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The rural town of Grandville is to host The Travelling Vampire Show, featuring the only known vampire in captivity. Janks Field, where the show will take place, has been declared off-limits because of its sinister history, but there are three local teenagers who don't want to miss the performance.
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THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW
By RICHARD LAYMON
LEISURE BOOKSCopyright © 2000 Richard Laymon
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe summer I was sixteen, the Traveling Vampire Show came to town.
I heard about it first from my two best friends, Rusty and Slim.
Rusty's real name was Russell, which he pretty much hated.
Slim's real name was Frances. She had to put up with it from her parents and teachers, but not from other kids. She'd tell them, "Frances is a talking mule." Asked what she wanted to be called, her answer pretty much depended on what book she happened to be reading. She'd say, "Nancy" or "Holmes" or "Scout" or "Zock" or "Phoebe." All last summer, she wanted to be called Dagny. Now, it was Slim. A name like that, I figured maybe she'd started reading westerns. But I didn't ask.
My name is Dwight, by the way. Named after the Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe. He didn't get elected President until after I'd already been born and named.
Anyway, it was a hot August morning, school wouldn't be starting again for another month, and I was out in front of our house mowing the lawn with a push mower. We must've been the only family in Grandville that didn't have a power mower. Not that we couldn't afford one. Dad was the town's chief of police and Mom taught English at the high school. So we had the money for a power mower, or even a riding mower, but not the inclination.
Not Dad, anyway. Long before anyone ever heard of language like "noise pollution," Dad was doing everything in his power to prevent this or that "godawful racket."
Also, he was opposed to any sort of device that might make life easier on me or my two brothers. He wanted us to work hard, sweat and suffer. He'd lived through the Great Depression and World War Two, so he knew all about suffering. According to him, "kids these days've got it too easy." So he did what he could to make life tougher on us.
That's why I was out there pushing the mower, sweating my ass off, when along came Rusty and Slim.
It was one of those gray mornings when the sun is just a dim glow through the clouds and you know by the smell that rain's on the way and you wish it would hurry up and get here because the day is so damn hot and muggy.
My T-shirt was off. When I saw Rusty and Slim coming toward me, I suddenly felt a little embarrassed about being without it. Which was sort of strange, considering how much time we'd spent together in our swimming suits. I had an urge to run and snag it off the porch rail and put it on. But I stayed put, instead, and waited for them in just my jeans and sneakers.
"Hi, guys," I called.
"What's up?" Rusty greeted me. He meant it, of course, as a sexual innuendo. It was the sort of lame stuff he cherished.
"Not much," I said.
"Are you working hard, or hardly working?"
Slim and I both wrinkled our noses.
Then Slim looked at my sweaty bare torso and said, "It's too hot to be mowing your lawn."
"Tell that to my dad."
"Let me at him."
"He's at work."
"He's getting off lucky," Slim said.
We were all smiling, knowing she was kidding around. She liked my dad-liked both my parents a whole lot, though she wasn't crazy about my brothers.
"So how long'll it take you to finish the yard?" Rusty asked.
"I can quit for a while. I've just gotta have it done by the time Dad gets home from work."
"Come on with us," Slim said.
I gave a quick nod and ran across the grass. Nobody else was home: Dad at work, Mom away on her weekly shopping trip to the grocery store and my brothers (one single and one married) no longer living at our house.
As I charged up the porch stairs, I called over my shoulder, "Right back." I whipped my T-shirt off the railing, rushed into the house and raced upstairs to my bedroom.
With the T-shirt, I wiped the sweat off my face and chest.
Then I stepped up to the mirror and grabbed my comb. Thanks to Dad, my hair was too short. No son of mine's gonna go around looking like a girl. I wasn't allowed to have much in the way of sideburns, either. No son of mine's gonna traipse around looking like a hood. Thanks to him, I hardly had enough hair to bother combing. But it was mussed and matted down with sweat, so I combed it anyway-making sure my "part" was straight as a razor, then giving the front a little curly flip.
After that, I grabbed my wallet off the dresser, shoved it into a back pocket of my jeans, hurried to the closet and pulled a short-sleeved shirt off its hanger. I put it on while I hurried downstairs.
