Today I want to talk to you about Cycle of the Werewolf.
This is one of King’s novellas, and was released in 1983 as a limited edition, then fully in 1985 by Signet. There is also a film adaptation called Silver Bullet that was also released in 1985.
The story is set in Maine, in a fictional town called Tarker’s Mills, where each month people are viciously murdered on the full moon.
The main character, Marty, is a ten-year-old boy who is paraplegic and uses a wheelchair. The story revolves around the horrific attacks from Marty’s perspective.
As the bodies of both humans and animals pile up the town cancels its 4th July festival which is upsetting to Marty. Marty’s uncle buys him some fireworks and tells him to set them off really late, so his mother won’t be mad. While doing this Marty is attacked by the werewolf. Marty, however, manages to maim the beast with firecrackers, taking out one of its eyes. When Marty talks to the police, they do not believe him.
Marty goes trick or treating on Halloween and notices the local reverend wearing an eyepatch. The reverend does not recognise Marty however, due to his mask. Marty starts writing to the reverend asking why he doesn’t stop the killing by ending his own life. He also convinces his uncle to have silver bullets made before signing the last letter with his name.
As Marty told the Reverend/werewolf who he was when the next full moon comes the werewolf attacks Marty’s home. Marty shoots the werewolf, and everyone is shocked when it changes back into the Reverend.
My Thoughts – General
I love how this story is laid out, with each chapter being a calendar month. It’s a cool way to break up the story and cover a long time period clearly without things feeling slow.
I’m also a fan of traditional monster horror and this is a great modern retelling of a very ‘traditional’ monster. The whole monster among us, a wolf in sheep’s clothing (especially as the wolf is the reverend) is fantastic imagery.
I am also a big fan of the protagonist, Marty is a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair, so naturally, you’d think of him as vulnerable. On top of that, he’s a child another reason to see him as vulnerable. But Marty is the only one who manages to hurt the werewolf and eventually kills the monster. It’s a lovely bit of subversion and a fantastic bit of character work.
My thoughts – Characters
Considering that this is a novella it has a big cast. But King manages to pull it off well. Usually, writers would advise keeping small casts in Novella’s so that things don’t get too crowded, characters have room to breathe and develop etc. But in this story, King has the wider Coslaw family, a plethora of victims and of course the reverend.
While Marty and the reverend are the most developed of the characters, particularly the reverend, the smaller characters have enough detail and energy given to them to make them more than just animated set pieces. Small details tell us a lot, like how Marty’s father is uncomfortable around his disabled son, his sister who is jealous of the attention Marty gets, the seamstress with the failing business and the young boy with an expensive kite who was so captivated by it that he stayed out too late and was killed. These small details do a lot of work.
Lastly, the reverend, our werewolf probably gets most of the story and like many modern telling of this monster, he is somewhat sympathetic. We don’t find out how he became a werewolf, though there is a theory involving flowers because he doesn’t know himself. He is repulsed by the fact he is killing people though, his fear for himself is greater, for example when he figures out that he is killing people he goes to a different town in order to avoid vigilantes, not to avoid killing people.
My Thoughts – Theme
As I touched upon earlier, I do like the imagery in this story, the fact that the monster is a man of God etc is a trope I’m fond of. The story has a classic horror atmosphere mixed in with a more modern phycological feel. It plays with typical fears of monsters, but also fears of the monster among us, that the threat comes from within. The stakes are clear and obvious, the story revolves around the brutal murders, if the werewolf is not confronted and stopped people will keep dying.
My Thoughts – Setting
I don’t have a lot to say about the setting, it’s a King staple that there be a small town in Maine. The man’s comfortable there and writes good stories that fit well in these locations.
Overall, this was a really fun novella that I very much enjoyed. I recommend giving it a read.