The Traveling Vampire Show Hardcover – May 2000
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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.
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.
Top Customer Reviews
Laymon's Traveling Vampire Show is a vampire novel that isn't a vampire novel. It's a coming of age story about three young friends, centering mainly around one dealing with his rising malehood and growing affection for his female companion.
Vampires for the most part are just an -idea- throughout the novel. A mechanism for furthering the development of the characters, while the only actual encounter with vampires doesn't come to the end.
I've subtracted a star for the abrupt end to the novel. It seems Laymon ran out of steam and haphazardly tries to sum it all up in one page. But despite the quick ending, this is certainly a novel for those vampire fanatics seeking something altogether different. This is also a novel for those who -aren't- yet into the idea of vampires or horror, it will help ease you into the genre slowly.
The characters are in no way carbon copies of others you come across in horror books. Each one of them is carefully thought out. The same goes for the setting and plot.
Laymon has covered the vampire tale before (Bite) but this story is more mindful of Dan Simmon's Summer of Night and, to an extent, even To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee.
If anything else, this was a book for horror fans looking for a tale that takes place in a time perhaps not more innocent than the present, but unfettered by cell phones, computers, etc when teens and children had to use their minds to entertain themselves.
Laymon is undoubtedly a master of a terse style that conveys so much. By comparison, many horror writers with flowery descriptions often fall short of the mark.
Read it and remember that one summer where you felt everything was about to change, for better or worse, and you put off growing up in order to savor what little mystery and magic was left in the world.
Our three protagonists want to go to the show, but due to blood and nudity, the show is for adults only. But that is not enough to stop them, instead, it seems to egg them on.
Most of the book takes place during the day leading up to the show. There are also some interesting flashbacks that help flesh out the characters.
During the story, the reader is drawn in trying to find out more about the Traveling Vampire Show. Is it a fraud, a real vampire (this is a horror novel after all), or something else all together? Well, as the action and tension heat up, some questions are answered about the vampire, the show and our protagonists.
The small-town nature of the story has generated a lot of comparisons to Ray Bradbury and Stephen King but I feel it is not really either. It stands on its own.
An absolutely wonderful book that gras hold and drags you right to the final page.
In reading Laymon for the first time, at least, as I am, his style initially seems pleasantly and naturally in the same vein as Stephen King. In a straightforward manner, he lets us enter the everyday thoughts of his protagonist, Dwight, and the thoughts of the other characters as Dwight understands them. This first person window into a small town, teenaged baby boomers' life in the early 60s is convincing and gripping-making this a page-turner.
However, there are two things that at least on a first reading seemed like they might have to count as flaws, and which lessen the Stephen King comparison (although not in a bad way, as we'll see later in this review). The first is the aforementioned simplicity of the premise. It takes almost 400 pages to describe events that take less than 24 hours to unfold, and although a lot unfolds, the traveling vampire show itself is constantly dangled in front of us like a carrot that we can never reach.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This is actually the first Richard Laymon book I had ever read and it was so good, I became a huge fan of his and worked hard at getting everything he's written. Read morePublished on March 19 2007 by Kelly Brianna
This was the first book I had read by Richard Laymon. I found the paperback by accident while shopping in a grocery store. Read morePublished on Nov. 16 2005
If your expecting to read a good vampire book, this one is not for you. If your already a RL fan than I recommend this book.Published on July 18 2004
Ever seen the film _From Dusk Til Dawn_? In that so-called "vampire" movie, vampires don't enter the picture until the middlish-end, when, from out of nowhere, a hoard of... Read morePublished on June 25 2004 by Caradae Linore
This book was excellent! The best vampire book I have read in years by far! The plot was orginally, story well written and engaging. Read morePublished on April 10 2004 by Persephone
Perhaps this was a clever little tale about childhood relationships, but I found none of the suspense or gruesome horror fun I craved. Read morePublished on Dec 12 2003 by Tyrone Wilson
Stupid! Ridiculous! Moronic! Childish!, Don't believe the good reviews on this book they're lying to you! all of them liars! Read morePublished on Dec 9 2003 by Darold Rudolph
This book was all but perfect. It is a great story with a distinct feel of americana. During you truly find yourself rooting for the main character, who is quite likeable. Read morePublished on Dec 4 2003 by Lucas Bean
I thought the premise was great but overall I was a disappointed. Perhaps I expected too much, but the book seemed cartoonish, reminding of an R-rated Scooby episode, the ending... Read morePublished on Oct. 22 2003 by John D. Costanzo