Subterranean Press, out now (limited edition; trade paperback late 2012)
Further adventures for Michael Gallatin, the Russian werewolf featured in The Wolf’s Hour…
You don’t need to have read Robert R. McCammon’s terrific werewolf novel The Wolf’s Hour to understand this collection of short stories and novellas, but if you are familiar with the British secret service agent who was able to use his supernatural abilities to assist the Allied cause towards the end of the Second World War, then you’ll welcome this volume.
The novel includes a number of flashbacks which explain bits and pieces of Michael’s life, some of which were left vague at that stage. Here we discover what happened to the young Michael in the circus, and how he was recruited for the British Secret Service. We follow him as he assists a scientist and his family to escape from Germany, and learn the truth about his encounter in Africa with a Luftwaffe ace, who seems to be based on the infamous Star of Africa, Hans-Joachim Marseille. There’s a bittersweet novella which follows on from Wolf’s Hour, set in the closing days of the War in Berlin, and then a final short story, some years later, in which Michael faces a battle he knows he is unlikely to win.
Leslie Charteris, the creator of the Saint, once wrote: “I have been trying to make a picture of a man. Changing, yes. Developing, I hope. Fantastic, improbable – perhaps… It doesn’t matter so much, so long as you feel that you would recognise him if you met him tomorrow.” And McCammon does the same here with Gallatin. He changes and develops. He’s certainly fantastic and improbable. And from these stories, we definitely feel as if we know him. We see his reactions to the crap that life throws at him, and the resilience that comes both from his own humanity and from his inner wolf. We suffer with him, both physically and mentally.
More perhaps than in the original novel, McCammon’s love of pulp fiction comes across here. There are various references to highly unlikely adventures, some of which appear to have crossed from other fictional worlds (Shatterhand, for example, is the name that 007’s enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld adopts in the novel of You Only Live Twice) and you get the feeling that Michael’s path has probably crossed with one Dr Henry Jones Jnr. at some point. All this serves to increase the richness of the world.
Verdict: A thoroughly enjoyable collection of tales that supplement the original novel without feeling like a cash-in on its popularity. 8/10