In honor of my Sci Fi II class where this week we leave zombies behind and begin to study werewolves, I'm counting down my all time favorite lycanthropy stories of all time.
Here they are -
10. "Twilight at the Towers" - Clive Barker. Barker is one of the most talented writers in all of horror. If you doubt this, check out his seminal The Books of Blood.
"Twilight at the Towers," written at the tale end of the Cold War, examines how lycanthropes might be used as assassins and secret agents. Plus, the ending is amazing.
9. "The Werewolf"- Tanith Lee. I've only read one other story by Lee, her epic science fiction tale, "The Thaw," which is amazing. Given the uninspiring title of this tale, I wasn't eager to read it. But when I did I was in awe. I've easily read it 10 times, and it keeps getting better (in very subtle ways) each time. The suspense is a very slow buildup, but it works brilliantly. And the scene where one of our main characters uses a motorcycle to outrace the werewolf (after taking picture of it once it transforms) is wonderful.
8. "War Pig" - Carlton Mellick III. This has a bit of sci fi twist, but at the heart of this tale is what a father will do to provide for his son. And what a son will do to protect his father.
7. "The White Wolf" - Frederick Marryat. This is a classic. It involves a grieving husband who lost his wife. He takes his three children into the Hartz mountains where he inexplicably meets a beautiful, bewitching young woman who he quickly weds. There is only one problem. But you already know what is. What happens to the man's daughter is one of the most horrific things I have ever read. I read this tale in the old Lafayette library. And it scared the hell out of me. What a way to spend a study hall!
6. "The Wovles of St. August" - Mike Mignola. Okay, this one is actually a comic, part of the Hellboy graphic novel: A Chained Coffin and Others. But the art is excellent, as is the story. This is a remarkable experience.
5. "The Lame Priest" - S. Carlton. This is another older tale, but one that is just as eerie as any on here. This tale, set on the frontier, involves a proud trapper and his refusal to follow the advice of his Indian friend to leave the lands because a bad wolf has come. Instead he stays and faces the lame priest, who is suffering something far worse than his lame foot.
4. "The Cell" - David Case. This story is a classic because it is both traditional yet wildly original. It is the tale of a family descendent who inherits a house from his crazy aunt whose husband disappeared years ago. He discovers a journal. This is where the story shifts to the point of view of his long lost uncle, who was becoming a werewolf.
Finally, to deal with his transformations, the family has a cell constructed in the basement. This works for awhile, until the uncle begins to try and wait longer and longer to enter the cell. Finally, distraught, his wife hires someone to drill a hole in the wall of the cement cell. This way she can see exactly what her husband turns into.
When the husband - about to undergo his monthly transformation - discovers the hole - and his wife peeking in at him - he becomes more savage than ever before.
And his wife decides to leave him in the cell. Forever.
3. "The Were-Wolf" by Clemence Housman. I read this while holed up in the old A.C. Clark library at BSU. Just like I did years before when I read "The White Wolf" in my old high school library, this one scared the crap out of me, especially as it was late in the evening, with heavy snow falling, and I would have to trek several blocks back to Tamarack.
This has one of the greatest chase scenes I have read anywhere.
2. "The Gentleman's Hotel" - Joe R. Lansdale. I've been a fan of Lansdale since I was in 8th grade and read his excellent horror novel, The Nightrunners.
This tale features one of Lansdale's consistent heroes - Reverend Jebediah Mercer who is a tool of God's to battle the minions of Satan. Mercer happens upon a ghost town that is a ghost town because werewolves have descended upon it. Since it's his calling, Mercer spends the night in the town to face the wolves.
1. The Skin Trade - George R. R. Martin
It is also a graphic novel. When researching it, I found this image from the graphic novel. If this doesn't rattle you (as a werewolf or horror fan), I don't know what will.
This is an amazing story. And not just because if focuses on my favorite type of monster. It doubles as an excellent crime story too. This is exactly what horror fiction should be: tense, filled with vivid details, smart dialogue, real characters, and perfectly timed thrills and gore.
This epic tale is so good, the distance between #2 and #1 is about between here and Pluto.