Robert McCammon’s werewolf WWII British spy, Michael Gallatin, is back in a collection of short stories that surround the events in McCammon’s best-selling book, The Wolf’s Hour:
- “The Great White Way” — Young Michael Gallatin has left the Russian forests and his pack. He finds refuge with a gypsy circus but is soon entrapped in a deadly love triangle.
- “The Man from London” — Michael has been adopted by a small Russian village. In turn, as a werewolf, he provides them with fresh meat and protection. A secret agent has come all the way from London to recruit Gallatin into British special operations and the war has come with him.
- “Sea Chase” — In the guise of a sea-man, Gallatin has been assigned to watch over a weapons engineer and his family as they try to escape Nazi Germany aboard an old freighter.
- “The Wolf and the Eagle” — Gallatin and a German fighter ace must become allies to survive the harsh North African deserts and savage nomads.
- “The Room at the Bottom of the Stairs” — was originally published in Subterranean Press’s illustrated edition of The Wolf’s Hour. Michael falls for the beautiful German counter-spy he was sent to Berlin to kill.
- “Death of a Hunter” — Gallatin has retired to his home deep in the Welsh forests but still finds no peace. Old enemies have sent ninjas to either assassinate or capture the aging werewolf.
In The Hunter From the Woods, I get a sense of the affection Robert McCammon has for his hero, which is well deserved. When The Wolf’s Hour was originally published in 1989, combining genres by mixing a werewolf story with a spy thriller was almost unheard of and McCammon had great success in this niche. However, with the popularity of urban fantasy and paranormal adventures, that concept is no longer the novelty it once was. So, The Hunter From the Woods lacks the “wow factor” that The Wolf’s Hour had when I read it for the first time over 20 years ago.
Where The Wolf’s Hour was like a Jack Higgins book written by Stephen King or vice versa, The Hunter From the Woods seems lost. McCammon’s writing is thrillingly foreboding and dramatic as always, but in this book the flow gets jarred by an occasional cheesy sexual innuendo or a one-liner that’s reminiscent of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. So, it’s difficult to determine the tone of these stories. Sometimes they read like a classic WWII espionage movie and other times they’re dark and bizarre.
A couple of the tales are gems, but the overall collection left me frustrated and bored. Reading these stories reminded me of watching The Incredible Hulk TV series from the 80’s; each episode was spent waiting for Banner to transform into the Hulk, then a few minutes of super-human action were followed by a finish that left the hero wandering off as a lost soul.
I highly recommend some of Robert McCammon’s other books, but I found The Hunter From the Woods mediocre by comparison.