Previously:

  • Werewolves in a zoo!
  • Werewolves in a dream!
  • Werewolves on the London Underground!
  • Werewolves in a refugee camp!
  • Werewolves on an oil tanker!

Where will those werewolves show up next?

The Prisoner

Not that one.

Solution to the werewolf problem: dump them in a mysterious seaside village.

Tim and his family had to move to a council estate (I think this is what’s called “the projects” in the USA). The only other person living on their floor is Mrs Bishop, whose little girl, Angie, is never seen outside the house. When Tim tries to ask about Angie, Mrs Bishop gets angry; and claims that Angie has a chronic heart condition so can’t leave the house. Tim also notices that the gangs don’t come up to this floor.

Tim meets two other occupants of the estate: a boy with tattoos, and a random girl. They act scared of him because he lives on Floor Ten. They tell him it’s known as “Murder Row” and that two corpses were found up there with their throats ripped out. No one was ever convicted, but all the residents know Mrs Bishop did it, since she was the only person living on that floor. Tim wakes in the night and hears a cry from outside, where the boy he met earlier is helping an old man who was attacked by a mysterious creature. They go off to hospital together, and Tim decides to break into Mrs Bishop’s flat. Can’t people go five fucking minutes in one of these stories without breaking in somewhere?

Mrs Bishop’s home looks normal enough, but then he comes across Angie, who’s asleep. The sound of Tim crashing around wakes her up – and he sees that her face and arms are covered in hair. Mrs Bishop bursts in, armed with a hammer. Tim lies that he was just making sure she was OK after the attack outside. She says that the boy with tattoos is responsible. His name is Malcolm Hayes, and his mother “can’t control him.” He committed all the murders, and tried to pin them on her innocent daughter, whom the local kids accuse of being a werewolf because of her unfortunate hirsutism.

The man who was attacked dies. Malcolm Hayes claims Angie did it; but, with no evidence against her, he’s convicted and sent to Broadmoor (an extremely high-security psychiatric hospital.) Shortly afterwards, Tim’s dad gets a new job and he and his family move away. Tim never finds out whether Malcolm or Angie was responsible for the murders.

The setting in this story could have been used better, but still sells it.  Simon Bestwick (an author I admire) wrote a piece not too long ago about how tower blocks are to modern horror fiction what spooky old mansions and asylums were to the writers of the past. If I can find it again, I’ll link it here.

The Stake

This one’s set in Transylvania, here we go again.

After a string of contrived coincidences, a woman called Elena is suspected of being a werewolf. Elena is due to be burned at the stake in the morning because of a local superstition that that’s the only way to kill a werewolf – otherwise, it will turn into a vampire. Yes, you read that right. No, it’s never explained. Anyway, Elena’s daughter Pliska believes a normal wolf is responsible for all the shit Elena was accused of doing. Pliska tries to prove Elena’s innocence by chopping off the wolf’s leg as proof that the wolf exists. She brings out the leg to show to the townspeople. The police tell her they need to see the actual wolf, not just its leg. What’s this? Something that actually makes sense? But the story quickly fixes that; as the sun rises, the leg changes into a human leg! Pliska realises werewolves are real.

The townspeople go away, but there’s one problem: Elena and Pliska were both bitten in the struggle with the wolf. They realise that if anyone sees their injuries, they will both be burned at the stake. So they set out through the mountains to the nearest town, a journey so dangerous it’s considered a suicide mission. The narrator explains Elena and Pliska made it, but turned into werewolves.

Next!

Freeze Up

Matt’s parents are geologists so they’ve moved to the Antarctic. Around the world in 80 Anthony Masters stories. One day, Matt’s mother finds a wolf frozen into the ice. She is extremely excited and says it could be prehistoric. Professor Lomas, the chief scientist on the base, is also really excited. That night, he asks Matt to help him get the wolf out for a closer look. Matt helps, but thinks he saw the wolf move briefly. Professor Lomas shoos Matt away in order to conduct “further tests.”

In the morning, Professor Lomas has been mauled to death. Matt knows the wolf has escaped. He warns his parents, who think he’s mistaken – until they see the sight of the corpse. Then an emergency siren goes off. A security guard called Morgan comes in and claims that another guard was killed by the wolf. They both tried to shoot at it, but bullets had no effect. Matt realises this is a werewolf and he read in a comic that only a silver bullet will stop it. Morgan yells at him for taking the piss, but Matt’s mother believes him – she’s read about this in folklore. They’ll be able to make bullets out of a silver tea service on the base.

The director, whoever the hell that is, shows up and reports the werewolf ate someone in the gym. Matt’s dad goes off to make silver bullets. He takes so long that Morgan goes after the werewolf alone, but gets killed. Just then Matt’s dad shows up and shoots at the werewolf. It briefly turns back into a Neolithic man, then the body disintegrates.