Rusty and Slim were waiting on the porch.
I finished fastening my buttons, then opened the screen door.
"Where we going?" I asked.
"You'll see," Slim said.
I shut the door and followed my friends down the porch stairs.
Rusty was wearing an old shirt and blue jeans. That's pretty much what we all wore when we weren't dressed up for school or church. You hardly ever caught guys our age wearing shorts. Shorts were for little kids, old farts, and girls.
Slim was wearing shorts. They were cut-off blue jeans, so faded they were almost white, with frayed denim dangling and swaying like fringe around her thighs. She also wore a white T-shirt. It was big and loose and untucked, so it hung over her butt in the back. Her white swimsuit top showed through the thin fabric. It was a skimpy, bikini type thing that tied behind her back and at the nape of her neck. She was wearing it instead of a bra. It was probably more comfortable than a bra, and definitely more practical.
Mostly, in the summer, we all wore swimsuits instead of underwear. You never knew when you might end up at the municipal pool or at the river ... or even when you might get caught in a downpour.
I had my trunks on under my jeans that morning. They were sort of soggy with sweat from the lawn mowing, and they clinged to my butt as I walked down the street with Rusty and Slim.
"So what's the plan?" I asked after a while.
Slim looked at me and hoisted an eyebrow. "Stage one's already been executed."
"Huh?" I asked.
"We freed you from the chains of oppression."
"Can't be mowing the yard on a day like this," Rusty explained.
"Well, thanks for liberating me.
"Think nothing of it," Rusty said.
"Our pleasure," Slim said, and patted me on the back.
It was just a buddy-pat, but it gave me a sickish excited lonely feeling. I'd been getting that way a lot, that summer, when I was around Slim. It didn't necessarily involve touching, either. Sometimes, I could just be looking at her and start to feel funny.
I kept it to myself, though.
"Stage two," Slim said, "we see what's going on at Janks Field."
I felt a little chill crawl up my back.
"Scared?" Rusty asked.
"Oh, yeah. Ooooo, I'm shaking."
I was, but not so much that it showed. I hoped.
"We don't have to go there," Slim said.
"I'm going," said Rusty. "If you guys are chicken, I'll go by myself."
"What's the big deal about Janks Field?" I asked.
"This," said Rusty.
The three of us had been walking abreast with Slim in the middle. Now, Rusty hustled around behind us and came over to my side. He pulled a paper out of the back pocket of his jeans. Unfolding it, he said, "These're all over town."
The way he held the paper open in front of me, I knew I wasn't supposed to touch it. It seemed to be a poster or flier, but it was bouncing around too much for me to read it. So I stopped walking. We all stopped. Slim came in close so she could look at the paper, too. It had four torn corners. Apparently, Rusty had ripped the poster off a wall or tree or something.
It looked like this:
The Traveling Vampire Show Come and see-the one and only known VAMPIRE in captivity!
-Valeria- Gorgeous! Beguiling! Lethal!
This stunning beauty, born in the wilds of Transylvania sleeps by day in her coffin. By night she feeds on the blood of strangers
See Valeria rise from the dead!
Watch as she stalks volunteers from the audience!
Tremble as she sinks her teeth into their necks!
Scream as she sups on their blood!!!
Where: Janks Field. 2 mi south of Grandville on Route 3
When: One Show Only-Friday, midnight
How much: $10 (Nobody under age 18 allowed)
Amazed and excited, I shook my head and murmured "Wow" a time or two while I read the poster.
But things changed when I got toward the bottom.
I felt a surge of alarm, followed by a mixture of relief and disappointment.
"Oh, man," I muttered, trying to sound dismayed. "What a bummer."
Chapter TwoA bummer?" Rusty asked. "You outa your mind, man? We've got us a traveling vampire show! A real live female vampire, right here in Grandville! And it says she's gorgeous! See that? Gorgeous! Beguiling! A stunning beauty! And she's a vampire! Look what it says! She stalks volunteers from the audience and bites their necks! She sups on their blood!"
"Bitchin'," Slim said.
"Might be bitchin' if we could see her," I said, trying to seem gloomy about the situation. "But there's no way we can get into a show like that."
