For around two decades, from the early 1980s to his death in the early 21st Century, Richard Laymon produced his own brand of horror. Among his thirty-or-so novels, I have now read five: Resurrection Dreams, After Midnight, Into the Fire, Blood Games and now, The Cellar. This last book may very well be his first novel (based on the copyrights), but it is clearly a product of Laymon's imagination. And, generally speaking, that is a good thing.
The Cellar opens up (after a brief prologue) with Donna Hayes finding out that her ex-husband Roy has just been released from prison. Roy is a true villain with no redeeming value to speak of, and he is out for revenge against his former spouse. He also intends to take up again his "romance" with their pre-teen daughter, Sandy. With a few hours head start, Donna and Sandy flee to Northern California, where after a car accident, they find themselves stuck in the small town of Malcasa Point.
This town has one tourist feature, the Beast House, where some disturbing killings have taken place over the years. Fortunately, the creature that supposedly lurks within only goes come out at night and never leaves the house. Hence, during the day, it has tours. Larry Usher, one of the rare survivors of a Beast attack when he was a kid, finds he is still haunted by the creature; he recruits Jud, a mysterious mercenary, to take out the creature.
Eventually, the paths of all these characters will cross. It's obvious that Donna will eventually be trapped between Roy and the Beast and that romance will bloom between her and Jud, one of those virtuous assassins that seem to only exist in fiction. It is to Laymon's credit, however, that he does not always go in obvious directions, and there are twists that lead to a logical if unexpected conclusion.
This is not a perfect book. Laymon's efforts to make Roy repulsive are effective yet sometimes overly gratuitous. Also, although this would actually be the first time he used this theme, he tends to produce more woman-in-jeopardy stories than the Lifetime Channel movie division. All the novels I've read of his follow this idea, albeit in different fashions. Even with his flaws, however, Laymon writes well enough and The Cellar is a quick, suspenseful read.