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The Traveling Vampire Show Mass Market Paperback – Bargain Price, March, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Like the vampire he celebrates so often (Stake, etc.), this talented writer's career, once dead in the States though not overseas, has risen anew--thanks largely to Cemetery Dance, which has issued his work (Cuts; Come Out Tonight; etc.) even as no mainstream American hardcover publisher would touch it. The author's fall after his successful run in the 1980s was due to several factors, including his writerly predilection toward excess sex and violence. Here, Laymon takes those elements in hand, not so much abjuring them as putting them to artful use as he tells a wickedly involving story of three 16-year-olds and their life-changing encounter with the road show of the title. It's hot August 1963 when narrator Dwight, along with his pals--overweight Rusty and pretty (female) Slim--note flyers for the Traveling Vampire Show, featuring a purported real vampire, Valeria. Intrigued, the trio sneak onto the backwoods site of the show and there tangle with a vicious dog; after the others leave, Slim watches the spooky show troupe spear the mongrel to death. This, plus a long buildup to the show (spinning on whether troupe members are after the teens) forms most of the long narrative. Unusual for Laymon, the emphasis is on atmosphere rather than action, and he sustains a note of anticipatory dread throughout, made particularly resonant through his expert handling of the social, particularly sexual, tensions among the three teens. The novel's climax is the show itself, and here Laymon lets out the stops in typically ferocious fashion. In its understanding of the sufferings and ecstasies of youth, the novel carries some of the wisdom of King's The Body or Robert R. McCammon's Boy's Life, but the book, Laymon's best in years, belongs wholly to this too-neglected author, who with his trademark squeaky-clean yet sensual prose, high narrative drive and pitch-dark sense of humor has crafted a horror tale that's not only emotionally true but also scary and, above all, fun.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
In the latest novel from Laymon (The Midnight Tour), 16-year-old Dwight and his two pals, male Rusty and female Slim, decide to add some excitement to an otherwise boring summer day in 1963 by sneaking into "The Traveling Vampire Show." This adults-only act, featuring "Valeria, the only known vampire in captivity," is visiting their rural town of Grandville for just one night. Dwight narrates the events of that day, all the way through to the terrifying finale. The three friends are for the most part typical teens, but they are tested that day in ways none of them could ever have imagined. Although the protagonists are high school age, this novel is so replete with graphic sexual situations and violence that it would not be suitable for young adult collections. It is, however, a well-written story that will appeal to fans of horror fiction. Recommended for large public libraries.DPatricia Altner, Information Seekers, Bowie, MD
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
This book came highly recommended, but all I can recommend for the friend who loved it is a fresh eye exam.
Maybe I'm missing some glaring core message, or maybe it's because I'm female and therefore not as fascinated by breasts as a sixteen year old boy, (seriously, we got up to five descriptions of breasts a page, at one point--and I know this is told from a teenage boy's perspective, but really. I don't think it's necessary to shoehorn in a couple sentences about someone's breasts every two paragraphs) but I don't understand at all the appeal of this book.
The only things I can compare this book to are sexual experiences, which seems fitting. It's like being in bed with someone who is perfect for you on paper, but there's something missing. You SHOULD like this book--you like horror, don't you?--but it gives you no real reason. The second comparison I can come up with is is being with someone who is all about foreplay.
Get to it, eventually. Seriously, I'm waiting. Nothing? Really?
This book is chock-full of build-up that never leads to anything and bogged down with tons of irrelevancies. There are a couple questions in there that aren't ever answered, the attempts to create 'tension' created nothing but annoyance, and I don't know about you, but I don't need a painstaking blow-by-blow of every minute bodily movement every character makes. He describes, in detail, every blink and breath and hand gesture. I don't need to know, nor do I care, exactly how the character opened the trunk to find something and then shut the trunk.
Another appalling thing was the typos. There's an ungodly amount of them. Sure, you can read around them, but they're annoying. Missing periods and quotations galore, misspelled words, (my personal favorite: "Go to bell." Sure, dude. Meet you there.) wonky formatting--everything I've come to expect from a lot of self-published books, but not from one that is supposed to be edited and released by a publishing firm.
When we finally wheeze up to the actual point of this book--the traveling vampire show--it's over in a few chapters, whereas we had about forty of absolutely nothing leading up to it. As for the 'twist' pertaining to the show's actual motive, I had an inkling, so I wasn't very surprised. I don't take issue with that, really, but for me, at least, it was obvious.
I would never recommend this book.
Laymon is always hit or miss but this is one of his best novels.
When the novel opens, we are introduced to Dwight, the sixteen-year-old narrator of the story (or maybe he's seventeen -- the fact that I can't remember is a clear indicator of how much of an impression this book made on me), and his pals, the slightly overweight Rusty and tom-boy Slim. It becomes evident early on that Dwight has the hots for Slim, but he isn't confident enough to do anything about it. Based on his thoughts early on in the story, you can imagine he spends quite a bit of his time masturbating or taking cold showers, but I'll come back to this.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, Dwight is mowing the lawn and his pals persuade him to take a break. Rusty has something he wants him to see. He produces a flier for The Traveling Vampire Show, which boasts to have a real-live vampire in captivity. The show is open for one night only, with an age restriction of 18+. Knowing they will never be allowed in, they decided to sneak over to Janks Field with the hopes of catching the showing setting up for that night's performance. None of them truly believe the vampire is real, but she is described as gorgeous and beguiling, so Rusty is hoping to get to see her. It takes some doing to persuade Dwight, but he finally gives in and they head off on their adventure.
