The Woods Are Dark

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A group of deformed, Canibalistic, humanoid creatures live in the woods…as some unlucky travelers are about to find out.
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A group of deformed, Canibalistic, humanoid creatures live in the woods…as some unlucky travelers are about to find out.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, this reissue of Laymon's second horror novel (first published in 1981) restores the editorially butchered text to all of its gory glory. In gleefully gruesome fashion, it recounts the ordeal of three different groups of people-hikers Neala and Sherri, vacationing teacher Lander Dills and his family, and local yokel Johnny Robbins-as they attempt to defend themselves against the cannibal Krulls, a forest-dwelling family of inbred savages who for centuries have demanded that the citizens of the nearby burg of Barlow provide them with waylaid travelers for their feeding and breeding. In their desperation to survive at all costs, the seemingly civilized victims find themselves stooping to behavior as beastly as that practiced by their predatory pursuers. This novel is prime Laymon (The Cellar), featuring characters reduced to appetites both carnal and carnivorous and a plot flensed free of all but the bloody bones of storytelling. While not every horror reader's meat, this savage shockfest is a good example of the pulpy approach that has earned the late author a loyal readership for three decades.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781477831557
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • Publication date: 7/23/2013
  • Pages: 215
  • Sales rank: 338,674
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Woods are Dark
By Richard Laymon
Dorchester Publishing Copyright © 2008 Richard Laymon
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8439-5750-1

Chapter One Neala O'Hare slowed her MG as the narrow road curved. The evening sun was no longer behind her. Shadows of the high trees threw their dark capes across the road, hiding it. She pulled off her sunglasses.

Sherri, beside her, suddenly gasped.

Neala saw it, too. She hit the brakes.

Her friend thrust a hand against the windshield as the car jerked to a stop.

In front of them, the legless thing dragged itself over the road with powerful, hairy arms.

"What the fuck is it?" Sherri muttered.

Neala shook her head.

Then it faced them.

Neala's hands clenched the steering wheel. Stunned, she tried to figure out what she was seeing. It hardly looked like the face of a man.

The thing turned. It started to drag itself toward the car.

"Get out of here!" Sherri cried. "Quick! Back up!"

"What is it?" Neala asked.

"Let's go!"

Neala backed up, but slowly, just enough to keep away from the approaching creature. She couldn't take her eyes off its bloated face.

"Run it over!" Sherri snapped.

She shook her head. "I can't. It's a man. I think it's a man."

"Who cares? For Godsake, run it over and let's get the fuck out of here!"

It sat up, balancing on its torso, freeing its arms. It leered at Neala.

"Oh God," Sherri muttered.

It fumbled at an opening in its furry vest. A pocket? It pulled out a severed human hand, kissed its palm, and tossed it. The hand flipped toward Neala. She ducked her head, felt it in her hair, and knocked it aside. It fell into the gap between the bucket seats.

The legless thing scuttled off the road and disappeared into the forest.

Neala looked down at the hand, at its crooked fingers, its coral-painted nails, the white band of skin where a wedding ring used to be. Lunging sideways, she threw herself over her door and vomited onto the pavement. When she was done, she turned to her friend.

"We've gotta get rid of it," Sherri said.

"I ..."

Snarling as if enraged, Sherri clutched the hand by its fingers and flung it from the car. "God!" She rubbed her hand furiously on her shorts.

Neala sped away.

As she drove, her mind repeated the incident again and again. She needed to make sense of it, but no matter how she concentrated, it wouldn't fall into a pattern she could accept. The scene belonged in a nightmare, not on a peaceful road on the way to Yosemite.

She was glad to see a town ahead-not much of a town, to be sure. Up in these areas, though, they never were.

"Maybe they've got a police department," she said.

"You're not planning to stop!"

"We ought to tell someone."

"Tell Father Higgins, for Godsake. Save it for confession. Jesus, let's get the hell out of here."

"We can't just forget about it."

