake is one such novel, published in 2004. When I read it, I could see why it had not been published before.
The Lake reads more like a first novel than the honed work of a master horror author, as Laymon has been called, and I was surprised at how weak the story was after reading the high praise from authors such as King, Little and Koontz (who has become terribly trite and weak himself it pains me to say, but that is another article). Even with how disappointing the novel was, I would still love to read more of Laymon’s work, as I am sure that his earlier novels would be of a higher caliber, and fit in more with the high compliments that he has been paid. With that being said I would like to explain why The Lake did not work so well, and why I would give Laymon another chance.
The Lake has an extremely cliché plot, and the story is far too busy. It centers on a mother and her daughter, and connections from the present day back to a summer the mother spent at a house on a lake when she was the daughter’s age. From there the story attempts to draw parallels between the two time periods, but as you read on the story becomes less of an eerie mirroring between mother and daughter and more of a hackneyed Friday the 13th sequel. There are two completely separate killers, and instead of being a clever plot twist, it was poorly executed, and too much to swallow. The coincidences that abound throughout the novel are more “Deus ex Machina” than well planned or subtle, and by the end of the novel it felt like Laymon was hitting me over the head with a rock. New neighbors turn out to have deep (predictable) connections to the main characters, everyone has something to hide, and there are some characters that seem to have no purpose in the story other than to add weirdness.
Now I hate to completely tear apart a novel without touching on at least some positive aspects, and I do have to say that Laymon has a way with words. While the plot verges on absurd, Laymon’s technique is very well executed (other than his strange obsession with writing about how a character’s teeth looked, I’m sorry but I really don’t care if everyone in the story has straight white teeth; tell me when they look like a Hills Have Eyes reject, or if it has to do with the story, but otherwise skip it). The man could write, and he could write well and even in a novel like The Lake that feels as though it was published only because the author had died, that brilliant spark of talent shines through. I would love to read some of the novels that he wrote in his prime, and I am willing to bet top dollars that they would be infinitely better.
I guess what I’m saying is definitely go pick up some of Laymon’s work, you will enjoy it. I have no doubt about that. Just check the publish date and if it’s after 2001, put it back and find an older one. I would hate to have some of the stuff that I have written and abandoned published after I die, and I bet that Laymon would feel the same.