Werewolf Jacob Marlowe is the prime target of WOCOP: an international organization dedicated to stamping out the world’s supernatural beings. After learning that he is the last of his kind, Marlowe begins to question his existence. Could death by WOCOP’s silver bullets could be a fitting end to two hundred years of a fugitive life punctuated violence and empty debauchery? The Last Werewolf is Marlowe’s memoirs, a moonlit confession of blood and angst from the savage heart of a monster.
Glen Duncan, the author of The Last Werewolf, recently sat down to answer a few questions about his critically acclaimed horror novel. When you’re done reading, fill out the giveaway form below to win a copy of The Last Werewolf plus a “Save the Werewolf” bracelet!
In addition to The Last Werewolf, you’ve written a few other books, among them I, Lucifer. What interests you about exploring the perspective of entities that most people would consider categorically evil?
What interests me is love, sex, death, cruelty, compassion and the desire for meaning in an apparently godless universe. In other words the human condition. I don’t believe in ‘categorical evil’, only in a a scale human flaws, fears, desires and delusions. It’s just that one way (one of many) to examine the human is to take the view of the non-human outsider looking in. You use the alien eye to see the familiar afresh. It’s the same method Mary Shelly used in Frankenstein. If readers of I, Lucifer and The Last Werewolf don’t find the human mysteries addressed in those novels, I’ve failed.
In reading The Last Werewolf, I was reminded again and again of works I had read in college: novels by people like Herman Hesse and Albert Camus, as well as philosophical work by people like Nietzsche. When it dawned on me that these were the kinds of works that protagonist Jacob Marlowe would have read in his formative years, I was very impressed. How did you get into the mind of someone who has had two hundred years of life already, but whose personality was essentially molded in the late nineteenth century?
There’s no thrilling answer. It’s an act of imagination. I sat down and imagined what it might be like to have been born in the early nineteenth century then lived (and read, and murdered, and eaten) your way through the next two hundred years. The result of that imaginative exercise (they’re all imaginative exercises, whether they’re Manchester housewives or rampant werewolves) is Jake Marlowe.
Marlowe doesn’t shapeshift into a wolf. He becomes a Wolf-Man hybrid. Why did you choose the latter over the former?
It’s how I always imagined werewolves as a child. I don’t remember the first image of a werewolf I saw, but I suspect it was the hybrid type, up on two legs, with long limbs, hair, claw-like fingernails and lupine head. To me there’s nothing scary about complete transformation from human into wolf. Wolves aren’t scary. They’re dangerous, yes, but so are geese, in the wrong mood. What’s scary is seeing the human in the wolf but knowing it’s beyond the reach of reason or emotional appeal. That’s where the horror and dread kicks in.
I read a recent review that praised The Last Werewolf as “the answer to Twilight that adults have been waiting for”. While I appreciate what the reviewer was trying to say, I don’t see The Last Werewolf, with its existentially troubled and unapologetically predatory protagonist, as being anything like the Twilight novels. What do you think about such comparisons?
To answer that I would have to have read the Twilight novels or seen the movies, which I haven’t. Wearing a purely mercenary hat, however, if even a tenth of readers who bought the Twilight books buy The Last Werewolf, I’ll be a happy man.
Can you tell me about some of the books, movies, games and other things that inspired or informed the creation of The Last Werewolf?
I don’t normally read ‘horror’ fiction, but I’m a big fan of horror movies, which is the store I plundered for the novel’s genre must-haves. I didn’t watch anything relevant while I was working on the book, but it did occur to me about halfway through (I’m risibly belated with these insights) that the filmic antecedent for The Last Werewolf – with its mix of horror, humour, sex, gore, pathos, moral quandary and believable love story – is of course An American Werewolf in London, one of my favourite movies. What really inspired and informed the novel, however, was the foul mood I got into when, having published seven overtly literary novels that had been read by virtually no one and hadn’t won a prize, I learned from my agent that my chances of finding a publisher for an eighth were nil. It’s no wonder Jake turned out like Mersault on laughing gas.
I see that there is a The Last Werewolf score that has been posted online. While I love it, I’d love to know about any music you might have been listening to when you wrote the book.
There is absolutely no connection for me between listening to music and writing novels. I like music (though with the exception of the brilliant The Real Tuesday Weld my tastes remain stuck in the 1960s and 70s) but I don’t find it inspiring in that way. I certainly can’t listen to music while writing – and I’m amazed anyone who wanted to write well would try. There might be an argument for ambient, instrumental music, I suppose – but it’s not for me. Stephen Coates (the creative genius behind The Real Tuesday Weld) is a very old friend of mine. We share thematic interests, a sense of humour, a history and an imaginative frame of reference. The notion of a ’soundtrack’ to a novel was a drunken idea that grew surprising wings. He’s an extraordinarily talented musician, and has the depressing knack of getting in to three verses and a chorus what I’ve just spent 100,000 words on.
You’ve developed an incredibly rich world here: werewolves, vampires and of course, WOCOP, the modern day inquisition. Will you be returning to this world?
The sequel’s already written. There will be a third in 2013, assuming I haven’t put a silver bullet in my brain.
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