First published back in September of 1974, ‘Werewolf by Moonlight’ formed legendary pulp author Guy N Smith’s debut novel; starting off his prolific and lucrative career that went on to span decades. Interestingly, ‘Werewolf by Moonlight’ was one of the few horror novels to appear under Guy’s name without his middle initial being included. The novel was later followed by the sequels - ‘Return Of The Werewolf’ (1976) and ‘The Son Of The Werewolf’ (1978), as well as the (originally German language only) novel ‘Night Of The Werewolf’ (1976). The original paperback version of the novel has since become one of the more collectable of Smith’s novels, fetching reasonably large sums of money due to its subsequent rarity.
Up on the wooded hillside of Black Hill, at the Shropshire border between England and Wales, the Owen family live on their farm, located within walking distance of only a handful of other farms situated around the area. Recently Gwynne Owen acquired a jet black dog named Loup to help out on the farm. A healthy and strong dog that was imported from the Black Forest of Germany. However, soon after the dog is brought to the farm it bites the leg of Gwynne Owen’s son, Philip Owen. Luckily the bite isn’t too bad; barely breaking the skin. Because of this Philip doesn’t mention his wound to anyone.
The Owens’ nearest neighbours are fellow farmers, Vic and Margaret Gunn. And with Vic out most of the day performing the farm’s daily chores, Margaret Gunn takes the opportunity to embark upon a lust-fuelled affair with the reporter and hunter, Gordon Hall, whose smooth and arrogantly confident nature easily wins over the young woman. However, it's not long before Philip Owen learns of his neighbour’s affair whilst calling around the Gunn residence himself, hoping to seduce the fair Margaret Gunn.
Now with his mind set on finally having his way with his neighbour, Philip Owen returns to the Gunn household whilst Vic Gunn is away from the farm. And upon arriving at the property, Philip enters the house, in search of Margaret. A small struggle between Margaret and Philip ensues, until Gordon Hall arrives back at the farm and sends the horny farmers boy away with a throbbing jaw.
But that night, with a full moon in the sky, Philip goes out into the fields, tending to the sheep, as is often his way. And with the moon shining down on him, Philip transforms for the first time into the beast that now inhabits his blood. For by night, under the luminance of the silver moon, Philip Owen will become a bloodthirsty werewolf. And now his lustful thoughts return to Margaret. But a hunger for blood quickly overwhelms these desires. And when it does, Philip dines on the first of his victims - a rabbit and a sheep.
Meanwhile, the nearby Jones family have the hired-help of young Peter Pike staying with them. A young lad who is learning the ways of the farm life in exchange for a small wage and lodgings. Also staying at the Jones residence is their attractive young niece - Jennifer Hughes. Unsurprisingly Pike takes a shine to Jennifer and decides to take her out for a night-time ride on his motorbike. However, that night Pike’s advances on the girl become too much for her, and when his advances turns nasty, Jennifer runs off into the night.
The full moon is once again out, and so is Philip Owen in his bloodthirsty new state. And with Jennifer out in the darkened countryside lanes by herself, Owen is able to take his first human victim; satisfying both his carnal and bloodthirsty urges.
Pike is the first to find the ravaged corpse of Jennifer Hughes. As such, the finger of guilt is quickly pointed at Pike, and the local community presume that he must be the girl’s murderer. However, when the authorities realise that the girl was savagely ripped apart by a beast and not Owen, a hunt begins for a suspected wolf.
With the help of local law enforcement, the majority of the men within the local community, as well as a hand from Gordon Hall - a full-scale search is soon underway within the dense Black Hill forest area. However no wolf is found. But it’s only a matter of time before the real bloodthirsty killer of Black Hill takes his next victim...
Guy N Smith’s novel ‘Werewolf By Moonlight’ is a surprisingly gory tale that throws in a thick wedge of seedy sex alongside pulpishly-graphic depictions of bloodthirsty violence; all of which is brought to the table by Philip Owen whilst in his monstrously-visualised werewolf state.
The storyline itself is fast-paced and layered with a healthy smattering of entertaining subplots, that together weave into a constantly changing werewolf plot. Furthermore, with a multitude of characters brought into the enfolding storyline, Smith spins out a wild concoction of inter-connected threads; always keeping the storyline active, engaging and firing along with plenty of energetic momentum.
Characterisation is carefully selected, with some characters (such as that of Gordon Hall) constantly developed upon during the tale; whereas the majority of the other (less important) characters are only given a sketched-out-skeleton of a personality. And Smith gets the levels of this necessary fleshing-out of characters just about right for a ‘get-stuck-in’ pulp novel of this nature; keeping a tight rein on the pace whilst ensuring that the characters are engaging for the reader.
Similarly, Smith manages to keep the erotic charge alight, with the affair between Gordon Hall and Margaret Gunn given a surprisingly major role within the tale. This secretive relationship adds an extra interest-value to the storyline - keeping it feeling active, encompassing and varied (if nothing else).
Whilst switching to a first-person-perspective, Smith delivers a voyeuristic insight into the transformation process from human into werewolf, from behind the eyes of Philip Owen. In doing this Smith enables the reader to glimpse, and further understand the power of the carnal and bloodthirsty urges that control Owen in his new state, alongside witnessing the confusing mess of his bestial mind.
With the mounting mayhem of the werewolf shenanigans coming to an eventual peak. the final few chapters of the tale become pure edge-of-the-seat pulp horror. Owen is still on the rampage and the community are moving in fast. With the characters each given their own unique roles, their (potential) deaths produce more dramatic twists for the storyline, smacking with increased impact to the reader.
And as the novel spirals towards the final conclusion, so the interweaving subplots merge with the main werewolf thread of the tale; bringing it all together into a tight and reasonably well-executed finale. Alas, with the whole tale set up for a dramatic ending, Smith ends it with what can only be described as a disappointingly weak afterthought.
For a novel that constantly delivered an elaborately layered and fast-paced approach, the ending is frustratingly underwhelming and painfully simplistic. Even after the ending has been set down, Smith wraps up the remaining characters’ loose threads, each in an unrealistic and wholly out-of-character manner; opting for an easy approach to closing out the tale.
All in all, ‘Werewolf By Moonlight’ is still a thoroughly enjoyable read, with a fast-paced and involved storyline that manages to keep the reader gripped from the outset. The disappointing ending does let the novel down somewhat, but nevertheless doesn’t detract too badly from the overall enjoyable pulpiness of the story.
The book runs for a total of 110 pages.
© DLS Reviews