First published back in July of 1997, US horror author Richard Laymon’s novel ‘After Midnight’ came as one of the later on additions to his hugely successful and prolific career in horror writing.

DLS Synopsis:
In her elaborate confession, Alice (a ‘fictional’ name) depicts herself as quirky yet still attractive, but not overly so.  However she has a gritty history.  Nevertheless, for the past three years she has led a reasonably quiet life, renting out a room above the garage at her friend Serena’s rather luxurious abode. 

When Serena and her family go away on holiday, Alice is left to look after the house – which of course means enjoying all the luxuries that go with the property - the pool, the fine food and of course the drinks.  But these good times quickly become ruined when in the middle of the night, Alice oversees an intruder walk out of the nearby woods and take a skinny-dip in the pool.  When the phone suddenly rings, the naked intruder spots Alice, and before running off into the darkened woods, leaves Alice with a very unwelcome erotic show on the patio doors.

The phone call that alerted the intruder was a wrong number.  The guy who phoned, Tony, becomes concerned about Alice after hearing what has just happened.  Against Alice’s wishes, he turns up on her doorstep in a matter of minutes anyway.  However, Alice didn’t know that it was him.  For all she knew, it was the midnight pervert come back for her.  And so, her split-second reaction was to drive the old Civil War cavalry sabre that was hanging on the wall, straight through the skull of the man waiting on the doorstep.

With her somewhat risqué past, Alice knows that she can’t go to the police with this accident.  She has to clear it up and get rid of the evidence.  But, as she is soon to learn, everything in life is always connected in some way or another.  To sever all the connections is an almighty task.  And there’s always something else waiting around the corner to make life just that little bit harder...

DLS Review:
Written in the first-person-perspective by way of an elaborate confession to this series of very dramatic and brutal events, the tale is delivered in a very light-hearted and surreal play on a parody of a real life story.  Indeed Laymon goes as far as to have our principal protagonist declaring (and subsequently reminding the reader on numerous occasions) that her name and all of the names and locations used within the tale, have been purposefully altered to hide her identity.  Its a nice touch!

Laced with a double-thick wedge of black comedy throughout, the tale is a glorious soiree into the mayhem that can be caused when desperately trying to conceal an accidental murder.  Ludicrously over-the-top but thoroughly enjoyable and enthralling because of it; this is a monumentally wild story of how far events can just keep on going.  Think Peter Bergs film Very Bad Things (1998) but with a cart load more violence and madness.

Crammed full with outlandish moments of truly bad luck, unfortunate run-ins with the most unlikely of characters, and a whole host of cliff-hangers and dramatic plot twists; this is a non-stop rollercoaster of a thrill-seeking-ride from start to finish.

What makes the tale so much more exciting, gripping and damn right jocular, is the humorous dialogue from Alice (our narrator) and the altogether colourful and exaggerated characteristics that make up this thoroughly entertaining character.  She’s so utterly down to earth that she misses it by a mile, with a multitude of charming but exaggerated mannerisms that leap out from each and every page.  Her life and back-story are as mysterious and intriguing as is her psyche and questionable mental state.  The character of Alice alone is so utterly engrossing that whatever storyline she is thrust into, will no doubt be wild and entertaining by the sheer nature of the girl.

Laymon has thrown together a truly gripping and masterfully tense tale, which roars along at a mile-a-minute until the purely edge-of-the-seat ending delivers the excitement and thrills that was so very necessary for the conclusion of such a tale.  It must be said that 'After Midnight' is also probably one of the most sexually charged of Laymon's novels.  Barely a scene goes by without some form of erotic wordsmanship having been excitedly injected into the storyline.  Alice's often non-existent clothes do seem to gradually deteriorate throughout the length of the novel.  This added little touch to the tale only goes to enhance the unashamedly over-the-top and comically-sleazy nature of the story.

All in all, this is a wild and frenzied tale that plays with a brilliantly created and ingeniously portrayed character, whose story is nothing short of heart-racing and utterly outlandish, mashing together murder, rape, sadistic torture, deception, love and ultimately revenge.  Brilliant stuff!

The novel runs for a total of 346 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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