Published as a standalone chapbook in November 1992 by Dark Carnival Books (Courtesy of Deadline Press), Richard Laymon’s ‘Out Of The Woods’ was limited to just two-hundred hand-numbered copies, each of which were signed by the author along with artist Larry Mori.

The chapbook comes within an elaborately folded envelope made from a slightly opaque protective paper, which can be unfolded and refolded along the same crease lines to hold the chapbook within. The chapbook itself is essentially a singular sheet of high-quality paper folded into six sections, with the story printed across both sides.

The short story was first published back in 1975 for the December edition of ‘Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine’ and following the publication of this chapbook, reprinted again within ‘A Good, Secret Place’ (1993) and ‘Fiends’ (1997) short story collections, and then later again within the ‘Short Stories: The Mystery and Men’s Magazines’ (2014) ebook collection.

DLS Synopsis:
The sound of footsteps outside the tent was enough to wake him from his slumber. It was unlikely to be another camper. They were far from the main trails and hadn’t seen a backpacker in three days.

Turning over he looked to see if Sadie was awake. However, the rest of the tent was empty. Sadie was gone. He had a vague memory of her leaving the tent before he drifted off again. That explain things, the sound of footsteps outside must be her.

At least he thought so until the man’s voice broke the silence, demanding he come out or the man would tear the tent apart with a blast from his shotgun.

The situation was looking decidedly dangerous. Where the hell was Sadie?...

DLS Review:
First off, before we get onto the story itself, I first need to address the presentation of the chapbook. It exceptional. Absolutely stunning in how classic and timeless it looks. Elegant, purposefully understated, and showing a fine level of detail for its overall charm and attention to the stylish presentation of the piece.

Indeed, the small pen and ink illustration that the short tale concludes with, pretty much embodies this overall sense of stylish quality and elegance afforded to this chapbook. Subtle but bold in its almost minimalist composition. This pen and ink illustration was reprinted within the ‘A Good, Secret Place’ (1993) collection again alongside the short story, with the boarder style becoming an illustrative theme that was utilised throughout the collection.

The story itself is an incredibly short, but punchy piece of horror. Almost a black-comedy piece about assuming identities and the delivery of delightful comeuppance to the perpetrator of a potentially vicious crime.

Furthermore, despite the obvious seriousness of this stranger’s threat upon our protagonist, Laymon retains a colourful, light-hearted approach to the tale’s delivery, giving it a satisfying vibe at the grin-inducing twist ending. Effortlessly entertaining.

The short story covers 8 short and thinly folded pages of the chapbook.

© DLS Reviews


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