Eyes narrow, Rusty shook his head. "That's how come we're going over there now."
"Oh," I said.
Sometimes, when Rusty came out with stuff like that, "Oh" was about the best I could do.
"You know?" he asked.
"I guess so." I had no idea.
"We'll look the place over," Slim said. "Just see what we call see."
"Maybe we'll get to see her," Rusty said. He seemed pretty excited.
"Don't get your hopes up," Slim told him.
"We might," he insisted. "I mean, she's gotta be around. Somebody put all those posters up, you know? And the show is tonight. They're probably over at Janks Field getting things ready right now."
"That's probably true," Slim said. "But don't count on feasting your eyes on the gorgeous and stunning Valeria."
He blinked at Slim, disappointment and vague confusion on his face. Then he turned his eyes to me, apparently seeking an ally.
I looked at Slim.
She raised both eyebrows and one corner of her mouth.
The goofy expression made me ache and laugh at the same time. Forcing my eyes away from her, I said to Rusty, "The gal's a vampire, moron."
"Valeria. She's supposed to be a vampire."
"Yeah, so?" he asked, as if impatient for the punch line.
"So you think we're gonna maybe sneak up on Janks Field and catch her sunbathing?"
He got it.
Slim and I laughed. Rusty stood there, red in the face but bobbing his head and chuckling. Then he said, "She's gotta be in her casket, right?"
"Right!" Slim and I said in unison.
Rusty laughed pretty hard about that. And we joined in. Then we resumed our journey toward Janks Field.
After a while, Rusty drew out in front by a stride or two, turned his head to look back at us, and said, "But seriously, maybe we will catch her sunbathing."
"Are you nuts?" Slim asked.
"In the nude!"
"Oh, you'd like that."
Scowling, I shook my head. "All you'd see is a little pile of ashes. And the first breeze that comes along ..."
Slim started to sing like Peter, Paul and Mary, "The vammmmpire, my friend, is blowwwwing in the wind...."
"And even if she didn't burn to a crisp at the first touch of sunlight," I said, "she'd sure as hell know better than to put on her vampire show with a suntan."
"Good point," Slim said. "She's gotta look pale."
"She could cover her tan with makeup," Rusty explained.
"That's a point," Slim agreed. "She probably uses a ton of makeup, anyway, to give her a convincing palor of undeadness. So why not a tan underneath it?"
"An all-over tan," Rusty said, leering.
"We've gotta find you a girl," Slim said.
I suddenly wondered how Slim would look sunbathing in the nude, stretched out on her back with her hands folded under her head, her eyes shut, her skin slick and golden all the way down. It excited me to imagine her that way, but it made me feel guilty, too.
To push it out of my mind, I said, "How about Valeria?"
"There ya go," Slim said. "I hear she's stunning."
"I'll take her," Rusty said.
"You haven't even seen her yet," I pointed out.
"I don't care."
"Don't believe everything you read," Slim told him. "Valeria might turn out to be a pug-ugly, hideous hag."
"I bet she's incredible," Rusty said. "She has to be."
"Wishful thinking," I said.
Smiling as if he knew a secret, he asked, "Wanta put your money where your mouth is?"
"Five bucks says she's not gorgeous."
"I haven't got five bucks," Rusty said.
Which came as no surprise. His parents gave him an allowance of two bucks a week, which he was always quick to spend. I did better, myself, getting paid per chore and also doing some part-time yard work for a couple of neighbors.
"How much?" I asked.
"Don't bet, you guys," Slim said. "Somebody'll end up losing...."
"Yeah," Rusty said. "He will. You wanta go in with me?"
"You've gotta be kidding," Slim said.
"Come on. You're always loaded."
"That's 'cause I don't squander my money foolishly."
"But this is a sure thing."
"How do you figure that?" Slim asked.
"Easy. This Traveling Vampire Show? Valeria's the main attraction, right?"
"Sounds like she's the only attraction," I threw in.
"And we all know it's bullshit, right? I mean, she's no more a vampire than I am. So she has to be gorgeous or you'd end up without any customers. I mean, you might be able to get away with having her be a fake vampire. Nobody's gonna expect a real one of those, anyway. But ..."
