Cycle of the Werewolf
Will: I’ve found myself on a Stephen King kick lately. So far in 2020, I’ve read eight of the master of horror’s books not to mention a few short stories he contributed to anthologies I’ve just happened to come across as well. And while King has always been a part of my life, his work has had particular resonance with me lately as I, and many others, find ourselves locked in and fearing the very air we breathe and the people we see on a day to day basis. King is such a successful writer mainly because he taps into the basic elements of life…the everyday occurrences, goings-on, and/or items we sometimes take for granted…and imbues them with horrific qualities. When you read King, everything including the kitchen sink can be a monster. So it was with great joy, and terror, that I came across one of his lesser-known and less heralded stories called Cycle of the Werewolf. As I braved my recently opened book store, mask on and fear in place, I saw the small book sticking out wanting to be read. I had never heard of this particular King book and was immediately drawn to the fact that it came with illustrations by the late, great Bernie Wrightson, an incredible, and seminal, artist known the world over for his unique work of fantasy and horror. Needless to say, the impulse to buy was immediate and I swiftly bought it.
Originally published in 1983, Cycle of the Werewolf is essentially twelve short stories each taking place during one month of one year in the Maine town (of course) of Tarker’s Mills. Tarker’s Mills is your typical small Maine/King town: take away a few pieces of eighties technology and you’d be in the 1950s with its one street light, malt-shake diners, and old fashioned barber shop, complete with old fogies telling tall tales to anyone who’ll listen. Except this idyllic town has one major problem: every full moon of every month, starting in January, someone winds up dead. And they aren’t just killed. They’re slaughtered as if by a wild animal. As the month’s go by and the kills continue, the town begins to suspect they’ve got a deranged serial killer on their hands. Some, including those same old fogies and the brightest of children, think its something spookier.
Cycle of the Werewolf‘s simple structure is impossible not to love. Each month starts with a beautiful, two-page splash of Wrightson’s showing some part of Tarker’s Mills, be it an expanse of farmland, a heavily leafed wood, or a snow-covered graveyard. Then sprinkled throughout King’s smooth text of human frailty and violent horror, are full color, full paged depictions of the scenes as depicted by Wrightson. And each chapter ends with a small black and white image capping off the chapter with a flourish. It would be one thing if the book was just a simple werewolf story supplemented with fantastic art but King also happens to write some of his best stuff and, for those nervous about King’s tendency to ramble, Cycle of the Werewolf only comes out at about 120 pages or so making it a swift and fun read. I read it myself in one sitting.
So while worthy heaps of praise gets thrown on King’s masterpieces like It and The Shining, forgotten gems like Cycle of the Werewolf, which show a beautiful collaboration of artists at the height of their powers, can provide summer fun for everyone. If you are looking for a spooky thrill-ride or a quick dip into the realms of EC comics, then visiting (or perhaps revisiting) this “lost” Stephen King gem should be just the trick during this time of panic and fear.
Cycle of the Werewolf Formats: Trade Paperback / Limited Edition / Movie / DVD First Edition Release Date:April, 1985 A werewolf is stalking Tarker’s Mills and only young, wheelchair-bound Marty Coslaw suspects the truth. He enlists the help of his black sheep uncle to identify the shape shifter and destroy him.