Some time ago I made a comment on an online forum that I felt annoyed and depressed at the complete lack of intelligent and readily available horror reading material. Recently I have been pleasantly surprised to discover such gems as “The Concrete Grove” by Gary McMahon and the ultimate werewolf tail (little play on words !) High Moor by Graeme Reynolds a new and rising star in this genre…so belief and a smile are slowly returning to my face.
After some difficulty I was successful in securing a copy of “The Wolfen” by Whitley Strieber and am so pleased that I did. In essence The Wolfen is a story of man and Canis Lupus Sapiens or more commonly referred to as the Werewolf trying to eke out a living and cohabit in an overcrowded world and a world that refuses to acknowledge it’s existence. Two policemen are murdered whilst carrying out routine duties at a car pound in a district of New York, and the investigating officers Rebecca Neff and George Wilson are tasked with bringing the perpetrators to justice. Wilson and Neff soon discover that this is not a simple case and suspicion soon falls on the Werewolf, The Wolfen as named in the book. The story evolves with a great list of characters and a cracking storyline that never relaxes. It soon becomes clear that The Wolfen pack are themselves hunting Wilson and Neff, as the knowledge these two officers now possess concerning the existence of The Wolfen, threatens the werewolf community and way of life….the hunters have become the hunted!! The chief of police Underwood is only interested in his promotion to Commissionaire and refuses to accept that a pack of Werewolf’s are living and running amok in his city, and are responsible for the death of two of his officers. Carl Ferguson the curator of the Natural History Museum is haunted by the possibility of an imminent Werewolf attack and in one particularly tense scene he is walking the museum late at night and is deeply troubled and frightened by every sound the building exudes. This tension and fear prevailing throughout the book draws the reader in and creates a great sense of unease. The Wolfen is a silent predator who can destroy his prey efficiently and with clockwork precision. To understand the mind of The Wolfen it must be appreciated they only really attack to satisfy their hunger and they view man as a means to exist and a good source of nourishment. They are also selective in their choice of victim,(the murder of the two policemen was a mistake) and choose to kill only those who they see as weak and who live in the fringes. They kill with ruthless and silent efficiency and it is this ability that totally immerses the reader in a nightmare reading experience! The brutal strength and beauty of The Wolfen is best described in one memorable scene from the book……
“Now she was down, she was pushing her nose past cloth, slick hot flesh, feeling the vibration of subvocal response in the man, feeling his muscles stiffening as his body reacted to her standing on it, then opening her mouth against the flesh, feeling her teeth scrape back and down, pressing her tongue against the deliciously salty skin and ripping with all the strength in her jaws and neck and chest, and jumping back to the wall with the bloody throat in her mouth. The body on the bench barely rustled as its dying blood poured out….Now her job was over,she dropped behind the wall and ate her trophy. It was rich and sweet with blood. Around her the pack was very happy as it worked….Then the pack ate in rank order. The mother took the brain. The father took a thigh and buttock. The first mated pair ate the clean organs. When they returned from their duty the second mated pair took the rest. And then they pulled apart the remains and took them piece by piece and dropped them in the nearby lake…When this was done, they went to a place they had been earlier, a great meadow full of the beautiful new snow that had been falling. They ran and danced in the snow, feeling the pleasure of their bodies, the joy or facing headlong across the wide expanse, and because they knew that no human was in earshot they had a joyous howl full of the pulsing rhythm they liked best after a hunt…..
Neff has a difficult home life and a complicated working relationship with Wilson, however they must lay aside these differences to keep focused and avoid being consumed by The Wolfen. The chase becomes a game of cat and mouse and a marvellous experience for the reader as the tension never relaxes and we rush towards a bloody conclusion. This is not merely a horror story but the portrayal of a misunderstood group trying to exist and survive in the shadows of the city and avoid the wrath of man….I strongly recommend!