Friday, 28 December 2007

‘Savage’ – Richard Laymon

Everyone likes an unsolved mystery and perhaps one of the most mysterious unsolved mysteries is the case of Jack the Ripper. Everyone knows what Jack got up to (so I’m not going to go into detail here) and the circumstances surrounding his activities have somehow struck a chord in the imagination of many people across the world. This killer is the subject of books, films and various conspiracy theories (he even appears in an episode of ‘Babylon 5’). Was Jack a psychotic member of royalty (hence his murders remaining unsolved)? Was he an alien trying, unsuccessfully, to make contact with humans? (Ok, I made that one up but I bet it had you thinking!) One of the theories as to why the murders suddenly stopped is that Jack left Britain for a new life in America. This is where Richard Laymon steps in and offers the reader a tale of what might have happened…
Fifteen year old Trevor Bentley really should have made his way home when he was told to. Instead, circumstance result in him cowering underneath Mary Kelly’s bed as the Ripper kills her. Instead of counting himself lucky not to have been noticed, Trevor sets out to stop the Ripper once and for all on a journey that will take him out of London and finish in a cave just outside Tombstone Arizona.
‘Savage’ initially began with a lot of promise. With foggy London streets, an evil killer and a plucky young hero the stage seemed set for a real atmospheric tale of horror. I was completely sucked in and ready for more. The journey to America was handled well with lots of tension about the outcome but when the action finally switched to America things started to go downhill rapidly. You see, Jack got such a head start on our hero (can’t really blame Trevor for this, he fell in love…) that it took most of the book to finally catch up with him. When we finally get to the showdown it’s over and done with within a few pages and that left me feeling kinda cheated. The greater part of the story then is a rite of passage tale as Trevor adapts to life in America. It makes for an interesting read although Laymon has a habit of killing anyone who looks like they might be holding back Trevor from his quest, sometimes people just go their separate ways you know…
As good a ‘western’ tale as this was (and it worked pretty well in this vein) I couldn’t escape the feeling that ‘Savage’ was meant to be a tale of horror and it just wasn’t working like this. Maybe this was just me judging the book on the author’s reputation and getting it wrong but I was still left feeling disappointed when I reached the end. A book that oozed potential but failed to deliver.

Four out of Ten

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