Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Werewolf Pack

Mark Valentine (editor)
Wordsworth Editions

The wolf has always been a creature of legend and romance, while kings, sorcerers and outlaws have been proud to be called by the name of the wolf. It's no wonder, then, that tales of transformation between man and wolf are so powerful and persistent.

On a recent visit to Hay on Wye I scored a big stack of these Wordsworth Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural books (and then three more in Cardiff three days later) so expect a few of them to crop up here over the coming months.  One of the first books in this series that I read was Mark's other Wordsworth Editions anthology, 'The Black Veil & Other Tales of Supernatural Sleuths', which was about as much fun as a book is capable of being so I jumped at this new discovery even though a fan of monster stories I am not.

Count Stenbock
I've not read many werewolf stories before - there was a short in one of 'The Sandman' volumes and I've vague memories of flipping through an adaptation of one of the 'Howling' movies as a kid and there's a Wyrd Britain regular that I'll come to later - but I've seen a whole host of movies, it is a most filmable creature, but the books have never really interested me.  There are some really interesting moments but I didn't really find this volume as satisfying as the other.  Much of that must be put down to my love of of the occult detective angle and my ambivalence to monsters but also far too many of the stories here had the feel of a folktale which, as regular perusers of my scribblings will know, aren't my favourite things.

There are though several interesting stories lurking here, Saki's 'Gabriel-Ernest' (which I alluded to earlier) is a perennial anthology entrant but I'd not come across his tale of bluster and comeuppance, 'The She-Wolf', before and won't be sorry if I never do again.  'The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains' by Captain Frederick Marryat is a worthy opener with elements of folk tale providing a backbone for a much more interesting story than I assumed from it's first few pages.

R.B. Russell
Count Stenbock's 'The Other Side' is a delicately hallucinatory tale of forbidden flowers and beguiling women and an ambiguously supernatural Sherlock Holmes pastiche called 'The Shadow of the Wolf' by Ron Weighell sticks out dynamic duo on the roof of an old house in the country tracking a savage murderer.  The book closes with R.B. Russell's wonderfully strange 'Loup-Garou' which I'm not even going to try and describe to you as it's something you need to experience yourself.

Around these stories are a host of other tales that are all worthy of your time as they display interesting takes on the mythos but the above were, for me, the standouts. As I said at the beginning, creature stories aren't my favourites but as a toe dipping exercise into the genre this book has much to recommend it.

Buy it here -  The Werewolf Pack (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural)

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