First published back in April of 1977, Guy N Smith’s pulp horror novel ‘Return Of The Werewolf' formed the first of two sequels to his debut novel ‘Werewolf By Moonlight’ (1974).
Within the rural area of the Shropshire and Welsh border, it has been a full year since Philip Owen was killed by Gordon Hall’s rabbit snare, following his murderous rampage whilst in his altered state as a werewolf.
Just down from the scattered farms around the Black Hill woodland where the savage murders took place lies the small town of Llanadevy. And it’s here, in the Llanadevy churchyard that the body of Philip Owen rests. However in the middle of the night, Philip Owen’s corpse is dug up from its resting place in the cemetery and torn from the coffin by the powerful arms of a werewolf.Before long the murders have begun once again; firstly with the horrific death of the local boy, Wal Morris, as he speeds back from a dance in his Mini along the quiet country lanes which lead past Black Hill. A full moon is out that night and after narrowly missing the werewolf in the middle of the lane, Morris crashes his car, only to be ripped to pieces by the bloodthirsty werewolf.
After returning from a spot of hunting in Black Hill, Gordon Hall finds werewolf tracks in the snow surrounding his car and claw marks left across the car’s paintwork. There is now no doubt in Hall’s mind that a werewolf is once again stalking the rural land of Black Hill.
Gwynne Owen, has since recruited the help of a young lad from Birmingham by the name of Tom Davies. Since the death of his wife and son, Owen has barely lifted a finger around his farm and instead he has had Davies manage and maintain the farm’s upkeep in exchange for lodgings, farm experience and a meagre wage.
Before long, a pair of poachers are scared off by the sight of the werewolf devouring another sheep under a full moon. The local police force, led by Detective Chief-Inspector Ford from Scotland Yard, soon organise a manhunt across the area of Black Hill. With the help of the local community, they locate the buried and dismembered corpse of Philip Owen.
Vic Gunn is quickly brought into questioning over the findings due to it being discovered on his land and buried along with his butcher’s cleaver. Whilst Vic and Margaret are at the police station, the werewolf enters their farmhouse in the hope of killing and raping the inhabitants. With the farmhouse empty, the werewolf burns it down after killing their pet dog.
The werewolf appears to be working out of revenge on the community. It is also displaying various levels of cunning in order for it to keep evading capture. The werewolf is not the only individual stalking the rural landscape with hatred in its eyes. The local poacher known only as ‘the lurker’ also holds a grudge against the likes of Gordon Hall.
The desperation of the community comes to a pinnacle when Margaret Gunn is abducted by the werewolf in the middle of the night. Hall and the local police force need to act fast in order to locate the werewolf and save Margaret Gunn from a horrific death. But with no leads towards the true identity of the werewolf and the recent disappearance of The Lurker adding yet further mystery, the odds are now truly stacked against Hall and the local police force...
From the outset, Smith jumps straight into the novel delivering an air of mystery surrounding the identity of this new werewolf. Throughout the tale the reader is left completely in the dark as to who the werewolf really is, with a number of red herrings regularly luring the reader away from the beast’s true identity. This manages to keep a moderate level of underlying suspense throughout the tale, which helps to draw the reader into the storyline with so many questions hanging over the routes of this returning terror.
The gory mutilations and random midnight deaths are less frequent in this sequel compared with ‘Werewolf By Moonlight’ (1974). Instead, Smith has chosen to spend a large proportion of the novel building on the subplots of ‘The Lurker’ and the rekindling of passion between Gordon Hall and Margaret Gunn, as well as playing around with the constant mystery that shrouds the identity of the new werewolf.
The tale is not however affected a great deal by this immediate lack of gory action. Smith still manages to maintain a solid pace to the majority of the tale, with plenty of twists and turns to the storyline to keep the reader gripped throughout its duration. For a pulp horror novel, the reduction in bloodspill is admittedly a bit of a blow. Yes the pace and excitement is still there, but with less bloodshed still comes less pulpish thrills and spills.
As the tale builds towards the final conclusion, a very surprising development to the storyline transpires (of which I shan’t ruin). This dramatic turn of events completely throws the storyline, altering the way the whole premise of the novel is now perceived by the reader.
The tale ends in a reasonably satisfying manner. With the mystery now fully explained and the sub plots loosely wrapped up, Smith draws this short novel to an end.
All in all ‘Return Of The Werewolf’ delivers an entertaining and enjoyable read, that although slightly disappointing with the major shift in storyline during the last twenty-odd pages, still manages to keep the reader gripped to the many twists and turns that Smith throws into the tale.
The novel runs for a total of 112 pages.
© DLS Reviews