Laymon's first hard-cover since his first book (The Cellar, 1980, not reviewed)--and a fine return it is as this high- spirited, prolific horror writer weighs in with a typically brisk and black-humored yarn about what a fellow horror author and his pals do when they find the stake of the title--embedded in a mummified corpse. Is the corpse a vampire? The Colorado ghost town where horror novelist Larry Durban, his neighbor Pete, and their wives find the body is eerie enough, but none of the four believes in vampires--although whoever killed the woman must have thought her a monster, and wouldn't all this make a nifty nonfiction book? So Larry writes several chapters about finding the corpse and about how he and Pete later returned to the hotel and stole the body, now hidden in Larry's garage awaiting his book-in-progress's climax, the pulling of the stake. Larry postpones that climax, though, because as he digs out the identity of the body--local high-school cheerleader Bonnie Saxon, a dead-ringer for his own daughter Lane but murdered 20 years back, along with several other girls, by one Uriah Radley--he becomes erotically obsessed with Bonnie, waking up next to her corpse. Meanwhile, in a major, thematically obvious subplot--monsters do exist--a real-life fiend invades Larry's family: Lane's English teacher, handsome Mr. Kramer, who molests and murders one of Lane's classmates, then sets his sights on flirtatious Lane, eventually raping her. And at the same time, Uriah Radley, escaped from an asylum and gripping a stake, tracks after Larry & Co., whom he believes to be vampires. All parties converge in a violent and twisty climax that spirals into a truly surprising, and surprisingly happy, ending. Spooky, sexy, and lots of nasty fun.