Author: Richard Laymon
Publisher: Leisure Books
Rupert Conway is on a deserted island with his girlfriend Connie’s family when their boat blows up. Then one by one, the men on the island start to be knocked off, leaving Rupert, a sex-crazed college kid, alone with three beautiful sisters and their exhibitionist mother. It sounds like paradise for Rupert aside from one thing — the killer’s still loose and Rupert is next on the hit list.
Like most Laymon novels, Island is good, campy horror. The entire novel is actually a first-person diary entry of Rupert, but reads more like a novel than an epistolary collection. Rupert is sort of a loser and even his “girlfriend” can’t stand him. He gets caught ogling the most attractive sister, Kimberly, on several occasions and even the sisters’ mother. Connie pulls no punches in her snide criticisms of Rupert, adding to his pathetic persona throughout his journal entries.
What Laymon does particularly well is create characters that the reader cares about. I am reminded of Stephen King’s The Shining in this novel. You see, the island (like the Overlook Hotel) seems to make everyone a little crazy that we are never fully convinced who is good and who is bad.
What begins as innocent lustful desires in Rupert gradually turns into sadistic horror and the last third of the book is not for the squeamish. But this lust is not just gratuitous and it becomes a prevailing theme throughout the novel. Rupert’s sexual fantasies are hyperbolically brought to life in the actions of the killer and as he confronts this evil, he sees his own thoughts betraying him.
This book was very difficult to put down, but near the end, very difficult to read as well. Once one makes it past pages that might have been better off left unread, there comes an ending that is completely surprising, yet fitting.
While there are no literary awards going to what really amounts to an escapist horror novel, Island is an exciting, fast-paced read. The characters are likable and the twists and turns left me on the edge of my seat (figuratively speaking — I am much too lazy and read while lying on the couch).
For those who like horror, especially in the style of Bentley Little or Richard Laymon, Island will not disappoint.