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Black Static

Dark Fiction & Film BLACK STATIC ISSUE 59 OUT NOW!

Funland - An Interview with James R. Beach

6th Jun, 2017

Author: Peter Tennant

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This month Dark Regions Press release their Special Definitive Edition of 1989 novel Funland, the second in a series of three novel reissues showcasing the work of writer Richard Laymon (1947 - 2001).

To mark the occasion I put some questions to editor James R. Beach.

PT: Funland first appeared in 1989 and has been reissued several times over the years. What did your role as editor of this new edition involve? Have there been any alterations to the text?

JRB: My role as editor for all three of the special Richard Laymon editions has been a couple different things. First off, I am friends with Ann and Kelly Laymon and worked previously with Ann on publishing a short story of Richard's in my former magazine Dark Discoveries. I wanted to do a larger project at some point of publishing a book of Richard's and when I started working for Chris Morey at Dark Regions he was very excited about the possibility. Initially, I wanted to do a new short story collection of Dick's with some uncollected tales and possibly some unpublished stuff, but Kelly already had plans for one. So I came up with the idea to do a limited edition of one of his novels that had never had that kind of treatment. I had about 10 books on a list and it ended up Ann was interested in letting us do three of them. So we made a deal and I went about working on assembling them and working with Kelly on coming up with some extra materials for all three books.

PT: Why should people who have already bought, read, and enjoyed a previous edition of the book buy this edition from DRP? What added value is there for ordinary readers? What can you tell us about the 50 pages of material from the Laymon archives?

JRB: One of the things I wanted to do with all three of the deluxe editions was to include introductions and afterwords by authors who were both peers and mentorees of Dick Laymon's. I asked 6 authors to do that and they agreed to write something or let me use something they had written for Dick that fit the books and each one had a book I felt fit them and/or that they really loved. And they all agreed to sign them since Dick could not. I also was able to gather materials that had been previously published in Laymon's great book on writing, A Writer's Tale, as well as Kelly has come up with some great stuff that has never been seen before as far as early hand-corrected draft pages, story notes and development and even some sketches of Dick's. With all that extra material, plus the deluxe hardcover treatment and new artwork we think they are really nice editions for the collector and Laymon fan.

PT: Can you tell us a little about the work of Malcolm McClinton, the artist who has provided the wraparound dustjacket for the book and five interior illustrations? What considerations come into play when selecting an illustrator for a project like this?

JRB: Chris Morey found Malcolm who is actually a local artist. He's done an awesome job so far creating the covers and interiors for the first two books and I think he really captured the spirit of Laymon's books Night Show and Funland. I'm excited to see what he will do for the third one, Midnight's Lair, as well. 

PT: At the time of Funland's initial appearance, received wisdom was that Laymon was more popular in Europe, and the UK in particular, than in his own country. Why do you think that was? And has the situation adjusted itself now?

JRB: You know I think it was a case of some typical non-fostering of a newer writer by big publishing at the time. He did well with his first novel and then the publisher completely tossed the second one into the garbage by chopping it all up and marketing it all wrong with an almost romance looking cover for The Woods Are Dark. It didn't do well and it went downhill from there. Then he was fortunate to get hooked up with a better publisher in England through his friend Dean Koontz' recommendation and they really embraced him I think. He built up much more of a following over there by getting support and a push. Makes a big difference. Eventually it turned around in the US, but it took quite a while and a lot of ups and downs with various American publishers. Part of the reason I wanted to do these limited editions was they were only done in the US as paperbacks for the first two books and both paperback and hardcover on the third, but none really were smash hits that had a lot of pressings. The books have always been tougher to find and you would have to chase down an old paperback or British copies and so on. Even Funland was set to finally get a large mass-market push with Leisure before they folded and only the eBook ever came out on Amazon I believe (although Ann said she did get ARC copies of the PB before they went in the toilet).

PT: With its Boleta Bay setting Funland falls into a subgenre that I think of as "small town horror", and something that I feel is peculiarly American. While many UK works of horror fiction are set in small towns, there is seldom the same sense of a whole community in peril, be it spiritual or physical. Why do you think this sort of setting appeals so strongly to American writers like Laymon?

