Richard Laymon's novels are to my reading habits as Burger King is to my dietary habits. While his work may not be appreciated by certain groups of people due to the fact he puts his pedal to the metal and doesn't let go, to me, it makes up a special portion of my reading list and I enjoy what he writes. He mixes blood, gore, shock, sex, drama, character development, setting, plot development, and hard core horror together to come up with a good quality finished product. While he considered himself a crime writer, I would definitely feel that there is a strong portion of horror element to what he writes.
This year, I decided that I would indulge into his Beast House Series and start with the story that started it all, The Cellar. This novel introduced the Beast House and painted the picture to what would eventually build for the remainder of the series. Donna Hayes lives with her daughter, Sandy, in California. When Donna finds out her husband, Roy, has been released from prison after serving his sentence for raping his own daughter, Donna scoops Sandy up and escapes. They head northward toward California and find two guys named Jud (short for Judgment) Rucker and Larry. The two are attracted in some way or another to Donna, and Jud is fortunate enough to take the extra step to expressing his affection. It's then they're introduced to the Beast House.
The Beast House is a tourist attraction in which an elderly woman lost her immediate family to the beast in the cellar. It's extremely scary and heinous, but there's a reason she continues to allow people to tour the residence. That reason is money. While Donna and Sandy enter this horror, Roy is on the hunt, looking for Donna and Sandy. He wants a piece of them; and he'll go through just about anyone to get there. He goes through a neighbor, he goes through Donna's very own sister, and he doesn't mind tagging the neighbor's child with him. He is clearly the human monster in this story, but it's either him or the actual beast that could be deemed the real monster.
I see this novel as a warmer for the remainder of the series. I felt Donna and Sandy were strong enough characters to connect with and Roy was immoral enough to despise. I could easily imagine the struggles of these characters and the monsters that existed, natural or supernatural. I would definitely pick it up at the right price and it would be something that could be made into a film... that is, if people could handle horror to the extremity. Though with the concepts I've seen in film, this should do fine with the right director.
This series has been deemed as a "cult classic," which I could see where the term fits. I have not really been one to become a cultist for any specific series. I find fascination in specific authors and in literature in general. I am definitely an enthusiast for Richard Laymon and his work, and The Cellar, written in 1980, was his debut novel. If you're a horror fiction fan, definitely read this. If you're looking for a read and you're a fan of another genre or just reading in general, it would be up to you to make the call. To me, I was satisfied.