The trio arrive at Janks Field before the Traveling Vampire Show arrives, so they plan on hiding in the surrounding woods until they show up. Their plans are foiled when they are attacked by a stray dog. They tack shelter a-top an abandoned snack stand, where they discuss how they are going to get away from the dog. Dwight comes up with a plan, and hopes nobody holds it against him if he kills the dog. He plans on jumping from the roof onto the animal, thereby crushing it and making the grounds safe for his friends. He missed, and while his friends create a diversion, drawing the animal's attention away from Dwight, the teen hightails it out of there with the promise of coming back with help.
By the time he returns in the company of his sister-in-law, they find the show has arrived and the troupe is on the process of setting up. There is, however, no sign of his friends. He fears the worst, thinking they fell victim to foul play at the hands of the workmen setting up the show. His sister-in-law manages to snag four tickets for the show after some innocent flirtation with the boss man. With nothing left to go on, they return home to find Rusty waiting for them. He confesses that he and Slim left just as they show was arriving, and Slim went on home to change her clothes. When they head on over to Slim's house, they find she is not at home, and they automatically jump to the conclusion that members of The Traveling Vampire Show have kidnapped her. When she finally turns up, she tells them of the atrocity she witnessed -- the Vampire troupe killed the stray, stabbed it to death with long spears before placing it in the back of a hearse. This kind of puts a damper on their desire to see the show -- well, Rusty still wants to see the beautiful, beguiling vampire. Dwight and Slim? They really don't want to go, but they decided to let Lee, Dwight's sister-in-law, have the deciding vote after they tell her everything.
When they get to Lee's house, they find she is missing. Her car is still in the driveway, her purse still on the counter. The jump to the conclusion that the Traveling Vampire troupe kidnapped her. After all, she paid for the tickets with a check, and the check had her address on it.
The rest of the book is more of the same, with the kids letting their overactive imaginations run away, leading them to jump to the wrong conclusions. By they time they get to the show, the book is more than three-quarters done. The action that takes place at the show is decent, but not realistic. Granted, men wish to show off for their friends and girlfriends, but when the first person is carried out in a bloody mess, that should be enough to make them think twice before getting into the cage with the vampire. It's not even enough to stop Rusty, who is thinking with his little head. The minute he saw the vampire strip down to nothing in the cage, he just knew he was going to volunteer. He's hoping for a cheap thrill, a few quick gropes, maybe more.
Which leads me to one of the problems I had with this book, and the problem I have with Richard Laymon in general. His books seem to be targeted for a horny teen male audience. A chapter doesn't go by that Dwight isn't thinking about sex; every time he sees Slim, he needs to describe the clothes she is wearing, with emphasis on the black bathing suit top under her white t-shirt, or the absence of a top beneath the t-shirt, which gets him hard. In one scene, he has actually suffered a premature ejaculation because he and Slim kissed. By the time the book is over, you kind of feel sorry for the kid because you know he's just got to have a major case of blue balls. Even when driving with is sister-in-law, he knows he shouldn't, but he keeps trying to catch peeks of her breasts through the gap in her blouse. These are actions I expect from curious 10 and 11 year old kids, not 16 year olds. A preoccupation with sex seems to take priority over realistic responses to certain situations. Add to this they way they are always jumping to the wrong conclusions, I get the feeling I'm dealing with young kids, not teenagers.
The second problem I had with the book is the absence of The Traveling Vampire Show. We don't get to the show until the final quarter of the book, and by that point I don't care any more. The actions leading up to the show are drawn out and unrealistic. I know horror fiction in itself is unrealistic, and the ability to suspend your disbelief is crucial. This is the third Laymon book I have read, and in each instance, I didn't just suspend my disbelief, I crumpled it up like a used tissue and flushed it down the toilet. Half way through the book, I stopped caring what happened to the characters. Their stupidity had me hoping they would all meet some gruesome ending.
The sad thing is, reading the jacket copy, the books actually sound like they might be good. When I picked up The Cellar, I thought it was an awesome idea. And it was. It was just poorly executed to the point where I was tempted to put it down. When the woman is captured by the creatures, I actually smiled, much the way I smiled when Rusty met his fate.
I know Laymon has a following and there are readers out there who praise him to high heaven. I'm not one of them. People who criticize Laymon are often said to be missing the point by those who hold him up on a pedestal. Maybe I am missing the point, but that isn't enough to tempt me to venture into another Laymon novel in search of that revelation. As I close the book on The Traveling Vampire Show, I am burning my passport, never to return to Laymon Country.