"Forget about it? Every time I shut my eyes, I'm going to be looking into that repulsive, gloating ..." Sherri jerked her head sharply as if to shake the picture apart. "God, I'm never gonna forget about it. But we don't have to go around making a big deal of it, okay? Let's just keep it to ourselves. It's water over the dam, you know?"

They had already left half the town behind. Ahead of them, Neala saw a bait shop, Terk's Diner, and the Sunshine Motor Inn.

"Why don't we stop at the diner?" Neala suggested.

"Why don't we not?"

"Come on. It's almost seven. We could both use some supper."

"You mean you can eat after that?"

"I can try. I'd sure like to get out of the car and relax, at least. Try to think it out. Talk it over. Besides, there's no telling when we'll hit another restaurant."

"You call this a restaurant?"

"Hey, this is your kind of joint. Probably filthy with greasy spoons and 'characters.'"

Sherri managed a smile. "Okay. But let's keep the freak to ourselves."

Neala turned onto the gravel parking area, and shut down the engine. They latched the roof into place, rolled up the windows, and locked the doors. Before starting across the gravel, Neala stretched. She was stiff from the long day in the car. Standing on tiptoe, shoulders straining back, she felt the luxury of her tensing muscles. The movement pulled her shirt taut across her chest. She liked its feel against her nipples, and thought how long it had been since she'd felt the eager touch of a man's fingers or tongue on her breasts.

Maybe up in Yosemite, she'd get lucky.

Meet a rugged mountain man.

One for Sherri, too. I'm not selfish.

"I feel almost human again," she said, meeting Sherri behind the car.

They crossed the gravel lot to the entrance of the diner. Sherri pulled open the screen door, and they entered.

Neala liked the warmth. The familiar aromas made her long for a cheeseburger and french fries. "Counter?" she asked, seeing a pair of empty stools at the end. The other half a dozen were occupied.

"Let's take a table," Sherri said, surprising her. Sherri usually preferred the counter, where she struck up conversations with nearby strangers.

Not to night, apparently.

They slid into a booth on the side, facing each other. Sherri's eyes briefly met Neala's, then lowered.

"Buck up, pardner," Neala said.

"Sure thing."

"Don't be this way. Please."

"Oh, how should I be?"

"Be the gutsy champ we all know and admire."

That didn't even get a smile from Sherri.

Neala needed that smile. She'd never felt so frightened, so alone. This was a hell of a time for Sherri to go silent and glum.

"Would it help if I apologize?" Neala asked.

"It's not your fault."

"It was my idea to go backpacking."

"The freak wasn't your idea."

"That's for damn sure. But if we'd stayed home ..."

"It's all right. Forget it."

The waitress came. "Sorry to keep you folks waiting," she said. She set water glasses on the table, and handed out menus.

When she left, they studied the menus. Usually, they would talk over the offerings, maybe decide to split an order of fries or onion rings, discuss whether to "blow it" and have milk shakes. To night, they were silent.

The waitress returned. "Ready to order?"

Neala nodded. "I'll have one of your Terkburger Specials and iced tea." She watched the gaunt, unsmiling woman write it down.

Can't anybody smile to night? she wondered.

This gal ought to be happy as a lark, with a ring like that on her pinky.

"A patty melt," Sherri said. "Fries, and a Pepsi."

The woman nodded and walked away.

Sherri watched her, frowning.

"Did you get a load of her ring?" Neala asked, hoping to break the somber mood.

"How could I miss it? The thing nearly blinded me."

"Do you suppose it was glass?"

"Looked real enough to me. I'm no expert, of course. Besides, I left my jeweler's loupe at home."

Neala laughed, and saw the hint of a smile on Sherri's face. "It looked like a wedding ring," she said.

"Wrong finger. Wrong hand, too. She probably outgrew it."

"Her? She was nothing but bones."

"Maybe it's a friendship ring," Sherri suggested. "I could use a friend like that. Money coming out his wazoo. If I were that girl, I'd blow this burg in about two seconds. Grab hold of the guy, and light out for the big city."