"Some people might," I broke in.
"Nobody with half a brain," he said.
"I'm not so sure of that," Slim said.
We both stared at her.
"Maybe vampires do exist," she said, a sparkle of mischief in her eyes.
"Get real," Rusty said.
"Can you prove they don't?"
"Why would I wanta prove that? Everybody knows they don't exist."
"Not me," said Slim.
"Bullshit." He turned to me. "What about you, Dwight?"
"I'm with Slim."
"She's smarter than both of us put together," I said. Then I blushed because of the way she looked at me. "Well, you are."
"Nah. I just read a lot. And I like to keep my mind open." Smiling at Rusty, she added, "It's easy to have an open mind since I've only got half a brain."
"I didn't mean you," he said. "But I'm starting to wonder."
"To set your mind at ease, I doubt very much that Valeria is a vampire. I suppose there's a remote possibility, but it seems highly unlikely."
"Now you're talking."
"I also agree that, since she probably isn't a vampire, she'd better be beautiful."
Rusty beamed. "So, you want to back my bet?"
"Can't. You'll need someone to take a good, objective look at her and decide who wins. That'd better be me. I'll decide the winner."
"Fine with me," I said.
"I guess that'll be okay," said Rusty.
"Don't look so worried," Slim told him.
"Well, you always take Dwight's side about everything."
"Only when his side is the 'right' side. And I have a feeling that you might win this one."
"Thanks a lot," I told her.
"But I promise to be fair."
"I know," I said.
"So what're we gonna wager?" Rusty asked me.
"How much money do you want to lose?" I asked him.
I wasn't very confident about winning, anymore. He'd made a pretty good argument; if Valeria isn't a vampire, she has to be beautiful or there'd be no show. But I saw a hole in his case.
Valeria didn't have to be a real vampire for the show to work. She didn't need to be incredibly gorgeous, either. The Traveling Vampire Show might be successful anyway ... if it was really and truly exciting or scary.
"Let's leave money out of the wager," Slim suggested. "Suppose the loser has to do something gross?"
Rusty grinned. "Like kiss the winner's ass?"
"Something along those lines."
I frowned at Rusty. "I'm not kissing your ass."
"It doesn't have to be that," Slim said.
"How about the loser kisses hers?" He nodded at Slim.
Her ass? The loser?
Slim's face went red. "Nobody's kissing my ass. Or my anything else, for that matter."
"There goes my next idea," Rusty said, and laughed. He could be a pretty crude guy.
"Why don't we just forget the whole thing?" I suggested.
"Chicken," Rusty said. "You just know you're gonna lose."
"We might not even get to see her."
Excerpted from THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW by RICHARD LAYMON Copyright © 2000 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am a huge Laymon fan and this book is quite thick but an unbelievably QUICK read! When I opened it and read the first page, I was hooked! The characters are well thought out and you are rooting for them until the very end. Great book!
I have read a lot of Laymons books and he is one of my favorite authors. This book was so much different then the others, I couldnt believe it. The plot was good and it was an origional but I could not get into it like I could for his others. It wasnt really gory until the end, and the suspence was mediocre. I really thought the "Traveling Vampire Show" people were the only playing with the kids minds, but ws a bit dissapointed to find out who it really was. I would reccomend this to Laymon fans but it wont be a book that i'll read again.
This was my first time reading Richard Laymon, but if his other works are similar to 'The Traveling Vampire Show,' I'm definitely a fan. If you're looking for a book to give you nightmares, look elsewhere. If you want a novel with gore and blood flowing like cheap beer, try again. If you DO want a book to keep you suspended in anticipation, you got it! Need something to kick start those senses? Pick up 'The Traveling Vampire Show.' Wish to be thrilled enough to speed-read just to find out what happens? Ladies and Gentlemen, you've found your treat! SPECS: 1.) If you're not a huge fan of Vampires, fear not. Vampires actually don't play a huge role in the novel at all. But if you ARE a fan, you shouldn't be disappointed. 2.) A little mischief and romance have been added in for your reading pleasure (I was definitely rooting for the romance, myself). 3.) A bit of gore and nudity towards the end, but it's not graphic. Overall, 'The Traveling Vampire Show' is a solid novel I'll be adding to my ever-growing library as well as picking up again on those spooky, stormy evenings.
i was very disappointed over all with the book.
