Issue 8, January 2011
Wolves Dressed as Men
by Steve Lowe
Book Review by John "JAM" Arthur Miller
Those of us involved behind the scenes at Liquid Imagination don't have much time. We have a lot on our plates: behind-the-scene projects, behind-the-scene dreams, and various opportunities.
And then there's life itself.
Just like any other writer/editor who's been in the biz for any length of time, we're very busy. Because of the time factor, we no longer review books when requested. Instead, we simply read what we want to read, for the enjoyment factor. Because we don't have much free time, we want to read those things that excite us.
It shouldn't be any other way.
Which is how I came across Steve Lowe's "Wolves Dressed as Men." I knew Steve was a good writer having read his work before. So I bought the Wolves Dressed as Men and loved it.
This is why:
The story has werewolves. Not just one, but there are many. Werewolves freak me out. Well, that's an understatement—werewolves are the scariest creations of fiction known to the human race. I only allow myself one werewolf story per decade. I'm up to three werewolf novels now: Stephen King's Silver Bullet, Whitley Strieber's Wolfen, and now Lowe's Wolves Dressed as Men. Those are the three werewolf stories I've allowed myself to read in the past three decades. I could have read more, but because werewolves scare me, I spread the hair of the dog around, so to speak.
Like the The Incredible Hulk from Marvel, one's inner aggression is unleashed in the individual as he turns into a werewolf. There is no restraint; in fact, the opposite is true: there is liberating freedom without the disadvantages of morals. While that makes for a good time for the feisty werewolf, society at large (and people fat enough to carry t-bone sized steaks around in their guts) generally believe this to be a bad thing. Blood spills, bones splinter and Nature turns red in tooth and claw. It is, after all, a werewolf story.
In Lowe's novel there is the Tracker. The Tracker comes from a long history of pursuing fanatics, and they love to expose werewolves. Once found, they kill the werewolves, because they consider it their holy right, because they consider it their God-given obligation. They believe that the only good werewolf is a… well, I think you get it.
Which brings us to the main character: Thiess.
Thiess seems to be one of those two-dimensional religious characters. At first. Then he turns into something much more (pardon the pun) interesting. His love-interest (if you could call her that), Maria, comes to Thiess's aid time and time again.
And with every supernatural event that happens in the city during these wonderful types of stories, there is an ardent need for a reporter. In this case, we have Terry Jacoby, former winner of journalistic acclaim, now reduced to working for a sleaze ball newspaper because of a series of unfortunate events. The newspaper is similar to those kinds of tabloids that do stories about aliens in the White House, and at first Jacoby thinks this "werewolf" story is just another one of those. Until Jacoby gets taken to church, literally. Jacoby smells wet dog, and he's not scared enough to back off.
The werewolf (Thiess) now has two people looking for him, and both want to shoot him: Jacoby, who is using a camera, and the Tracker, who is using a rifle loaded with special ammo.
Sounds simple, right? Wrong.
Lowe intertwines the characters together, makes them engaging and understandable. All of the personalities weave into the storyline, until they're immersed in and integral to the plot. Maria helps Thiess. Jacoby finds out the truth about the Tracker. Thiess wrestles with his sinful nature and the mark of the Beast. And the Tracker? Well, he does what all good Trackers do: he goes after Thiess.
Lowe's characters strike an empathic chord, and it's even easy to understand the motivations of the Tracker. At the conclusion of Wolves Dressed as Men, I found myself wanting more. I want to see Thiess running wild through city streets or in the woods. And when a reader is left wanting more, there must be a sequel.
On a side, but very important, note, with so many small-press novels full of typos, it's refreshing to read a novel that is not only well-written, but well edited, too.
If Lowe writes Part 2 to Wolves Dressed as Men, I'll be the first one buying it.