JRB: It's interesting you would say that as I typically think of Laymon as the west coast or California guy. A lot of his books are set there as you probably know. But he does sort of still have that smaller community feel to his settings. Funland is a great example of that with Boleta Bay. You know I think there is something that appeals to people overall about the small town horror and the community type thing. And America does have that a lot in its cities - more so than in other countries I think - of the communities. Stephen King has had a huge appeal for his Maine settings and other writers have had success with that type of thing as well. A lot of us live in a neighborhood or community here. You get to know the people around you, but how well really? What if something bad happens? How would people react? And it does certainly set up a nice multi-character story that way and so on. I think Dick was a very observant writer who would develop ideas from family trips and settings and incorporate them into his books and stories very well. The extras in these three books are a very good illustration of that point I believe.

PT: Part of the horror in Funland arises from the threat represented by so called trolls, a tribe of homeless people and outcasts who have taken up arms against the residents of Boleta Bay. With increasing divisions in society, especially along lines of wealth, is this a theme that is even more relevant today, than when Laymon wrote the book?

JRB: It definitely is still relevant today. More so I think than back when Dick wrote Funland. The homeless issue continues to be a big problem in many cities and it does trigger feelings of fear in people. Funland definitely plays off of that and how people treat those people and react to problems around us.

PT: Aside from Funland what are your favourite Laymon novels and what about each one appeals to you?

JRB: One of the pleasures of working on these three books for Dark Regions Press is that all of them are favorites of mine. Funland and Night Show especially but I like Midnight's Lair a lot too. Funland might possibly be one of Dick's best books and is well-liked by many people. Night Show is also a big favorite of mine as I grew up loving Fangoria and horror movies and it is a love-letter to both. I also had a desire to do movie special effects when I was younger and would order latex and makeup stuff to create costumes and gory gashes and wounds and so on. So it always has been one that I enjoyed a lot. A couple other big favorites of his books are the first I ever read, The Cellar, and I enjoy the "Beast" series overall. Night In Lonesome October and Travelling Vampire Show are a couple I really like too. Flesh is quite good. And I like many of his short stories as well. I like a lot of his books really. Hard to not name most of his books off.

His nonfiction book, A Writer's Tale, is one of my favorite books of his and one of the best books on writing ever done I think. A shame it hasn't come out on a larger scale and only as a limited edition many years ago.

PT: What do you consider to be Richard Laymon's greatest strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

JRB: You know I think every writer has their ups and downs. Dick wrote a number of books over the years before he sadly passed away (way too young) and with the volume of novels and collections he did you're bound to have some better than others. His greatest strengths I think are creating strong characters and he always had great settings as we discussed earlier.  His stories are like a roller coaster ride often times. Scary and thrilling and fun. They move along well with the action and there are depths to the characters. He wasn't afraid to toss in the splatter and also knew when to hold back. And I think a lot of other people feel that way still. There are groups on Facebook devoted just to him, there are still a number of his books in print and available in eBooks and a lot of activity on the collector's markets for his titles. A number of writers still cite Laymon as an influence as well.

PT: Are there any plans to make this edition of Funland available in other formats, such as electronic?

JRB: There are no plans for any other editions or formats of these special editions at this point. They were meant to be limited, deluxe editions just for fans and collectors to have sort of the "complete" edition of each of the three novels. The eBook of Funland is still out there available on Amazon, but I'm not sure about the other two.

PT: Do Dark Regions have any other Laymon projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about? What are you personally working on next?

JRB: No other projects for Laymon planned after these three. But I'm open to the idea and so is Chris Morey if something else interesting was presented. Currently, I just had a book I worked with Chris on for DRP come out called The Body Book. We worked with Clive Barker and Mick Garris on assembling materials around Clive's stories, 'The Body Politic' and 'In The Flesh'. After the success of the first Barker book DRP did, Midnight Meat Train, Chris wanted to do another one with Clive. With his blessing, I pitched three ideas to Clive and Mark Miller and they liked this one. We fleshed out the book with adding a script from Mick of 'In The Flesh', storyboards, notes, interviews, a great introduction by Phil and Sarah Stokes and some new artwork and cover by Clive. Having my signature and name in a book with those guys is kinda surreal to me still. Long admired those guys and to be able to work with those guys both on something is pretty amazing and cool to the fan boy in me. Grateful to Chris again for giving me an opportunity to be part of this and now we're starting work on another Clive Barker book together. And I'm also working on the third Laymon book now too, Midnight's Lair, which is slated to be out next Spring.

 

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