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Night Show is a simple book; a simple book, simply written, but sometimes, simple is good. These days authors seem so intent on showing how clever they are or how much research they have done that their books become over-complex and over-long, turning what should be a decent 200 story novel into a massive 500 page tome. In short, they sometimes forget that reading should be FUN.
The late Richard Laymon did not make that mistake with Night Show. It has a simple plot which never becomes particularly complex or challenging and is always easy to follow but interesting to read. It starts with a sequence in which Tony locks a girl named Linda in a local "haunted house" as a prank - an event which traumatises her. Tony moves away to Hollywood and forgets about Linda, becoming obsessed instead with Dani, a leading special effects expert for horror films. Linda, on the other hand never forgets about Tony.
Night Show succeeds because Laymon takes two different (but obviously related) plotlines and keeps them separate until right at the very end. Switching frequently between the two, he gradually builds up each one, carefully adding new layers each time. This has the effect of slowly revealing more and more detail on a regular basis which, in turn, builds a sense of intrigue and curiosity in the reader. You keep reading because you are anxious to find out what is going to happen next in each of the two storylines and how they are inevitably going to connect.
Of course, "simple" can be a double-edged sword because Night Show is not particularly clever and contains no surprises. Almost from the off, you just know how this book is going to end; and you won't be too far out in your guess. For once, though, this predictability doesn't matter too much since the book is a fun, untaxing read and the lack of complications and frequent plot twists aid this.
On the downside, it does also mean that the book is rather forgettable and inconsequential. This is amply demonstrated by the fact that I finished reading this book this morning, yet had to go and get it from upstairs to remind myself what the main characters were called! It's the perfect example of a book which is enjoyable whilst you are reading it, but it's never going to change anybody's life.
Characters are not particularly well-fleshed out, although they work well enough within the context of the novel. Tony is slightly annoying and childish - someone who has never outgrown his love of scaring people to get his own kicks, whilst Linda is your fairly typical vengeance-obsessed female. There are also some pretty unrealistic characters. The way that Dani and Jack (her boyfriend and assistant) react to Tony's stalking is extremely unrealistic; their behaviour is driven by the needs of the plot, not reality.
Like most horror writers, Laymon is also rather obsessed by sex and seems to think that his primary audience is hormone-filled teenage boys who can't go more than 30 seconds without thinking about naked flesh. As such, I lost count of the number of references to the main character's breasts in some context or other; and judging by the number of times Dani and Jack had sex, they must both have rabbits in their genes somewhere. I'm certainly no prude, but it does become rather tiresome and unnecessary. Once it's been established that Dani and Jack are in love, their constant fumblings really are of no interest to the reader and add nothing to the plot or atmosphere.
Whilst Laymon is generally regarded as a "horror" writer, Night Show doesn't actually fit neatly into that genre. If you go in expecting a gruesome tale, or a story of monsters and the supernatural, then you will be disappointed. Indeed, other than the fact that Tony is obsessed by horror films and scaring people there's very little else to justify the label "horror." Even "horror lite" would probably be being rather too kind. Again, this is not necessarily a criticism - as long as you don't go into it expecting that sort of book.
Night Show is readable enough, but it's not a great example of the horror genre, nor is it amongst Laymon's best efforts. Still, the simple story makes a pleasant and refreshing change from some of the over-long, over-plotted books that you come across all too frequently today. Not an essentially purchase by any means, but since you can pick it up second hand for less than £1 it's worth a punt if you spot it.
Feature, New ed., 1994
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
High-school prankster Tony Johnson kidnapped school beauty Linda Allison and locked her in a haunted house for the night. Linda didn't see the funny side. Now Tony is in Hollywood and has forgotten all about Linda. But she certainly hasn't forgotten him.