on 21 June 2015
Whilst on the second leg of their honeymoon, journeying through Dumfries and Galloway, a newly~wed couple (Ron and Ingrid Hamilton) return to the remote Scottish village where the bride grew up. Their intentions being to enjoy a few days of walking and sightseeing in the daytime, while spending the long winter evenings together, in one another's company, indulging in frenzied bouts of Scrabble playing... or whatever it was young couples used to get up to back 1976.?!
However during their first evening there, while sat down drinking in the inn they're staying at, they are accosted by the village rowdy, a surly fellow by the name of Angus Broon (I kid ye not!), who it just so happens had his advances spurned by Ingrid a decade before, when she was a teenager.
Anyway, almost immediately Angus behaves in a rather inappropriate fashion toward Ingrid, which upsets Ron, who gives him a quick biff on the chin for his ungentlemanly behaviour and sends Broon packing; with angry Angus left to scuttle off back to the thistled glen he crawled off of, shaking his fist and vowing revenge as he goes..
Now if that wasn't already enough excitement for the couple, they are then approached by a mysterious hunter called Odell, who informs the pair that he has been employed by one of the superstitious locals as a free-lance werewolf killer, who's job it is to dispatch the beast that's been prowling the glens, when the moon is full, mutilating just about anything that moves.
And as far as Odell is concerned, the number one suspect just happens to be... Yep you guessed it, one Angus Broon!
That same evening something bestial is heard scratching at the Hamilton's bedroom door, and when it is disturbed, another guest is torn to pieces and a fire consumes the building. Leaving The Hamiltons and Odell no option other than to take lodgings elsewhere, across the road, with the kindly McPhersons.
Unfortunately though, the next day, with Ron and Odell sleeping off the previous night's fire fighting, Ingrid is kidnapped by Broon, who drags her off to his cabin in the woods, where he intends to either turn her into his she~wolf, or his next meal, come the full moon.
Our heroes left desperately trying to locate the hut and save the girl, before it's too late...
I'd been waiting to read this for years, the story (written in 1976) only ever having been printed in German, that was until Guy N Smith finally published it (much to this fan's delight!) under his Black Hill Books label, in English, in 2012!
Don't ask me why it had never been published over here?! It just hadn't.. That's all I know.
But as you can imagine being a fan of the author, I had had this sat there on a shelf, waiting to be read, since I bought it after it's belated release only a couple of years ago...
The question is, is it any good?
Well first off, make no mistake, this is total pulp trash of the highest order. With pretty much zero literary merit to it. However considering the tsunami of pulp horror that was flooding Britain during this period (the 1970s), when compared to it's peers, it's not actually a bad effort at all.
Yes the characters are completely stereotypical of the times, and the story itself is as incredibly goofy as it sounds, but that is not to say it isn't without many enjoyable moments...
First the Scottish names that Smith chooses for his characters (names like Jock McTavish and Wullie McBagpipes* etc), are in a master class of their own. With not only this, but also characters regularly involved in some of the most unrealistic and unashamedly silly plot devices I've read in ages. Like the fact that The Hamiltons (and the police, and everyone in the surrounding area etc) just matter of factly jump to the conclusion that a werewolf is at large, given the evidence (a few dead sheep!).. being a prime example of the nonsense that the reader is supposed to swallow throughout the course of the book..
However this is not necessarily a bad thing, because as readers of pulp horror we don't really care about the absurdity of it, in fact, the more wiggy and absurd it is, the more we applaud it for being so... just so long as it delivers the goods...
And Night of the Werewolf certainly delivers the goods! Almost to the point where it barely stops for breath (or plausible narrative), as the heroes go from one encounter to the next with barely a pause to take in the scenery or enjoy a deep fried Mars bar.
The geysering blood spurts coming thick and fast as book progresses, with the shape-changer eventually waging a one (wolf)man war on the village and it's occupants, with it's attack of a police station and roof top denouement a nice nod to countless horror movies before it...
Also interesting to note is 'Angus Broon', the werewolf of the title, a character that Smith doesn't even make the slightest attempt to shroud with bluff or mystery, by naming and shaming him as the beast within the first couple of pages.
A brutish, bullying ruffian and lycanthrope, whom it would seem would be the template for Smith's equally unpleasant wolfman for his excellent, but unrelated novel, 'Son of the Werewolf', 2 years later..
And on mentioning Son of the Werewolf, of course one may be wondering if NOTW holds it's own against the books in Smith's Werewolf by Moonlight trilogy, written around the same time; to which I would say yes, certainly it's the equal of Return of the Werewolf, if not better.
With the gratuitously nasty (and criminally undervalued), 'Wolfcurse' ('81), his only other full length foray into furry frights.
And fur what it's worth, hairs how I rate Guy N Smiths other werewolf tails (sorry!)
Werewolf by Moonlight ('74).......... 5/5
Night of the Werewolf ('76).......... 4/5
Return of the Werewolf ('76).......... 3.5/5
The Son of the Werewolf ('78).......... 4.5/5
Wolfcurse ('81).......... 5/5
*Note: The name Wullie McBagpipes does not appear in the book, I just made that bit up.