When the waitress brought their supper, they both watched her hand.

"What do you think?" Neala asked when she was gone.

"I think it's real."

Neala bit into her Terkburger: a thick patty on a sesame seed bun. Juice spilled down her chin. She backhanded it off, and reached for a napkin. "Delicious," she said.

"Same here," said Sherri. Strings of limp onion dangled from the sides of her sandwich.

"Onion breath."

"You planning to kiss me?" Sherri asked.

"Not to night."

"Gee, and I had my heart set on it."

"You're sure going to stink up the tent. Maybe we'd better sleep under the stars."

"What if it rains?" Sherri asked through a mouthful that muffled her words.

"Then we get wet."

"I wouldn't like that."

"Better wet than onion gas in the tent."

"Yeah?" Sherri pulled off the top slab of rye bread, pinched a matted glob of onions, and dropped it onto Neala's plate. "You have some, too. Insurance."

Laughing, Neala piled the onions onto her Terkburger and ate.

Soon, their plates were empty. Neala thought about returning to the car. She didn't want to.

"How about dessert?" Sherri asked, as if she were in no hurry to leave, either.

"Good idea."

This was no time to worry about calories. Neala never worried much about them, regardless; she had no trouble keeping her trim figure. Still, gloppy desserts made her feel guilty. To night, it would be worth the guilt to postpone returning to the car.

They both ordered hot fudge sundaes. They ate slowly, picking at the mounds of ice cream, the thick warm syrup, the whipped cream sprinkled with chopped nuts.

"This'll add an inch to my hips," Sherri said. She was several inches taller than Neala, with broad shoulders, prominent breasts, and big hips. She wasn't fat, but an additional inch on her hips wouldn't be that noticeable. Neala decided to keep the observation to herself.

"We'll work it all off, this week," she said.

"A great way to spend a vacation, working our asses off."

"You'll love it."

"Sure I will. I'll love it plenty if Robert Redford wanders over to our campfire and I bowl him over with my wit and charm, and he drags me off with him. My luck, though, he'd fall for you."

"I'd share."

When the sundaes were gone, they ordered coffee.

After this, Neala thought, we'll have to go. Back to the car. Back to the narrow, dark road and the woods.

We can't stay here all night.

She watched the waitress shut the main, wooden door. Through the window, she saw that dusk had fallen. The gravel of the parking lot was a gray blur. Across the road, the sign of the Sunshine Motor Inn blinked gloomy blue. It showed a vacancy.

Her eyes met Sherri's.

"No way," Sherri said.

"I know. I don't want to stay, either. I don't want to go and I don't want to stay."

"We'll feel a lot better when we've put some miles behind us."

Neala nodded agreement.

"But before we do another thing, the kid here's gonna hit the john."

While she was gone, Neala had another cup of coffee.

She came back, and Neala went. The toilet, at the rear of the diner, was clean and pleasant. Ought to be, Neala thought; the place is run by a bunch of tycoons.

She returned to the table. Sherri had already put down the tip. They took the bill to the cash register. This meal was Neala's turn.

She bought two foil-wrapped mints, for the road.

The waitress poured change into her hand. "Don't be strangers," she said.

Sherri reached for the knob, and tried to turn it. The knob didn't move. She tried again. "Hey, Miss?" she called to the waitress.

The heads of everyone at the counter turned toward them.

"Hey Miss, the door's stuck."

The customers stared. A couple of the younger ones smiled, but most looked grim.

"Ain't stuck, honey. It's locked."

Neala felt a tight pull of fear in her bowels.

"How about unlocking it?" Sherri asked.

"Afraid I can't do that."

"Yeah? Why the fuck not?"

"'Cause you're here to stay, you two."

With a big grin, the waitress turned to the other customers-the same customers, Neala suddenly realized, who'd been at the counter when they entered, so long ago.

Silently, four of the men climbed off their stools.


