Your Daily NEL: New English Library

Cheap and Nasty Seventies Horror Pulp

Stephen King – Cycle Of The Werewolf

Posted by demonik on May 16, 2009

Stephen King – Cycle Of The Werewolf (NEL, 1985)


Bernie Wrightson: cover from NEL the 12th impression, 2006

Terror began in January, by the light of the full moon …..

The first scream came from the snowbound railwayman who felt the fangs ripping at his throat. The next month there was a scream of ecstatic agony from the woman attacked in her snug bedroom.
Now scenes of unbelieving horror come each time the full moon shines on the isolated Maine town of Tarker Mills. No one knows who will be attacked next.
But one thing is sure.
When the moon grows fat, a paralysing fear sweeps through Tarker Mills. For snarls that sound like human words can be heard whistling through the wind. And all around are the footprints of a monster whose hunger cannot be sated …

” …. he is found the next day propped against the War Memorial, headless and disemboweled …”

Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Christine, Misery, Gerald’s Game …. i’ve liked just about every King book that’s come my way (most of the early ones, few of the later), but with the notable exceptions of Pet Sematary and the nastier shorts, never felt the slightest inclination to re-read them. Don’t know why that is, but i’m like that with post-The Fog James Herbert, too. Cycle Of The Werewolf which, i seem to remember, met with lukewarm reviews on publication, had entirely passed me by until this morning when I ventured into the ‘idea’s store’ to see what the horror section is up to these days or, indeed, if it still exists at all. This is King at his most trad horror – it actually reads like him doing Wrightson’s old collaborator on House Of Mystery, Jack Oleck – and, at 120 pages, many of which are devoted to Berni’s illustrations, you can devour it in less time than it’s taken me to hack out this dreary post.

The gory death’s come at you at pace. Arnie Westrum is first. Arnie’s a tough guy armed with a pick-axe, but he’s no match for the horror that comes in out of the snowstorm and scatters bloody pieces of Arnie all about the railway shack. Then there’s Harlequin Romance junkie Stella Randolph, opening the valentine cards she’s posted herself from Paul Newman, Robert Redford, John Travolta and Ace Frehley out of Kiss. Love sure bursts her door down! March, and it’s the turn of a drifter (never be a drifter in a horror novel: you’ve a life expectancy of approximately eight paragraphs if your lucky). April and what was eleven year old Bradley Kincaid doing out flying his kite after sunset anyhow? And so it goes on. May …. June ….. July …..

As you’ve gathered, it’s all very Legend Of The Werewolf with the reader scrutinising the cast of surviving characters for the least likely lycanthrope as, if experience has taught us anything, it’s that once you’ve identify the “I-never-would-have-thought-of-him/ her”, you’ve got your killer. Perhaps it’s the town juicehead Chris Wrightson (!) who’d just thrown his “Great Spring Drunk and stagger[ed] off in the silvery, unreal light of a nearly full April moon” the night the Kincaid kid was torn to pieces? Could it be the Reverend Lester Lowe, plagued by nightmares that his entire congregation have taken a turn for the Loup Garou? Then there’s Milt Sturmfuller, town librarian, and all round nasty piece of work who, in twelve years of marriage, has reduced his timid wife Donna Lee to a docile slave, terrified of her own shadow. How about that little kid in a wheelchair got a passing mention in chapter ‘July’? All we know is that the culprit is one of the town’s most prominent faces, someone the residents get to see every day …..

Cycle Of The Werewolf thread on Vault Of Evil Forum


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