The Cinematic Black Hole: Mirrormask
Millipede Press

Underground Reading: Tread Softly by Richard Kelly

Tread SoftlyWhen two families team up to go camping in Richard Kelly's Tread Softly, they clearly don't know that Kelly is an early pseudonym for cult author Richard Laymon. And you never want to go camping in a book by Richard Laymon. Satanic sexual predators, random serial killers, zombie dogs... anything could happen (and does. Twice).

This early (1987) publication has all the key traits of a vintage Laymon thriller - including a callous and merry disregard of anything resembling good taste. This is joyously silly slasher fiction with boobs bouncing freely, an axe in every hand and a cannibal around every corner.

With that in mind, a few things to remember when trapped in a Laymon book:

  • Don't go camping. All you're doing is removing witnesses from the equation.
  • Keep your clothes on. Remember, 99% of mad-dog-rapist-serial-killers wait until you've naked before attacking.
  • Knives wound. Axes kill. Be sure.
  • The quickest way to tell a good guy from a serial killer is to flash your breasts. Good guys peek and blush. Bad guys lunge.
  • Don't talk to strangers. At best, they're a meat shield. They're more likely to be a rapist-murderer

If anything, the book is almost too Laymon - it feels so on-formula that it reads like a pastiche of his own work. Later, of course, Mr. Laymon played with his own 'formulaic' plot and character constructions to keep his audience surprised, but in this early work, it stays on-script.

Overall, a tasteless, silly and enjoyable book, making it an excellent  introduction to the larger body of (tasteless, silly and enjoyable) work that is Richard Laymon.