Sunday, October 31, 2021

Wolfshead by Robert E. Howard

Today, a repost and a request.

While I am familiar with some of the classic werewolf stories, if you can suggest more – classic or not
I would appreciate it.

Happy Halloween.

Wolfshead is one of Robert E. Howard’s earliest stories, published in Weird Tales in 1926 when the author who later wrote the Conan stories was 20 years old.

It is a werewolf yarn, and since the Wolf Man was my favorite of the old movie monsters, and with Halloween approaching, I thought this novella (or is it a novelette?) would make a good Forgotten Books post this week.

The time of the story is not stated, but best guess puts it in the 17th or early 18th century. A former soldier travels to Africa to visit an old friend who has grown rich by shipping goods to Europe. The friend is also involved in the slave trade, which contributed to his wealth. At the castle of the friend, the unnamed narrator meets a variety of guests, one of whom turns out to be a werewolf. This werewolf, like all werewolves of future stories and movies, knows what he becomes at night and desperately longs to be rid of the curse or to die.

The first half of this story is a horror mystery as the narrator and the surviving guests try to figure out who – and what – is attacking them at night. The second half of the story is the surprising reveal and explanation, followed by some fine action as the werewolf goes on a rampage.

The story is written in a formal style with a dark, chilly tone, and Howard ’s talent keeps it from bogging down. His action passages are excellent and his rethinking of the werewolf legends is an intriguing twist.

This shorter piece is worth reading and can be found on-line.

Friday, October 15, 2021

A Small Sacrifice by Dana King

Dana King’s first detective Nick Forte novel, A Small Sacrifice, was nominated for a Shamus Award, and boy did it deserve the recognition and praise. It is a ripping good tale.

Former Chicago cop, Nick Forte, takes on the job of clearing the name of a man everyone believes guilty of murdering a child.

State and local police bungled the investigation and could not prove the man strangled his own six-year-old son.

The killing made headlines the previous year when the man found the child’s body in the basement of the family’s huge suburban home.

Now, his mother, a wealthy, obstinate, battle axe, wants to restore the good name of the family. She hires Nick for the task.

Nick hates the case, but money is money.

He tells the mother he cannot promise he will get any further than the police. The woman says she does not want Nick to solve the case, just do enough to change public opinion about her son.

Nick barely begins snooping when someone he wants to interview winds up dead in the trunk of a car. Before he can dwell on the odd possible connection to the case, a hired killer attempts to assassinate Nick on the streets of Chicago. The hitman has mob connections.

Once Nick Forte steps into mob territory, the level of tension in the story goes up tenfold. Mobsters get annoyed when outsiders stick their noses into their carefully concealed illegal businesses.

But what is the connection between the mob and his client's arrogant son, Nick wonders?

Dana King spins a complex tale of crime and corruption in a fast paced story with a just the right amount of humor – usually provided by Nick’s first person comments.

At one point, Nick Forte has to talk face to face with a powerful mob boss. Nick says, “I forced myself to make eye contact. It was like looking down the staircase to hell.”

There are four more novels in King’s Nick Forte series.

For a glimpse at Dana King’s other series, the Penns River police novels, look here and here.