Excerpted from The Woods are Dark by Richard Laymon Copyright © 2008 by Richard Laymon. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 29 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2008

    The Woods are Dark-Another reason Laymon is the best....

    With his latest novel out, The Woods are Dark, I have taken the time to sit down and read this rather quick and relentless read and found myself enjoying every sentence and paragraph that was written. I was not aware of this book being published by Warner Books who apparently took a hatchet and hacked up the manuscript that was written by Richard Laymon. Well Dorchester had re-released this novel and they have done one Hell of a job doing so, the brilliant idea they did was give the readers the original manuscript that Richard had written the way it was supposed to be enoyed, a very big thanks to Kelly Laymon who has put the manuscript missing pieces back together and delivered it to Dorchester, a very big kudos to her for giving us horror fans what we have been waiting to read. I was not aware of this book until Dorchester had released it. I have read several Richard Laymon books in the past, the last one I read was Cuts, a very good and disturbing book. One that I enjoyed very much. The characters were your average characters, to me this read like The Hills Have Eyes and that is a good thing. I enjoy backwoods horror novels, where the settings take place in a forest or in a cabin, I'm very traditional to that type of horror setting, having lived in the woods has givene me a great appreciation for works written by Laymon and other horror authors, but back to The Woods are Dark. Richard Laymon has once again created a very creepy and ominous feeling that radiates from the pages of this book, he knows what he's writing about, he has made the bad guys known as the Krulls and the Devil something to fear. This book gives a whole new meaning to backwoods maniacs who have an unsatiable hunger for human flesh. Laymon has done it again, he has become a very big inspiration for me and my writing. I am very honored to say that I am a faithful fan of his. There is no other writing that does it as good as Richard Laymon's. I hope Dorchester continues re-releasing his books, there are some that I have seen on the internet that I would like to see back in print. Thanks to Kelly Laymon and Dorchester again for bringing life back into the books of Richard Laymon. He will be smiling proudly.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    His best

    Its just a pity that laymond himself passed on before this masterpeice could be restored in all its gory glory. This was probabley the best book he ever wrote and hes written a hell of a lot of good ones.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    My Favorite Horror Novel

    This book is hardly perfect and there are dark themes which some readers may find unsettling, but for me this book is among my favorites. There's graphic sex, violence, suspense, engaging characters, breathtaking pacing, and a great plot all packed into such a short novel. In fact, I liked this book so much, I sought out other novels like it--such as Brian Keene's "Dark Hollow," Bryan Smith's "Depraved," Jack Ketchum's "Off Season" and "Offspring", Edward Lee's "The Backwoods" and Bentley Little's "The Vanishing." I only wish there was a sequel so we could see how the surviving characters fare after their ordeal in the woods outside the rural town of Barlow. Great Read!

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  • Posted September 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    This is a review of the restored and uncut version

    The Woods are Dark opens with a bang. Two girls motoring their way to Yosemite in an MG slam on the brakes when something crawls out of the woods This monster turns and throws a severed hand into the car. Wow! Unfortunately Laymon immediately blows it. The girls take panicky flight down the road to the next town. Once there do they search out the police? No, they go to a diner and eat burgers while laughing over the onion breath they'll have. This is Richard Laymon folks. If you want rationality you are in the wrong place.

    This is Laymon's take on the `City folks go into the woods where Bad Things happen' horror sub-genre (see Jack Ketchum's Off Season and Ed Lee's The Backwoods for other examples). I'm a sucker for this type of story so I have probably given this book a higher rating than it otherwise deserves.

    In all honesty, the short version of this review would read `This is not a very good book'. All of Laymon's worst predilections are on display here. The characters don't react in any rational way to the situations they find themselves in. They decide that when being chased through the woods by bloodthirsty, murderous cannibals, a good idea is to get nude and stay that way. Really, the characters aren't even characters. Except for a guy named Lander Dills, they don't have any sort of individuality to them. The plotting gives the feeling that Laymon was making it up on the fly. Important plot elements are either unexplained or under explained. At least I only counted the word `rump' five or six times.

