The Wolf’s Hour: Still vivid after 20 years

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewshistorical fantasy book reviews Robert McCammon The Wolf's HourThe Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon

As the Allied forces plan for D-Day, rumors surface within covert operations that the Nazis may have a final, deadly ace in the hole. With so much depending on the Allied invasion, the very best agent must be sent deep into enemy territory to thwart whatever it is that the Nazis have in store. What makes this British spy so special is that Michael Gallatin is a werewolf.

The Wolf’s Hour was originally published just over two decades ago and I read the mass market paperback way back then. Over the years, some parts remained so vivid that I would randomly recall them at the oddest of times. I’ve had it on my mind to reread it for a long time, just to rediscover why this novel has stuck with me like it did. So I jumped at the chance to review Subterranean Press’ illustrated reprint. This edition also contains a new novelette, The Room at the Bottom of the Stairs, an edge-of- your-seat, noir, spy-vs.-beautiful-and-sexy-spy story.

The Wolf’s Hour is an odd combination of WWII espionage thriller and dark fantasy. I can’t help but wonder what the response was like when Mr. McCammon first explained the plot to the original publishers. Even though he was a best-selling author, it must’ve been a gamble, especially back in 1989. It says much about his talent that he was able to pull off such a strange mixture of elements so successfully.

Most of McCammon’s books are difficult to fit into specific genres. Usually I see him categorized as a horror writer, and I’ve always thought of Mr. McCammon as somewhat of a southern version of Stephen King. Without the lycanthropic element, these two tales could have stood on their own as espionage thrillers. But making the spy a werewolf puts this book on a shelf all by itself.

The Wolf’s Hour is a huge volume with a whole lot of story. It starts in the North African battlefields and races across a devastated WWII Europe. The reader is introduced to many interesting characters — sexy women, Resistance fighters, sadistic Gestapo officers, an American traitor, a German deserter, Nazi spies, and others. It also gives a complete backstory of Gallatin’s horrific childhood in Russia, in which his aristocratic family was murdered during the communist revolution. He survived only by being turned into a werewolf and adopted by the pack. This tale of a harsh family life among werewolves, told via Gallatin’s flashbacks, is a clever way to avoid frustrating the reader with too long of a wait between werewolf transformations. McCammon’s take on lycanthrope culture is unique and may have played an influential role in werewolf books that followed.

As I’ve alluded to, The Wolf’s Hour is very reminiscent of a typical WWII epic, so mixing in the werewolf story is jarring at times. Also there are some very dark and demented elements that are in line with horror fiction. Added into the blend is some straight-up “James Bond” type action, complete with at least one “Bond-ish” escape that an arch-foe could have easily prevented by killing Gallatin outright instead of staging an elaborate, drawn-out and dramatic means of execution. Also it has to be noted that, again like British secret service’s greatest 007-class agent, Gallatin is quite the playboy/ladies’ man. The sex is extremely explicit, to the point of being laughable.

Regardless, The Wolf’s Hour is a fun and exciting read that is was well worthy of this illustrated reprint. I’m anxious to witness its reception, which I’m sure will be enthusiastic.


FOLLOW:  Facebooktwitterrsstumblr  SHARE:  Facebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmail
If you plan to buy this book, you can support FanLit by clicking on the book cover above and buying it (and anything else) at Amazon. It costs you nothing extra, but Amazon pays us a small referral fee. Click any book cover or this link. We use this income to keep the site running. It pays for website hosting, postage for giveaways, and bookmarks and t-shirts. Thank you!

GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

View all posts by

Review this book and/or Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published.