Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review - THE WOLF'S HOUR - Part 1

Original Pocketbooks paperback cover - 1989
In the late 1980's I discovered Robert McCammon's work through the excellent horror-sci/fi novel STINGER.  It didn't take me long to devour THEY THIRST, THE NIGHT BOAT, BLUE WORLD and practically everything he wrote.  Reading the works of Robert McCammon is like seeing a Saturday matinee cliff-hanger. THE WOLF'S HOUR (first published in 1989) was the 6th book by McCammon that I had read at the time.  Initially I chose to pass it by because the plot seemed a little too bizarre for me. How cool can a werewolf book set in World War II be?  But, I gave it a chance and discovered the answer...VERY VERY COOL! Since my first reading of this awesome novel, I have gone back to it numerous times for the sheer level of character depth and ambitious action sequences.

McCammon tells the story of Michael Gallatin in two parts. Part one deals with the early years of werewolf life and addresses the myth/fact areas of the legend that will be necessary for the novel. Part two is sheer action as Gallatin goes on a mission deep into Nazi Germany. The stories are told concurrently and intertwine throughout the novel. The book is a study in duality - good vs. evil, man vs. wolf, action vs. horror...and through it all we are left to ponder the question, "What is the werewolf in the eyes of God?"

As with his other excellent works  McCammon provides a strong protagonist and more importantly an equal antagonist. The Wolf's Hour gives us three villains that the hero must deal with: Colonel Jerek Blok, his muscular henchman "Boots", and big-game hunter Harry Sandler. Waiting for these characters to meet and battle really made the read thrilling. McCammon starts the ride in motion on Page 1 and takes us through more suspense and action than we could get at any theme park. The book is sheer kinetic energy. And, just like the cliff-hangers of yesteryear, McCammon puts our hero into numerous perils in every single chapter. Whether it is battling a Berzerker wolf in the forest, fighting off Nazi's on the roof of the Paris opera house, struggling for survival in a Nazi death camp, or battling a vicious hunter on board a literal locomotive death-trap, we are continually asking ourselves "How will the hero get out of this one?"

A few years ago when he was promoting his new book MISTER SLAUGHTER, I had the opportunity to meet Robert McCammon at a book signing in Ann Arbor (see earlier posts).  During the Q&A I asked him if he would ever consider writing a sequel to THE WOLF'S HOUR.  His reponse was the tease of, "A sequel...no.  However, I do think the character has several shorter stories worth telling."  Well, that got me pumped up and the wait began.

Luckily the wait is partially over...see you tomorrow for Part 2 on this topic.

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