First published back in June of 1986, Richard Laymon’s short tale ‘Halloween Hunt’ was released as a stand-alone story for the Fearon Education ‘Fastback’ series.  The Fastback series were designed to encourage reluctant readers to take up reading, keeping the stories short, sharp and thrilling. This one was published as part of the ‘Horror’ series.

The book is classed as a ‘Double Fastback’, meaning it’s roughly double the length of a standard Fastback.

DLS Synopsis:
Linda was still upset about what Dave had done. He’d taken Tanya Raines of all people to the Springsteen concert when she couldn’t go because of the flu. That had been the last straw for her. She’d ended their relationship then and there.

After that, knowing Dave would undoubtedly be going to Walt’s Halloween party was the main reason she didn’t want to go. Although, if she was honest with herself, it was also the main reason why deep down she wanted to go. For days she’d told herself she’d not attend, all the way up until it was time to go. Then last minute she’d flung on her old cheerleaders’ outfit and gone.

Everyone knew Walt always made a real effort with his Halloween parties. This year was no exception. For the main event he’d organised a Halloween Hunt. There were eight guests in total, so they’d been split into two teams, with two referees watching over events. Bill and Walt were to be the referees. Unfortunately for Linda, Dave of all people was on her team, along with an unknown guest who’d remained hidden underneath a ghost’s sheet the whole time. The prize for the hunt, however, was three-hundred dollars for the lucky team.

All the two teams had to do was go out on a search and collect together the items stipulated on their respective lists. Simple! However, being Halloween, those items invariably all had a somewhat creepy twist to them. Nevertheless, the prize, even when split three-ways, was worth it!

Or so Linda and her teammates thought…

DLS Review:
Here we have a short story which feels like it’s been plucked straight from a corny 80’s horror flick. We have a bunch of teenaged college kids with all the usual teenager love life issues thrown into the bubbling mix. Our principal protagonist within this high-hormone soiree is Linda. A character who’s as indecisive as she is adamant. A contradiction in itself, but then that’s frigging teenagers for you!

Anyway, this Walt character comes across as a prank-master Halloween legend. At last year’s party he paid some guy at a morgue to borrow a dead body so he could have it propped up as a guest at his party. This year we have this Halloween Hunt, which as you can no doubt imagine, has some pretty fun Halloween inspired stuff on the lists for these teenagers to hunt out and bring back.

For the main part of the story, we have Linda and Dave’s troubles and the resulting awkwardness at the forefront of the narrative – mostly via the inner monologue that’s constantly going through Linda’s head. A secondary substory about “who’s under the ghostly sheet” also takes up a fair chunk of the tale, for the first half or so of the book.

However, it’s once the team are on their third challenge that the tale takes a sudden twist towards much more of a horror story. Without hopefully giving too much away, we have a sudden shift from all those tiresome teenager-love-life-woes, to instead embrace a whole new pulpy horror take on the story, which feels almost intrinsically linked to both Laymon’s ‘Night Games’ (1986) Fastback, as well as his highly-revered ‘Beast House’ series.

Oddly, at this point Laymon only throws down a few pages of horror action, before steering the tale to an abrupt and (to be honest) altogether inconclusive ending. Although the story is kind of brought to something resembling a conclusion, there’s still some pretty hefty questions left lingering in the air.

Still, the story is an entertaining short read, with plenty going on in there to keep you grinning.

The Fastback runs for a total of 60 pages (which are just 4” x 5.5” with an average word count of around 100 words per page).

© DLS Reviews


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