First published back in 1986, Richard Laymon’s short story ‘The Night Creature’ 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 Night Creature’ was also the first 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:
Santa Monica had been plagued by a string of murders. There had been four murders in the past two weeks. As far as the authorities could gather, the victims of these murders had nothing in common, other than they had all been out alone late at night when the attacks took place.

The pressure on the police to catch the killer was mounting by the day. Because of this, Lieutenant Clint Jackson was becoming increasingly desperate for a lead. As such, when he’d heard about the abilities of Theresa Hughes, the supposed psychic advisor, the police detective thought, anything was worth a try.

Jackson was aware that not all of the details about the murders had made the press. In fact, one specific detail had been purposefully suppressed.  The victims had all displayed the same horrific wounds. Savage bite marks on their necks and almost no blood left in their bodies.

It was these findings which worried Jackson the most. Deep down the police officer had an inkling about who or what had murdered these four victims. However, he couldn’t bring himself to accept the fact. That was, not until the young psychic had a vision of the last murder.

Only then did Lieutenant Clint Jackson start to consider the possibility that his worst fears might be realised. What Theresa Hughes described from her vision was something beyond terrifying. The perpetrator was the stuff of legends. The beast stalking the streets of Santa Monica was undoubtedly a blood-thirsty vampire…

DLS Review:
Here we have the very first of four S.O.S. stories published within the Fastback series. In the story we get to see the formation of the Strange Occurrence Squad (‘SOS’), a specialist team of ghoul-hunters consisting of a self-professed expert on weirdness (Malcolm Fitzgerald), a tough street-smart cop (Lieutenant Clint Jackson), and a psychic (Theresa Hughes).

The story itself is a pretty standard and run-of-the-mill modern-day vampire offering. We have a blood-sucking antagonist plaguing the streets of Santa Monica, murdering innocent victims each night so it can satisfy its cravings for blood. There’s little in the way of clues or evidence other than the blood-drained corpses of its victims.

Of course, we have the classic cop in denial thrown into the mix. After all, it’s not easy to accept a real-life vampire is stalking the darkened streets at night. Laymon plays with this denial throughout the story, however in doing so it doesn’t clog up the flow of the tale, or prevent the story from getting straight into the thick of the action when it needs to.

The vampire itself is a gritty depiction of a truly vicious adversary. Absolutely nothing like the camp vampires of the Hammer Horror era, but instead a savage ghoul with a thick snake-like white tongue which slithers around its victims throats before those razor-sharp fangs puncture the flesh.

Ultimately the tale is a fast-paced and highly entertaining read, despite it’s slightly unoriginal and maybe uninspired plot. But for a story of this short length, it all works well. Especially with the coming together of the SOS members to start the short series off with a bang.

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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