Goons Chase the Most Dangerous Game in “Wolf Hunt.”   Leave a comment

Wolf Hunt Cover

By C. Michael Forsyth

Jeff Strand’s Wolf Hunt is a thrill ride that combines witty dialogue with nonstop action and enough gore to fill a swimming pool. It’s one of a tiny handful of books that I’ve read in one sitting. The pages turned as easily as if I were watching a movie. More specifically, it’s as if Quentin Tarantino and Sam Raimi of The Evil Dead fame collaborated on a werewolf movie, Quentin supplying the quirky chit-chat and Sam providing the over-the-top action.

The story begins when George and Lou, a pair of thugs for hire who normally spend their days busting kneecaps on behalf of loan sharks, receive a highly unusual assignment: they must transport an iron cage containing a guy who is supposedly a werewolf from Miami to Tampa. Is the shrimpy, whining jerk named Ivan actually a real werewolf? Spoiler alert: yes he is, and it isn’t long before he busts loose and a wild chase ensues, with an ever-rising body count.

Wolf Hunt ebook

The more subdued eBook cover may be more chilling but doesn’t capture the novel’s manic quality.

I usually don’t enjoy extended action scenes in novels. They’re rarely as effective on the printed page as they are in movies. But Strand writes them beautifully, choreographing the violent encounters between the werewolf and his pursuers with gritty realism. He describes the fights as vividly as if he were an eyewitness to the mayhem caused by claws, fangs, fists, pistols, switchblades, chairs, dynamite, meat cleavers, shotguns, car keys, hand grenades, crossbows, kitchen knives, bottles, car keys and even bowling balls.

The author is just as adept at writing dialogue. Both George and Ivan are smartasses and their sarcastic exchanges are priceless. One of the classic lines in comedy horror history is uttered when the wolfman disarms Lou and is atop a van as the two thugs and a woman they’ve rescued drive along in panic:

“George applied the brakes. ‘You two go back and get in the cage. He can’t bend the bars or he’d have done it before, so you’ll be safe in there!’
‘We won’t be safe! Now we’re up against a werewolf with a gun!’”

With hundreds of novels about werewolves already on the shelves, it’s a challenge to write one that feels fresh. At least three story elements make Wolf Hunt different.

Number one, the protagonists are not your typical steely eyed heroes. George and Lou are the kind beefy henchmen you’ve seen in movies a thousand times. Their roles are usually confined to punching the hero in the gut and escorting him to Mr. Big’s headquarters. I’ve often wondered about the off-duty lives of henchmen. How do you apply for a job with SPECTRE? What’s the training like? Do they have a decent health plan? What are their hopes and dreams? Wolf Hunt takes a pair of ordinary goons and makes them the stars. It reminds me of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the play in which two hapless henchmen from Hamlet are plucked from obscurity to become the main characters.

Oliver Reed Curse of the Werewolf

Oliver Reed plays a man doomed from birth to become a wolfman in the 1961 movie Curse of the Werewolf.

Number two, Ivan is truly evil. In the Hollywood tradition established by films such as The Werewolf of London, The Wolfman and Curse of the Werewolf, lycanthropy sufferers are sympathetic figures doomed by no fault of their own. The wolf mode is the tragic hero’s rampaging id, but we understand that he has no control over it being unleashed. And of course, thanks to the Twilight series, we’re now accustomed to seeing werewolves as even kinder and gentler; cute hunks with boyfriend potential. By contrast, Ivan is a sadistic sociopath who had plenty of kills under his belt before being a werewolf—which he thoroughly enjoys.

Peter Stubbe

BAD TO THE BONE: A werewolf named Peter Stubbe terrorized the town of Bedburg, Germany in the 1500s, according to court records.

In that regard, Ivan is truly old school. In the lore of the Middle Ages, werewolves were generally evil folks who used black magic to achieve the transformation. One of the best documented case of werewolfism took place in 1589 when a German named Peter Stubbe was convicted of having sold his soul to Satan in order to become a wolfman. According to a contemporary account, “This vile wretch desired neither riches nor promotion, but having a tyrannical heart and a most cruel bloody mind, requested that at his pleasure he might work his malice on men, women and children in the shape of some beast.” Stubbe confessed to having engaged in a killing spree for years in wolf form and was executed. (Caveat: he confessed under torture).

Ivan is of the same breed. He’s the kind of werewolf that haunted my nightmares as a kid: a relentless killing machine that comes after you with claws and teeth. Werewolves have always struck me as far scarier monsters than vampires because they trigger the most primal of all fears: the terror of being eaten.

Number three, Ivan can not only transform at will, he can morph individual body parts. At one point, for example, he terrorizes a motorist by transforming only his mouth and flashing his razor-sharp choppers. This nifty trait makes for some mind-blowing visuals throughout the novel.

What more can you ask for in a horror comedy? My rating for Wolf Hunt is a rare five out of five claws. More good news: the sequel Wolf Hunt 2 is out and I’m looking forward to reading it.

This review was written by C. Michael Forsyth, author of the werewolf novel Hour of the Beast.

cover_hour_beast_front%5b1%5d[1]

In Hour of the Beast, a young bride is raped by a werewolf on her wedding night. When her sons grow up and head to college, things REALLY get out of hand.

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Posted February 19, 2018 by C. Michael Forsyth in Uncategorized

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