Saturday, May 19, 2012
The Last Werewolf.
Much like Philip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, Jake Marlowe is a hard-drinking, heavy smoking, morally conflicted guy. The main difference though, and it's a big one, is that this Marlowe is, oh, 200 and something years old and a werewolf. The last werewolf in fact, something he finds out on the very first page of Glen Duncan's brilliantly noirish novel.
To say I devoured this novel seems very appropriate. It is a bloody, gory, violent book, albeit one with a moral heart. Violence is inevitable I guess when your main character turns into a werewolf every full moon and has to feed on a human (and spend the next month feeling guilty about it). Also, it turns out that werewolves have incredibly strong sex drives, so not a book for the prudish, this one.
But it is incredibly compelling and suspenseful. Marlowe is the last werewolf because they are being hunted by the secretive WOCOP organisation, whose mission it is to eradicate the werewolf race. Partly Marlowe wants to be caught and killed by them. He has lived a long time and he is tired. And there is the guilt caused by all those murders over the years. However there are other, even more secretive, forces at work to keep Marlowe alive at all costs. At heart The Last Werewolf is a mystery, hence the Chandler references I suppose, and it really works. I was drawn through this novel almost against my will- I wanted to turn away from some of the more stomach churning scenes but I just had to find out what happened. And I wasn't disappointed- the twist at the end was a total surprise to me and I cannot wait for the next book in the series (it's due out in June this year).
I loved Duncan's style. He draws on the traditions of horror and the werewolf myth but turns into something very modern. There are vampires of the traditional sort (no sparkly, daytime vampires here) and all the usual things about silver bullets and so on, but Marlowe's examination of the monster within owes more to modern psychology than any traditional myth. Duncan packs in literary and pop culture references and wisecracks but thankfully not so much that we lose our connection with the characters. It's smart, fun writing with real emotional impact and enough genuine horror to make me think I needed one of Marlowe's beloved whiskeys to steady my ragged nerves.