First published back in 1986, Richard Laymon’s short story ‘The Return’ was released as a stand-alone story for the ‘Double Fastback’ series.  The Fastback series were designed to encourage reluctant-readers to take up reading, keeping the stories short, sharp and exciting.  ‘The Return’ formed the third 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:
Whilst twenty-year-old Sandy King’s parents were away on holiday in Mexico, Sandy found herself awoken in the middle of the night by a noise in the house.  Going downstairs to investigate she discovers the backdoor ajar with a smashed window declaring that something definitely wasn’t right.  And then she saw him.  Her ex-boyfriend, Michael McCloud, who had hung himself just four days ago.  However, somehow the twenty-two-year-old was still walking around.  For some reason he hadn’t stayed dead.  And he was after Saaaandy.

Running from the house to escape Michael’s cold dead hands, Sandy parks up her Mercedes outside the psychic advisor Theresa Hughes’ office.   And so, the next morning, as soon as Theresa arrives at her office, Sandy pounces on her pleading for help.  But after Theresa hears the distraught young woman’s story, she has no choice but to call in the others.  A quick phone call to Lieutenant Clint Jackson from Homicide and twenty-year-old Malcolm Fitzgerald from the East Coast and the Strange Occurrence Squad are on their way to another nightmarish job…

DLS Review:
Following on from ‘The Night Creature’ (1986) and ‘The Beast’ (1986), the ‘zombie plot’ quickly gets underway, before re-introducing the three members of the SOS.  With the story following directly on from the previous two books, Laymon purposefully makes a number of references to the vampire escapade and ‘that huge thing at Camp Condor’ once the SOS are back together again.

From here on it’s the usual tongue-in-cheek affair, with a pretty basic and unadventurous plot set in motion that the three hapless friends have to tackle.  Somewhat surprisingly Laymon doesn’t bother with any reasoning behind why McCloud is up and walking around, other than he’s come for poor Sandy’s spirit.

Oddly, a sizeable portion of the Fastback is wasted, dealing with the reasonably mundane activities of Sandy and Theresa whilst they wait for Clint and Malcolm to arrive.  Alongside visits to the cinema, we are also treated to Theresa popping out to buy a new set of clothes for Sandy and details of fast food she also brings back.  Why Laymon thought to thicken out a Fastback story with such trivialities is anyone’s guess!

Once Sandy and the SOS go to the King household to investigate, the ensuing struggle with McCloud and then on to the ending is sadly as weak as the rest of the story had been up until now.  Furthermore, Laymon takes the easy way out with a painfully simple conclusion, making for an altogether breathtakingly disappointing read.

The Fastback runs for a total of 61 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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