My Year of King, #14-Cycle of the Werewolf

Sunday, December 02, 2018

I know I read this when it was first released, but I remembered NOTHING about it. Turns out, that's because it didn't really leave an impression on me, then or now. But considering the strange journey this story took to make it into novel form, that's not really surprising.

Cycle of the Werewolf details a year in the life of Tarker's Mill, a small town in (where else?) Maine. In January, at the full moon, a man is mauled to death by what appears to be a giant animal of some kind. It happens again in February, March, etc...By July, the entire town is terrified. So terrified, they cancel the 4th of July fireworks. Marty Coslaw, a ten-year-old, wheelchair-bound boy, sneaks out to light off some firecrackers his uncle left, and is almost killed by what turns out to be a werewolf. Eventually, Marty discovers the true identity of the killer, and begins sending him anonymous letters, begging him to take his own life to spare the town. In the end, Marty sets himself up as bait in a final showdown.

The book actually began as short vignettes written to accompany a calendar being illustrated by comic-book artist Bernie Wrightson. Not surprisingly, King found the brief nature of the vignette too constricting, and decided to expand the story into a short novel. That initial structure, though, gives the narrative a choppy feeling, since the flow of the plot takes 30 day jumps from chapter to chapter.

By now you'll recognize that a couple of King's traditional motifs are present even in this short, contrived novel. The hero is a child-a boy child, specifically-which comes to be a feature of almost all of King's best loved novels. He also continues to explore the idea of normal, everyday people becoming monsters, though in this book he does it more literally than in others. Because of the nature of the narrative and the brevity of the text, most of King's signature character development is not present in this book, which may be part of why it didn't impact me enough for me to even remember what it was about.

It was turned into the movie "Silver Bullet" in 1985, because by then almost any new King book was likely to be turned into a movie. The film, starring a very young Corey Haim, as well as Gary Busey and Terry O'Quinn, opened to mixed reviews, and became something of a cult classic. I remember seeing it on VHS at some point in the late 80s or early 90s, but even that didn't help burn the story into my brain. I suppose it's an enjoyable enough read in the moment, but it's really a popcorn book; it lacks substance, but is oddly satisfying; it fills you up in the moment, but before long you're hungry again.

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