The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

28 May, 2012

W.O.W. There’s been a LOT of hype surrounding Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf, a large part of it focussing on how a literary novelist turned his pen to writing a commercially viable and on-trend novel about werewolves, an intellectual experiment mimicking the Twilight and YA craze sweeping the literary world at the moment. Since I don’t necessarily subscribe to the school of turning my nose up at genre fiction, I have to admit I get slightly put off by this issue. Sometimes genre fiction can get to the heart of what makes us human without getting bogged down in the minutiae of daily life. But I came upon this at my local library and, so of course, who am I to say nay to a book about the last werewolf? I’ve been devouring werewolf and vampire books forever and have to admit I have a sneaky preference for the wolf.

But hat’s off to Glen Duncan who has written a tense, blind-siding thriller that is all angst, meta and is intellectually interesting in a post-modern kind of way. Jacob Marlowe (and what a name!) is tired of living, chain smokes, drinks like a fish and likes to have sex with call girls. He’s eschewed love after realising that there is nothing more delicious than devouring it. When he learns that WOCOP (World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena), a sinister, FBI-ish body (reminiscent of Anne Rice’s Talamasca but with guns) has killed the last but one werewolf and that Eric Grainer is after his ass in revenge for his father’s death, Jake is ready for it. Even though Harley, his long-time friend and facilitator is heartbroken, Jake is ready to die. WOCOP are after him, the vampires are after him and Jake is done running. That is, until things take several shocking turns and he finds a reason to live.

That’s all I’m going to tell you, but you really need to read this book. Even if you don’t like all this werewolf business, it’s a thrilling read. And if you do, there’s none of that sappy tweeny romance thing going on. It’s visceral, full-bodied and er… bloody. And very smart.

And you can’t help warming up to Jake Marlowe, a chain-smoking, hard drinking, very sexual and noir werewolf who balances his appetites with behind-the-scene philanthropic gestures possible via his gargantuan fortune siphoned away in secure Swiss bank accounts.

One thing that always strikes me, however, with novels (genre and literary) where the protagonist is male and the author is also male is the predominant use of prostitutes whenever the issue of sex arises. I’m still waiting to read a book by a man where men don’t need to turn to prossies, or if they do, at least have female characters that turn to male prossies to balance things out. Why is it ex-boyfriends for the girls if they want to get laid without strings? That still makes me think Steven Erikson is a hell of a writer since he does it so effortlessly.

I enjoyed this immensely and am looking forward to the sequel, Tallula Rising, which has just been published. Really. It’s been a long while since I’ve read such a good book about werewolves. I may even want to try his other more literary novels.

Do also check out the podcast at The Readers where Simon S and Gavin interview Glen Duncan and discuss The Last Werewolf with some readers including moi.

14 Responses to “The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan”

  1. Been waiting to read a review to see how this one worked out, sounds like it did, great review – must pop over and listen to you and the guys at The Readers discussing it, bound to be a bit of a laugh at the same time – or do they get a bit more serious when there are guests involved?

  2. Teresa Says:

    I share your preference for the wolf over the vampire. I blame Joss Whedon for making Oz, the werewolf on Buffy, so amazing. I’m now watching Being Human and prefer the wolf to the vamp there too. Perhaps I should read this book and see if the preference holds true!

    • sakura Says:

      Do! Although it’s very shocking in parts and certainly will put you off wanting to become a werewolf yourself, the existential crisis Jake Marlowe faces is done well.

  3. Chris Says:

    “Sometimes genre fiction can get to the heart of what makes us human without getting bogged down in the minutiae of daily life.”

    That’s a great insight and it’s why I enjoy genre fiction. This sounds like a great read.

  4. aartichapati Says:

    I totally agree with what you say about about genre fiction- this is why I HATE when people act as though reading in genres instead of reading “literary fiction” (whatever that is, since all sorts of “literary” authors put interesting magical/romantic/scientific aspects into their writing) is some sort of dumbed-down reading state. I am not into paranormal, but I’ll look into this one!

    • sakura Says:

      I hope you do, although I have to warn you that it’s pretty shocking in parts (language, violence and sex galore!) I’d be very interested in seeing what you think! And do listen to Glen Duncan’s interview on The Readers which is brilliant too.

  5. Caroline Says:

    I’ve been waiting for a review of this as well. It sounds like a book I would really like.
    I haven’t thought about the male author – prostitute sex connection but I’ll pay attention from now on. Great review.

  6. You make this sound just like something I wish I was reading right now! A really insightful review.

  7. Nish Says:

    I read and enjoy both genre and literary fiction and this book sounds just like my style. Thanks for the great review.

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