Vampires have become a strong theme in my reading lately just as zombies were for a while. Regardless, I did not pick up this book because it was about vampires. In fact, I would have read it with great anticipation regardless of the topic for one reason: Richard Laymon, the author. The late Mr. Laymon is an under-appreciated talent in the thriller/horror genre which is a shame. He did not write with the most polished style but his books never fail to entertain. With this in mind, I opened up “The stake” and prepared for the thrill ride that lay within.
The novel starts with a kind of odd prologue of a man breaking into the house of a vampire to kill her. Yet when he finds the young woman in bed, he is almost subconsciously seduced. The book then cuts away in a totally different direction and the beginning seems almost out of place until much later in the story.
“The stake” is the story of two friends, Larry and Pete, who along with their wives, Jean and Barbara, decide to explore a ghost town one weekend. As they explore an abandoned motel, Barbara falls through the floor at the top of the stairs. The men break through the wall to rescue her only to discover that the corpse of a young woman who had been murdered with a stake through her heart was sealed up beneath the stairs. The couples immediately begin to speculate on whether or not the girl is a vampire.
When Pete convinces Larry, who is a somewhat successful horror author, to write a non-fiction book about their discovery, the two men bring the corpse back to Larry’s house. Larry becomes obsesse with the corpse and is haunted by strange dreams and desires while investigating the corpse’s history for the book. While Larry investigates the potential supernatural horror of the corpse, his teenage daughter becomes involved in an all too real horror story of her own. Will Larry’s investigation prove or disprove the existence of vampires and will be he able to overcome his own obsession in time to save his daughter?
“The stake” is Richard Laymon at his best. It is presented as a vampire story and yet vampires are noticeably missing from the story. In fact, it is not until the last few pages of the book that the reader learns whether or not vampires are real. Instead of supernatural terror, Laymon gives the reader very real characters acting in a believable manner and confronted by an unlikely yet possible horror. It is a story of terror centered on friendship and fatherhood. For fans of Dean Koontz, “The stake” shows that Laymon is every bit his equal in penning a fast-paced tale that pulls the reader along toward an unexpected end. If you have never read his work before, do yourself a favor and pick up this book today.