Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Nightwalker

Leisure Books promoted 2008 as the “Year of the Werewolf” in horror fiction (giving rise to the slogan, “Werewolf is the new zombie), with three titles involving lycanthropy in the first half of the year. The first was J.F. Gonzalez’ Shapeshifter, and the third was Ray Garton’s Ravenous (Garton has also published a sequel to Ravenous called Bestial), coming in a couple of months. Thie middle title in the triumvirate is a reprint of Thomas Tessier’s classic novel from 1979, The Nightwalker. Looking back, the werewolf craze never really caught hold, but the three are all fine stories in their own right.

The Nightwalker
is the story of Bobby Ives, a Vietnam veteran living in London who is apparently recovering from psychological trauma suffered during the war. Bobby begins suffering strange symptoms, a recurrent catatonia and odd feelings in his extremities. Eventually, his behavior deteriorates to the point of murder, as he is overcome by irresistible impulses. Personally, he becomes more callous and narcissistic. Bobby comes to the belief that he has lived before, as the owner of a Caribbean plantation, and that he has been cursed into becoming a werewolf. Tessier’s prose is masterful, and the central intrigue of the novel is whether Bobby is really becoming a werewolf, or if he is just a psychotic with canine delusions.

Because the original novel is about 200 pages long, and Leisure tries to make all their publications just a little more than 300 pages, a bonus novella is included, as with previous Leisure releases. This sort of bonus is one I appreciate, and offers interesting bonuses to fans. The included novella here is The Dreams of Dr. Ladybank, a 100 page story written by Tessier in 1991. It’s about a psychologist who learns he can mentally control the actions of two of his patients. As always with Tessier, it is well written, but it is just too long, as the concept can’t sustain a 100 page story. You know where it’s going, and you just become impatient for it to get there so you can be through.

So, my judgment is: Thumbs up for The Nightwalker, thumbs down for The Dreams of Dr. Ladybank. The book includes an introduction by Jack Ketchum and an afterword by the author himself.

1 comment:

The Doctor said...

This is a great (and quite atypical) "werewolf" novel. It walks the line of ambiguity rather well.

Pity about the bonus novella (which I don't have, I have an early edition of The Nightwalker). Maybe if I find this in a bargain bin somewhere I'll get it just to be a completist.