I love Laymon, but I didnt really like this book,I was hoping for the old time vampire type thing, but the vampiress only made one appearance. Its still a ggod read I dont want to discourage this book, and dont let this book discourage you from other Laymon books, but not his best
I stumbled upon this author by accident one day and have been a fan ever since. Luckily, this book wasn't the first one I read by him, or I most likely wouldn't have read him again! This one was nowhere near as good as some of the others. The story veered off in a completely different direction from what I thought it would be about. And, anything pertaining to the actual vampire show didn't really occur until the very end of the book. I'd skip this book and try one of Laymon's other stories.
This was the first full length novel of Laymon's I have read after reading a majority of his shorter works. The story was fast paced and pulled me in enough that I finished the book in a single day. I was a little disappointed when I was done because the book took off in such a drastically different direction in the last chapters pertaining to the 'Vampire Show'. The end was a gore-fest which felt entirely too violent compared to the first 3/4 of the novel. Characters behaved in stark contrast to who I thought they were, displaying violent tendencies or detatched sociopathic behavior. There were also a huge number of plot threads left unresolved, leaving me to wonder if Mr. Laymon was planning a sequel to his novel. (Unfortunately, Mr. Laymon passed away a few years back which makes the possibility of a sequel impossible now). Even though I had all these problems with the novel, the story stayed with me for days afterwards. I kept thinking about the characters because the true heart of this story is a coming of age tale. In this regard, Mr. Laymon delivered brilliantly. The dialogue between the friends is flawless, never sounding cliched or strained. The sections of the story focused on the developing romance between Dwight and Slim are the best examples of first/new love I have ever read in a story. I cared for these three friends and missed reading about their adventure together. Even with the problems I had with the story I was sorry it was over. The bizarre direction the story ends with and the plot threads unresolved force me to give the novel three stars but I would still recommend the story (and have) to friends. I look forward to experiencing Mr. Laymon's other novels.
I have just started to read books for entertainment about three years ago. I found out I like to read Vampire books. So, when I notice the chance to read this one book, I jumped on it. To my displeasure, the title and main feature, The Traveling Vampire Show, appears only in the last 100 pages. Not only that...a number of unanswer questions will make you think, ask or question: OK? What also dissappointed me is the first person writing. I like surprise and suspence, for me, writing in first person kills the thrill of 'is this person going to live or die'. In all...The book about kids sticking together is good, the vampire show is dissappointing, and the horror/scare factor is not there.
Truly a great coming of age story mixed in with some suspense and horror. Fantastic story ....once it gets you it doesn't let go.
Richard Laymon combines his skill for quick, nasty horror with the awe and wonder of youth reminiscent of Something Wicked This Way Comes. More fun than you could imagine.
Once you start, you can't stop. It just kept building and building untill it came to an ending that left me wanting more. I didn't want it to be over but alas, it was. One of the best books I have read in years
This is the third Laymon novel I've read having just finished ISLAND and IN THE DARK. Like the other two, this novel is fast paced and suspenseful. I felt this novel had a little more heart and was slightly less cynical than the other two. Of course, by the end there was a horrific amount of gore and violence, much of it again directed at women which I find disturbing. Unlike other reviewers, I defintely see this novel as a part of the horror genre, but for my money Stephen King is the best contemporary horror writer. Laymon lacks the nuance and depth that characterizes King's finest work.
The traveling vampire show reminded me of Stephen King's Stand by Me. This book is more sexual and more shocking. I thouroughly enjoyed this book. I have recommended it to others and they always agree. Wild,crazy funny, scary, provocative, there is nothing like a Laymon novel. He is one of a kind
I am completely smiten with this book. Vampire Show is a wonderful coming of age story, where the interaction of the teenage characters throughout their journey is far more intriguing than the actual culmination of their journey. It brought back fond memories of the adolescent mindset, to which I could relate; and has given me a thoroughly engaging read many times over. I have highly recommended it to many friends, and I highly recommend it to anyone else.