    So yeah, The Woods are Dark really is crap. But damned if it doesn't grab my attention anyway. At 250 pages I would have finished the book in a single read if life didn't intrude. The book managed to hook me. Richard Laymon was in many ways not a very good writer, but he was a master of breathless pacing and The Woods are Dark is Laymon firing on all cylinders. The characters' lives are constantly teetering on the edge. Unlike a lot of writers, Laymon won't blink at bumping of a major character two thirds of the way through the book, so you never know what is going to happen next. I tore through the book, wanting to see what would happen.

    It's sort of like the book version of one of those bad '80's slasher movies (a Dario Argento movie for instance) that really are terrible, but are fun if you have a taste for that sort of thing.

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  • Posted May 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Another good one from Laymon.

    Fast moving, descriptive, scary, edge of your seat book. One of my tops from Laymon. Something different about the newer released books though, can't put my finger on it. Oh well.. good book anyhow!

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  • Posted April 15, 2009

    Ok, but not his best

    This book kept me reading and it was pretty intense. Yet, I was so disappointed in how it ended. I thought I had skipped some pages and even reread the last chapter again. Nope, nothing there. Made me wonder if his daughter couldn't find the ending chapters.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    My 3rd Laymon novel &, so far, the best!!

    I just finished this book & I have to say it is, so far, my favorite Laymon novel I have read. It is a short one but to find out it's been restored to the way Laymon intended it to be is a boon. I would've hated to have read the version torn apart by editors because it needed the missing pieces his daughter managed to find & put back where they belong. <BR/><BR/>This is a sick book. It was full of backwoods horrors who live in a world of savagery & anarchy--punctuated with cannibalism, rape, dismemberment, decapitation, murder & disembowlment. Need I say more? Maybe. But that would spoil all the fun. The part of the novel I liked best was watching the moralistic father of a family of victims to the savage backwoods tribe slowly descend into a world of madness--where he lets his "heart of darkness" beat a horrific rhythm--& succumbs to letting his morals fall apart. He embraces the lawlessness of the wild & relishes in his raping & butchering of the backwood savages who had brutalised his wife & daughter. In the end, he becomes the true savage--more horrific than the creatures who were once human, dwelling in the darkness of the forest. & this was the part of the novel which was restored in all it's bloody, gory glory. Thank God. Otherwise this book would have been really awful. I'm glad they put every gruesome detail back into this novel. It is true Laymon at his best & makes me want to read more of his novels.<BR/><BR/>Pick it up & read it. If you like really sick horror novels--this is where you should start with Richard Laymon.

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  • Posted December 5, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    You will be unable to put down this book from the first page.....

    This book is intense and scary....I couldn't put it down. I read it in a day and a half and I just couldn't stop thinking about it. I would love to read it again, but I borrowed it from my daughter and mailed it back to her..! You have got to read this!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2008

    Not his best

    I picked up this book as I pick up all of Laymons book and it just was not one of his best in my eyes. After reading the reviews from critics I thought it was going to be this brutally scary book and it just wasnt. I have NO idea what happened to the characters, but im sure they died or joined the Krulls. He should have put in a few more chapters in the end to tell us what happend.. Or needs another book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2004


    If you read Laymon then you'll understand this review. Out of all the books I have read I found this to be a typical Laymon. Some of his books have that 'amazing' last page. This one didn't. In fact I thought this one left a lot (of what I would consider) important information out. I hate a book that leaves me asking questions at the end. Without giving anything away, I wanted to know about the 'hole' and 'more history' to this. The book did move very fast and as most Laymon novels had me at the edge of my seat the entire time.

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    Posted May 5, 2009

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    Posted May 5, 2009

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    Posted January 30, 2010

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    Posted March 31, 2011

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    Posted July 2, 2010

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    Posted August 16, 2010

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    Posted April 21, 2012

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    Posted October 17, 2008

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    Posted January 3, 2010

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    Posted March 27, 2011

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