Revisiting Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf with Virgin Eyes

We decided to revisit Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King illustrated by Berni Wrightson.

Back Story:

According to the illustrator of the book, Bernie Wrightson, in 1983 he pitched the idea of a werewolf project that would pair his artwork and King’s writing in a 12 month calendar showing the monthly transformations of a werewolf. The project evolved into an illustrated short novel which was later adapted into the film Silver Bullet.

The Book Viewed with Virgin Eyes:

Steven King is, of course, beyond reproach and an amazing author and talent. With that said, what follows is an honest viewpoint of a fellow author reading the book for the first time. This author has requested to remain anonymous in case he is attacked by a horde of raving Stephen King fans.

The Beginning:

Although I am remaining anonymous, I will state that I have published and have never read this book before or seen the movie Silver Bullet. Upon opening the book, I am surprised at how thin it is. The page length is 127. I like the cover which has a simple, 80’s feel.

This is a used copy purchased on Amazon. By the raised imprint on the inside of the book, it once belonged to the Library of Cal James Schoonover. I have to say that this particular copy seems to smell like a light curry mixed with a stale smell.

There is an image for January at the start of the book which seems to show the dark underside of a bridge and I can’t make out anything other than rocks and trees, the bridge, and darkness. The very first sentence starts on unlucky page #13 with “Somewhere, high above, the moon shines down, fat and full–but here, in Tarker’s Mills, a January blizzard has choked the sky with snow.”

I just want to say, it is interesting to have five commas in the first sentence. I am unable to look past that fact no matter how hard I want to. Onward. There is an amazing illustration on page 15 of a werewolf crashing through a door.

This is much different than I expected. The first chapter January is just over two pages. The text is double-spaced and large print. February is the same length. I could likely read this book in an hour. The writing seems to be of short attack scenes. It has a very 70’s or 80’s feel with pop culture references to Robert Redford and KISS.

I am enjoying the small-town feel of the book. It gives me a nostalgic feeling, particularly with the snow and descriptions of the simple pleasures in life. I do have to wonder why no one in town is taking the threat of the werewolf seriously given all of the murders. Shouldn’t the sheriff be doing something? I would wait for daylight (since all the attacks were at night), throw some snow tires on my truck, and hightail it out of town.

Haha. In the April chapter, the kid is flying a vulture kite when he gets attacked by the werewolf. In the color illustration on page 39, the werewolf almost appears to be flying the kite. Talk about foreshadowing.
At the end of every chapter is a little bloody drawing featuring a memento that summarized the previous chapter. I quite like that. As the book progresses the attacks are more graphic and violent, though always told from the point of view of an observer coming upon the body.

The black and white drawings of each month are mainly line drawings, like something Vincent van Gogh would create but with a pen instead of a brush and with more realism.

I understand the original intent was a calendar but the format is too short. King attempts to sum up an entire character in one sentence which doesn’t make for very compelling characters or build much empathy. The result is we don’t relate to them or care too much when they are killed. I wonder if the Reverend is the werewolf?

In June we have our first, first-person recounting of the attack as it is happening. I always liked this summery month.

July is the longest chapter yet with ten (10) pages of writing. I guess the days of summer really are longer. Because of the increased length, the character descriptions can expand to several sentences. Finally the town has instituted a curfew in an attempt to protect the residents. They mistakenly believe there is a human serial killer on the loose known as “The Full Moon Killer”. I want to say that the wheelchair-bound, ten year old boy Marty shouldn’t have been able to fight of the werewolf with a packet of fireworks. But with more of a character description there is more time to build a connection to and root for the boy. The boy is sent out of town for his own safety. This has been the best part of the book so far.

As the days shorten, so does the chapter length. August is back to four pages long, unfortunately. The state police and local constable are now involved and have even heard from the one witness Marty that it is a werewolf killing people. Still they refuse to believe and are doing nothing.

The werewolf lost an eye from the fireworks and there is one person in town with an eye patch. The constable starts to piece it together but is killed by the werewolf in his car without firing a shot. He ignores the pain and his face being ripped off to try and unmask the werewolf.

Why would tourists visit a town with a serial killer?

Finally, after a farmers pigs are slaughtered, some of the townsfolk decide that something must be done. The murders suddenly stop, or has the werewolf just been gorging itself on animals?

Marty suddenly comes back into town and decides the werewolf is the Reverend Lester Lowe who now wears and eye patch. Ha I called it! But does the Reverend know?

In November a hunting party has gathered. This chapter is longer and features an amazing drawing of the werewolf eating someone on top of a truck cab.

The Reverend has been getting letters from Marty asking him to kill himself. The Reverend does know that he is the werewolf, though he doesn’t know how it happened. Some nonsense about picking strange flowers from a graveyard.

Ahh, finally the evil wife beater is killed and eaten on top of a truck. It seems like only the foolish or evil get killed in this book. The Reverend decides to discover and silence the kid who is now sending him notes to “Kill himself”.

The last chapter takes place on New Years Eve. Marty and his uncle make two silver bullets. Marty has started signing his letters, luring the Reverend to come for him. And Marty kills the werewolf easily like a trained gunslinger with ice in his veins. He even shoots out the other eye of the werewolf.

In summary, Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf was a good story despite it’s short length. It draws you in at the end and has inspired me to watch Silver Bullet. ┬áIt featured a bit too much predictability and “campiness” like many 80s movies. I give it 3 out of 5 stars. – an anonymous reviewer and author

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