The Werewolf by Colin Dunne is a 126 paged tale which was published in 1999. This horror fiction novel follows the character of 12 year-old Lyddie who, along with her dog Maxxie, lives with her Auntie Pauline in a small town in Newcastle. Following an attack on her dog, Lyddie and her friends Stipo and Stodge encounter the mysterious Count Lupus whom Stipo recognises as the “Emperor” of Werewolves. Knowing that their knowledge of his true self is the only motivation he needs for wanting to be rid of them, the trio embark on a journey to destroy him first facing death and worse to protect each other and the town from the Werewolf…
Re-reading this story really did bring to light a lot of nostalgia for me as the first time I read this book I was only ten years old and on holiday staying in a caravan with my Gran for the weekend. When reading it then I remember not being able to put the book down but at the same time being terrified of what was to come next in the story. Of course, reading it now it does not spark any fear in me although it is amusing to know that my obsession with Werewolves has only grown since I was a child!
This book begins immediately, in its first person perspective, with Maxxie being attacked in the garden by an unknown being after which Maxxie makes to attack Lyddie and the local vet, Chris Maultby and PC Squires are called. The following day shows Lyddie being the center of attention despite being one of the three social outcasts in the school. The others, her two friends are introduced to us as Stipo – an Eastern European Gypsy – and Stodge – who is overweight due to a gland problem. The outcast aspect is one which brings a sense of realism to the story as Lyddie is shunned by her classmates for being American and thereby, like her friends, ‘different’ from the other children at their school. Furthermore, what is just as realistic is how Lyddie’s ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ is short-lived, with the others in her class only choosing to socialize with her until they learn all they want to know after which they go back to ignoring her and teasing her true friends.
The story picks up pace when Lyddie is told that her dog had to be put down. However, as they originally assumed, Maxxie didn’t suffer from rabies. In fact, no-one knows what made the dog go mad… After burying her in the front garden accompanied by Stipo and Stodge, Lyddie is approached by two men inside a black hearse-like car. Lyddie notices that whilst herself and Stodge are confused by this approach, Stipo seems fearful of the man in the back of the car in particular.
As it moved away, I saw the long narrow face pressed up to the glass. He wasn’t looking at me. He wasn’t looking at Stodge who was standing just behind me. He was looking up the side of the house.
Then I realized that Stipo wasn’t in the front garden. He’d retreated into the shadows and it was him the man was staring at.
Once the car had gone, he stepped out again into the light. His face was pinched and white, as though he’d had the most terrible shock.
– Chapter 4, Page 28.
Stipo then reveals to Lyddie and Stodge that the man in the back of the car was Count Lupus from his country and later tells the two of how Count Lupus is not as human as he appears to be but is, in fact, a Werewolf… The story continues with the trio, knowing that Count Lupus will be after them as he knows they are aware of what he is, setting off to hunt him down and kill him before he can kill them. On their journey they are found by Count Lupus who, despite being unable to kill them due to an enchantment put in place by Stipo, still takes to opportunity to frighten them by transforming in front of them. Stipo, knowledgeable on Werewolves and particularly count Lupus, explains how it was done.
“That belt,” Stipo said, and his hands were trembling. “It’s the veronshika. It’s made from the skin of a murderer and it can turn you into a werewolf.”
The final showdown takes place at Mawkworth where Count Lupus resides during which Stodge is bitten. However, his fate is not one which I intend on spoiling and neither are those of the other characters. So, if you are curious to know about what befalls the beloved trio then read the story!
Whilst this short story is an enjoyable read and can be read within an hour allowing one to perhaps pass the time by journeying on the small adventure the book provides without having to take into consideration a mass of information which other books provide, there are a few criticisms I personally about about the novel itself. One of those criticisms is that, whilst it is a short story, the events within the book are fast paced and there is perhaps a somewhat lack of detail to the events. Speaking of lack of detail, another complaint which I have about the book is the lack of description particularly when it comes to characters. Whilst I understand this is a good thing at times and allows one to imagine the characters to look how they believe, I do enjoy reading how the author themselves envisioned the characters to look and therefore it was a little disappointing to realise that not very much description was given if any at all. Regardless, I enjoyed reading the book and as I said even re-reading it now presents me with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.
Here’s a few of my favourite parts:
Favourite Chapter: Chapter 12.
Favourite Character: Stipo.
Favourite Quote: For the first time, after all the things we’d been through, there were tears running down his cheeks. I coulda kissed him but I thought that wouldn’t help now he’d just got his street-cred to an all-time high. – Lyddie: Chapter 22, Page 126.