I hope to recommend to all horror fans, and most everybody else, a book I recently read called The Wolfman, by Nicholas Pekearo.


This is the first published book, published this year, by a young New York writer of ferocious talent.  The story is about a war veteran, Marlowe Higgins, who lives in a small town.  He may not want to, but once a month, come the full moon, he has to kill. 


Now, I’ve gone over my love of werewolves before, in depth.  I love books and movies about werewolves, but frequently find myself bemoaning how often the quality of those come up lacking. Now, for the second time in a single year, I am writing about an excellent werewolf story (the first was Sharp Teeth), and this time it might even be my favorite book I’ve read all year – and in 2008, I’ve read a whole lot more than usual.


You don’t have to take my word alone:  The jacket blurbs recommending the book on the hardcover are by Joe Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, Andrew Vachss, and Edward Conlon.  I’m not necessarily swayed too often by cover recommendations, prefer to make up my own mind by reading the first couple pages, but in the past I’ve read and loved books by all four of the above authors, so seeing all that endorsement suddenly made this a must-read.


Now before I start heaping praise, I will qualify that this is very much a first novel.  While its structure is smart, some of the mysteries are not too tough to figure out.  That doesn’t bother me personally as much as it might in other books, because mystery isn’t all this book is about.  Character is.  So rather than highlight the tiny flaws of the book, I’m more interested in what’s great about it, because there’s plenty more of that.


First, it’s an innovative take on the werewolf legend.  The backstory of the protagonist’s lycanthropy and how it has thoroughly invaded his life is so well thought out, and as believable as such a tale can be.  The way that Marlowe learns and begins to “communicate” with the nocturnal wolf side of himself probably only works in the novel format, but it’s really unique and interesting. 


Second, the human element is actually the more compelling.  The effect of being a werewolf has entirely changed the course of his life, how and where he lives, who he knows and loves, and so on.  Questions about werewolves you didn’t even know you had are answered here – I’m immature and scatologically inclined, so I was won over by The Wolfman in an early passage where it’s specifically answered what happens when a man-eating monster reverts to human form the next day, i.e. what’s in his crap.  If that type of detail isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry – such moments are there for the aficionados, but responsibly parceled out.


The bottom line is:  the book makes you care.  As the book progresses, I began to empathize with Marlowe Higgins, to root for him, even if he really does act the asshole in many situations he finds himself in.  What he’s become, even how he was born, has not helped to make him a nice guy, even though he tries his best.  That shows a true understanding of character, and is an admirably gutsy way to portray your story’s lead.  In The Wolfman, character is just as compelling, if not more, than plot and horror.  It’s great, and it keeps you whipping through the concise, effective course of the story.


I finished the last page wishing that there would be another story about the unfortunate hero Marlowe Higgins.  There won’t be.  I’m not going to exploit a tragic backstory just to make my dumb blog more interesting, but the interested can read the sad details at the publisher’s website.  It’s really frustrating that there won’t ever be any new stories from this talented and incredibly promising author, but that’s just proof of how much life can suck sometimes.  There’s just no reason to take talent out early, but that’s what the universe does – I can rage against it, but it can’t be changed.  God damn it, and also shit.  But at least he got at least this one book out.  I am glad for that.


Order The Wolfman here or anywhere else you can find it:  I suspect you’ll be happy you did.