Triage by Richard Laymon, Edward Lee and Jack Ketchum
A man walks into your workplace, calls your name, and starts shooting. That’s the starting point of the premise of this collection or three short stories/novellas by three luminaries (it says here) of the horror sphere. Except it’s not, although it is, in a way.
Laymon goes for his normal, bog standard ‘this thing happens, and then this happens, and then people spend a lot of time thinking about what they’re going to do, and then act like morons’ thing. Lee goes Super Sci-Fi in Planet Cliche, and Ketchum does a gritty lowbrow post-modern tale concerning writers and guns and basically cheats by having the opening premise be a dream and then knocks out some predictable story about a disaffected bellend with a taint of a hard-boiled edge. All of the stories are nothing more than okay.
I have a history with Laymon, in that the first book I ever read by him was The Cellar, and it kicked arse, and then the rest of them were a bit of a dice-roll between whether they’d suck the big meaty one or they’d be enjoyable low rent slashers, which is mainly what he wrote. Laymon was a writer of the moment – they were films in book form, with very little characterisation or plot, but a lot of forward momentum. Sometimes they were great, and sometimes they were shit. Like Shaun Hutson he could deliver some absolute crackers, and at other times you wished the bugger had tried harder.
Anyway, Laymon’s story takes the literal route. Man turns up with gun, starts shooting, main character spends the rest of the story trying to escape. Bosh.
Not read Edward Lee before, and even though his story is the most intriguing in terms of scope, it’s written by a small child who has just discovered boobies. It involves a religious order finding God, and then it all goes to the wall, and everyone is a stereotype, but it chunters along quite nicely without taxing the grey cells too much.
Jack Ketchum kicks arse, apparently, but from the meagre offerings Iâ€™ve read so far (his story in this collection, and The Offspring) heâ€™s over-rated. Heâ€™s meant to be the shock-horror-ghastly-terrible-scene-too-horrid-to-mention writer, but the worst scene Ketchum’ ever come up with I will compare to anything James Herbert or Shaun Hutson has done when they’ve got an angry o, and it will piss Ketchum out of the water. Ketchum is like someone dipping his toes into horror, rather than grasping it by the balls. Then again, with no disrespect to US horror authors, who I freakin’ love (take a bow Lansdale, Skipp & Spector, King, Schow, Straub, et al), they get their arses handed back to them when it comes to the REALLY grisly horror.
In a nut-shell, Triage is a minor work. This was the last piece of work Laymon wrote, and both Lee and Ketchum write of him fondly, so it’s sad that his story – and theirs – are so rudimentary. As for Laymon, I would recommend his Beast House books for a good, gory ride, and Funhouse and The Woods Are Dark, for a fast-paced, straightforward horror. As for Lee and Ketchum, I’ll have to read more to pass judgement. And if you’re a proper horror fan then there’s no point in recommending Herbert, because you’ll have already read him.