First published back in 1986, Richard Laymon’s short story ‘The Beast’ was released as a stand-alone story for the Fearon Education ‘Double Fastback’ series. The Fastback series was designed to encourage reluctant readers to take up reading, keeping the stories short, sharp and exciting.

Despite being a stand-alone story, ‘The Beast’ was also the second instalment in a four-part series involving the Strange Occurrence Squad (‘SOS’). All four of the stories in the series were ‘Double Fastbacks’ meaning they were double the length of a standard Fastback

DLS Synopsis:
The small team of counsellors and leaders at Camp Condor were getting their summer camp prepared for the arrival of the young campers when all hell broke loose. Something large and fearsome charged out from the woodland and attacked the camp, ripping apart one of the large tents in the process.

The next day William T Fitzgerald receives word that the summer camp at the Oregon woods has attacked by some kind of monster. More worrying still, an eighteen-year-old councillor named Donna O’Hara appears to have been snatched away by the beast.

Fitzgerald instantly suspects Bigfoot to be the culprit. It’s the perfect job for the newly formed Strange Occurrence Squad to investigate. Their objective – to find the missing girl, and if she’s still alive, rescue her and take care of the creature responsible…

DLS Review:
There really aren’t enough stories about Bigfoot out there! As soon as Laymon’s short story reveals the primes suspect to be our old pal Sasquatch, I have to admit, my interest in the story instantly increased a couple of notches.

Laymon doesn’t bother with reintroducing our three principal protagonists, those who make up the newly formed SOS – Malcolm Fitzgerald (the somewhat eccentric son of writer William T Fitzgerald), Lieutenant Clint Jackson (the hardboiled cop), and Theresa Hughes (the young psychic). Instead, Laymon brings them into the story with a brief dialogue exchange between them all, and then lets their respective roles take over and the storyline to naturally unfold.

Interestingly, compared with the majority of other Laymon’s other Fastbacks, this one feels a tad slower paced on the whole. In fact, there seems to be markedly less going on within the story than with most of the other fastbacks, and instead, generally more meandering plot establishment involved.

Furthermore, for quite a while the story feels like it’s moving into Scooby-Doo territory with the potential that Bigfoot is actually an anti-social loner named Willie Grunn, dressed up as the mythical creature. In fact, a fair chunk of the tale is taken up with trying to get to the bottom of the mystery behind the missing camping equipment and its undoubted connection with Grunn and the Bigfoot attack.

All in all, it’s not a bad read, but I wouldn’t say its one of the better of Laymon’s fastbacks (despite involving Bigfoot). For a quick read, which will keep you guessing for a while, it’s definitely got its moments. And it does flesh out the SOS characters that little bit more, ready for the next two instalments in the SOS series.

The Fastback runs for a total of 61 pages (which are just 4” x 5.5” with an average word count of around 100 words per page).

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Strange Occurrence Squad’ instalments:


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