Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Life, like the boring drunk at the office party, keeps seeking you out, leaning on you, killing you with pointless yarns and laughing bad-breathed in your face at its own unfunny jokes.
I'm a little bit early with this post, but I wanted to get it written while it was still fresh in my mind; early because this is the one of the choices of The Readers Summer Book Club and it isn't up for discussion yet. The Readers podcast - if you haven't already discovered it and, if you haven't, you really should check it out - is a very entertaining UK based podcast about books. This is one of a few podcasts that I look forward to every week (along with the Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo movies podcast and, of course, the podcasts that my husband is on), and it is available from the link above and also on I-Tunes. I'd heartily recommend it. The Bookrageous podcast is also good but, as this is US based, I've occasionally been frustrated when they have talked about books that sound great but don't seem to be readily available in the UK.
Anyway, I already had "The Last Werewolf" on my list of books to read since hearing about it on the Bookrageous podcast - and, by coincidence, I had already borrowed it from the library when I heard that it was one of the book club picks.
Glen Duncan's anti-hero is Jacob Marlowe. Jake is just over two hundred years old, and for one hundred and sixty-seven of those years he has turned into a werewolf at every full moon. And Jake is a marked werewolf, as the incredibly successful attempts of WOCOP (World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena) to eradicate werewolves mean that he is the last one left. Jake has been managing to evade them, but they seem to be catching up with him, and he seems to have also attracted the attention of some vampires (which is odd as they normally revile werewolves). In addition, "The Last Werewolf" is also partly a love/lust story, with a strong wolfish libido, so you would be advised not to buy this book for an easily shocked maiden aunt as a present.
What sets this book apart from the glut of other vampire and werewolf novels, is Duncan's use of language. I haven't read any of his other novels, but I gather that Duncan is an established, although previously not incredibly famous, "literary" writer. Duncan's novel is mostly first person in Jake's voice, and I found Jake to be a very articulate and entertaining narrator. In a nice touch, I found myself occasionally aware of little elements of ever-so-slightly archaic sounding language that seem fitting for a narrator who has been on the earth for such a length of time. A couple of quotes which I loved have popped up in my Facebook timeline when I wanted to share them with friends (cars stopped by snow are "poignantly stupefied"). I rarely feel moved to quote from books in this way but when you discover an insult as brilliant as "pug-faced lolloper," you just have to share it.
This magnificent insult also beings me to another thing I love about this book - yes, it is dark, but it has some wonderful moments of black humour sprinkled through the narrative. I was particularly fond of an early passing reference to Jake having "eaten a forty-three-year-old hedge fund specialist." I'm not sure why I found this funny - perhaps the specificity of the age, the profession; the matter of fact and mundane way this is mentioned - but when I reached this on page 5, I knew that I was probably going to enjoy this book.
Duncan's take on vampires is different from the kitsch, glittery, costume-jewellery vampires of Stephenie Meyer (thank heavens), and the werewolf is a dangerous, primal creature and not just a hunky man who every so often ends up naked in the woods. There is another quote that I put on Facebook, so my friends on there might recognise it, which I found amusing. I'm torn because I don't want to include it here - it's not a plot spoiler, but it is an ideological spoiler - but I want to re-quote it because I love it. My solution to this is that I will quote it in the first comment on this post - if you are planning to read the book and don't want a funny couple of lines to be spoiled, then don't read the first comment. Even if you are planning to read this book and do read this quote, there is a lot more to Glen Duncan's vampires than this quote might suggest.
"The Last Werewolf" is apparently the first in a trilogy. The second in the series, "Talulla Rising," is now out, but my local library doesn't seem to have a copy (which is a form of torture for a committed bibliophile). I'm considering buying it, and my willpower might yet wane when it comes to the next full moon...