The Last Werewolf

Fuckkilleat. Fuckkilleat. This is the biological imperative every werewolf must heed. But after two hundred years of this routine, world-weary werewolf Jake Marlowe has had enough. Enough of the full moon gore-fests, enough of his unrelenting sex drive, enough of the inescapable guilt and shame that attend the life of the half man/ half beast. He’s the last of his species, and good riddance as far as he’s concerned.

He was happy once. He married a vivacious, romantic-ideal of a woman and they were deeply in love. Then he ate her. Tooth and claw and a few hundred years to ponder the meaning of it all. He’s condemned to a life of near-eternal damnation; condemned by his own, inescapable nature.

Philosophical, theological and literary references roll right off the narrator’s lycanthropic tongue.  But in spite of the intellectual titillation, The Last Werewolf hits you with gut-pummeling force. Imagine Rocky Balboa, down in the meat locker, slugging away at a hulking carcass of muscle and bone. This is tough, sinewy prose to tear your teeth into.

Be forewarned, Mr.Duncan serves up very hearty portions of sex and violence. Lots of explicit, illicit sex. Animal sex. Decapitation, disembowelment, severed arteries gushing blood, the works. The Last Werewolf veers into pornographic territory from time to time, but occasionally animal physicality propels the action into a realm of spiritual transcendence. “…the sudden plunge tore us out of our bodies and for an unmeasurable moment returned us to the thing that wasn’t God but the aspect of him that was ours, and in which infinitely generous archetype there was neither her nor me but only the rapture that calls you home to unity with the sweetest song and painlessly burns away the straps and buckles of the suffering self.”

The narrative sputters through a handful of very standard action-movie sequences. Gunmen, walkie talkies. Spy vs. spy stuff. Nothing you haven’t seen in a hundred thousand action thrillers. Half a dozen characters fade in and out of the narrative, dutifully marking plot points, weaving loose ends, leaving little trace in the imagination.

A few bit players do make brief, memorable turns, like the music executive in his secluded “sub-Frank Lloyd Wright pad,” an immaculate space of “elephantine white” upholstery, and floor to ceiling windows. You just know the guy is dead meat.

A satirical tone buoys the frequent grotesqueries. Normally I have almost zero tolerance for graphic violence, but there is an almost comical, “Shawn of the Dead” quality about this book that lends a levity to the darkest gallows humor. “Nothing like the blood and meat of the young,” the werewolf confesses. “You can taste the audacity of hope.” A fitting parable for these grisly times.

There are also moments of quiet devastation. Werewolves can’t have children. When Jake breaks the news to his mate, he observes the way the news registers in her body. “I felt it go into her, find the place already there for it.” It is as if, within an instant, time has slowed down, like a replayed clip of a terrible sports accident. A haunting ache for children, unborn children, recurs throughout the story. Even our obnoxious music big-wig flashes, in his last moments of consciousness, that he’d wished for son he could teach music. That longing lends The Last Werewolf a tender underside that makes you want to hold the book to your chest.

The ivory pages, curlicue italics, and red-tipped edges give the book an antique aura. Its almost as if you really have unearthed the centuries old diary of a werewolf. E-books are wonderfully convenient, but the physical book, when designed as well as this, is a very special thing. So, take The Last Werewolf under the covers and cuddle up- if you dare. This is passionate, energetic writing worth savoring.

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