This one is quite suspenseful, with a fair bit of gore. The only thing letting it down is that it breaks the so-called “Law of Double Mumbo-Jumbo”: to use only one kind of magic or supernatural occurrence per work. So a werewolf is one thing, a reanimated prehistoric being is another, but both together is over the line. Breaking this rule can work (I’d point to Wizards Vs Aliens as an example) but can go disastrously wrong (Twilight.)

Wolverine

Brad’s father Geoff is a scientist working at a research institute. A girl called Susan was discovered living with a pack of wolves in Africa, and was brought to the institute for study. A confidentiality agreement prevents Geoff from saying too much about her, but he lets slip that she was adopted by the owner of a touring freak show. The scientists are worried about the guy exploiting Susan, but there’s nothing they can do to intervene. Under pressure, Geoff admits that he believes the owner (Gilbert Johnson) abducted Susan. She is much happier with wolves than with humans, and wouldn’t have chosen to leave on her own. It’s almost like she is a wolf … WHOOPS DID I SAY THAT OUT LOUD?

Brad’s surfing at the beach when he just happens to overhear an argument between his dad and Johnson. Johnson fully admits that he’s going to exploit her in his freak show as “The Wolverine.” Enjoy Marvel suing your arse – and BTW an actual wolverine looks more like a bear than a wolf. Geoff gets angry and is determined to protect Susan. After he and Brad have gone to bed, Brad hears Geoff getting up and going somewhere; but doesn’t think anything of it.

First thing in the morning, Brad goes out to surf, but finds the mutilated bodies of Johnson and Susan floating in the sea. Geoff shows up and admits he killed them both, but set it up to look like Susan killed Johnson. Apparently Susan could have become dangerous, and Johnson was going to exploit her, so it’s all OK really. Call it a mercy kill, if you will. Alternatively, write your own story where a werewolf is actually important, and is not just a poorly shoehorned-in decoy for the author’s ramblings about the morality of murder.

Snap

The narrator of this story is Kim, the girl from the start of the book, who insisted the scar on her throat is a TOTAL COINCIDENCE and nothing to do with a werewolf. Anyway, it turns out she was lying. Who could possibly have seen that coming?

Kim works for her Uncle Harry at his photographic studio. Wealthy Mrs Ralph hires him to take photos of her son sitting on a fancy cushion, which is apparently some sort of family heirloom. When the photos are developed, they show a wolf cub sitting on the cushion. Uncle Harry can’t think how this could have happened. The only clue is that he was working with a new camera lens he picked up in Jamaica. (It wasn’t Jamaica, actually, but let’s pretend it was because I can’t take another bloody mention of you-know-where.)

Basically this but with thicker eyebrows.

Uncle Harry makes some excuse about the photos not developing properly, and calls Mrs Ralph to offer her a free replacement shoot. This time she wants to be in the photos too because she’s going to give them as a present. She insists on coming over to pick up the prints that evening, even though it means Uncle Harry will have to rush them. Anyway, he finds that the photos show Mrs Ralph and her son as wolves. He knows there definitely, 100% isn’t anything wrong with the equipment. Kim realises what’s happening and that Mrs Ralph will be here any moment. She tells her uncle to lock the door but it’s too late – they hear paws on the stairs. Well, they can’t say they weren’t warned.

The book ends with the kids hearing their youth club leader approaching. They all panic because it’s just occurred to them how suspiciously large her teeth are. All the better to etc.

There’s quite a bit of mixed mythology in this book. The author uses several established conventions of werewolf fiction (moonlight, silver bullets) but throws others aside (in some stories, for instance, werewolves can transform at will.) There were a few clichés, but not as many as there could have been, and I like how the book used some quite diverse settings: a research facility, an oil tanker, a refugee camp, etc. My main complaint is the overuse of Eastern European characters and settings. Even the vampire book didn’t do this so much!

Body Count: Fergus Armstrong – Mauled by werewolf

Tina and Ben – Shot with silver bullets for being werewolves

Unnamed refugees – Eaten by werewolves

Unnamed man – Mauled by werewolf

Two unnamed Transylvanian people – Mauled by werewolf

Professor Lomas, Morgan, Bob, unnamed fourth person – Mauled by werewolf

Unnamed werewolf – Shot with silver bullets for being a werewolf

Gilbert Johnson and Susan – Murdered because Susan was a werewolf

Are you noticing a theme here?

Questionable Parenting: Don’t know about you but I hope I’d notice if my 12-year-old daughter came down to breakfast and she’d been shot in the arm.

Infallible Logic: How could the members of the Lycanthropy Society be threatening them when there were posters advertising Horlicks and fish fingers?

Most Nonchalant Description of a Werewolf Attack: One of the wolves bounded up to our door and flung himself against it, but thankfully it had been reinforced sufficiently to keep him out.

Unintentionally Homoerotic Moment: His grip soon loosened and he fell to the ground on top of Neil. As they disentangled themselves, the wolf just stood there in the brilliant light of the full moon and watched them.

That’s it! That’s the end of this series! If anyone is actually reading my blog, thank you for sticking with me! Next up: Probably an Anthony Masters retrospective, including cover art. Otherwise, it’s a couple of stand-alone books until I decide what to review next.

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