All over the world it is believed there are cursed human beings with the horrifying destiny of changing at full moon and destroying those they love the most -individuals who hide beneath the face of the beast, and beasts who kill with the tortured soul of man. Bound by ancient maledictions, captives of man's primal side, bearers of insatiable bloodlust and brute strength...they are the wolf men.
The Mammoth Book of Wolf Men edited by Stephen Jones consists of twenty-five werewolf themed tales. Each story delves into the werewolf mythos in unique and imaginative ways.
My personal favourites are listed below.
Twilight at the Towers by Clive Barker - I'm a strong believer that the first story that appears in any collection needs to capture the readers imagination straight off the bat. This blending together of cold war paranoia, and the espionage of a thriller, with the brutality of the werewolf is a great start. This has a similar premise to the classic The Wolf's Hour by Robert McCammon.
The Werewolf by R. Chetwynd-Hayes - A young boy befriends a mysterious loner living in a remote house. This is one of the older stories in the book and focuses on the tragic nature of a werewolf's existence. The author makes it easy to empathize with a traumatized young man who doesn't want to hurt anyone.
Rain Falls by Michael Marshall Smith - Years ago I read Marshall Smith's short story collection, What You Make It. His writing has always struck me as fun and he often throws the reader a literary curveball. In Rain Falls a werewolf hides in plain sight on the streets of modern London.
Immortal by Mark Morris - I have a confession to make. Before reading Immortal I had never read anything by Mark Morris. Now that I have remedied this oversight, I hope to read more very soon. This story of a PC tracking down a savage, animalistic serial killer who wants nothing more than to stop, is exceptional.
Rug by Graham Masterton - A young boy becomes obsessed with a wolf rug that sits in a lonely attic room. This story has a wonderfully unexpected twist that caught me completely by surprise. There is a real sense of creepiness that builds nicely to a shocking conclusion.
Boobs by Suzy McKee Charnas - One of only two entries in the entire anthology that is written by a woman, Boobs is a uniquely female interpretation of werewolves. This story follows a teenage girl going through some rather drastic changes. This was my favourite story of the entire collection. I always enjoy when an author takes a well-established theme and twists it into something fresh and entirely their own.
Only the End of the World Again by Neil Gaiman - A darkly comic tale that finds a grumpy werewolf pitted against the servants of The Deep Ones in the New England town of Innsmouth. I don't think I have ever read a story by Gaiman that I didn't like. Hardly a surprise then that I was won over by this strange, surreal and wonderfully atmospheric yarn.
Overall, The Mammoth Book of Wolf Men is a perfect introduction for those who have never read any werewolf themed horror before. Bringing together numerous different visions of the bestial, ranging from a couple of pages long to novella length, this is a great anthology worthy of your time.