Ed Logan, heartbroken over being dumped by his girlfriend, decides to go for a night-time stroll to buy some donuts. This is his introduction to the strange night-time world that exists in his town. He becomes fascinated by a young girl he sees out at night, wandering what she is doing. Even though he is quickly developing a relationship with Eileen Danforth, one of his ex's friends, he keeps going out at night in the hope of seeing more of this young girl. Unfortunately, the night also contains many strange people, such as a "hag" on a bike, strange cannibalistic homeless men who live under the bridge, and a psycho called Randy who has evil designs on Eileen and Ed.
This long, interminable story is more a series of vignettes than an actual horror tale with a proper plot. Ed goes out each night, sees strange and scary things, tries to find the girl he has seen, and deliberates and second guesses his every move. Rinse and repeat. It soon got very tiresome and dull. After this on-going pattern, Laymon randomly wraps everything up by returning to the character of Randy and throwing in a gratuitous lashing of sex, violence and rape.
Laymon is no stranger to sexual violence in his novels, but here it is particularly loathsome due to the off-hand way into which it is inserted into the story. If he hadn't had Randy come in and abuse all the female characters, the story probably never would have ended, as the narrative had been so open-ended, with no clear idea as to who the real antagonist of the story was. Randy shows up briefly early in the story, but never reappears until the slimy climax. I felt like taking a shower after reading it. The homeless cannibals living under the bridge are never really defined enough to feel like the main antagonists either.
Characterisations aren't the best either. Ed is described as not being anything special, and even something of a literary nerd, but every single main character in the story - male or female - wants to have sex with him. I eventually grew to quite dislike him, as he spends most of his time thinking with his dick. That's when he's not endlessly questioning his every movement and decision. Seriously, it sometimes feels like just choosing between going left or going right is a huge life choice for this guy.
I've suspected in the past that Laymon is homophobic, and that really shines through here with the characters of Randy and Kirkus. Randy is a sick killer who likes to rape men and women indiscriminately, while Kirkus is portrayed as very fey and pompous, but ready to practically attack and molest Ed at any given moment. He gets punched for his efforts, which is pretty un-PC.
The sexual deviancy and rape that constitutes the climax is, admittedly, par for the course for this author, but is so random that it's just distasteful and queasy. It definitely feels like it was thrown in because that's what Laymon (or his publishers) believes his readers want to read, not that it suits the style of the story.
Laymon used to be one of my favourite authors. After reading "The Lake", "Come Out Tonight" and "No Sanctuary" in succession and not finding any of them particularly good, I'm beginning to wonder why I held him in such high esteem. Are my tastes changing as I get older? Do I enjoy different stuff now that I'm 36? Or will I be pleasantly surprised if I go back and tap older fare such as "Bite", "Body Rides" and "Flesh", novels of his I haven't read yet? I'm hoping for the latter.