Wolf At The Door by Theresa Derwin (book review)

June 23, 2017 | By | Reply More

Modern writers of horror have a difficult problem. Gone are the days of sitting around a real fire in a room lit by candlelight, with the wind howling outside and rats scratching in the walls. It is made harder by the authors who have taken the tradition scary monster such as the werewolf and vampire and turned them into cuddly, misunderstood creatures. Not only does the present day horror writer have to repossess some of the things which scare but to find new ways to send that frisson of fear racing up the spine. In ‘Wolf At The Door’, Theresa Derwin has tried to do that in these ten short stories.

As might be expected from the title, ‘Wolf At The Door’ involves werewolves. Sam is a werewolf who hasn’t actually ‘changed’. He was infected while working for a facility that captures rogue super-naturals like vampires and werewolves. He is attracted to his councillor, Lesley, who is not what she seems. She tells him things about the research going on in the centre and, together, they decide to put a stop to it. This is a romance that contains familiar tropes.

Anyone who knows Theresa Derwin will be aware that she has a ‘thing’ about zombies, so it is not surprising to find several in this volume. ‘Dirigible Of The Dead’ has a steampunk setting. The narrator and her small son are travelling from London to Birmingham by dirigible when passengers in economy class begin eating each other.

‘Ring And Rage’ is a more contemporary story. For those who know the Ring and Ride system, it is ideal for those who cannot use other means of transport to get to places like the supermarket. The disabled narrator is joined by a group from a sheltered housing complex. At the supermarket, they start turning into zombies. Here, there is a rationale for the change.

In the former story, it goes unexplained. ‘Abuse Of The Dead’ is a different take on zombies. Here, they are not flesh-eating monsters but dead members of the community with similar rights to the living. Some, though, treat them as slaves or in the same way children were exploited in earlier eras. In this story, the narrator is a crusader for the betterment of the dead, working to expose those who would abuse them for whatever reason.

There is a very thin line between a supernatural experience and being mentally ill. In ‘Muse’, it is left for the reader’s judgement as to whether Mark is actually being guided by a supernatural being or it is a case that he has stopped taking his medication.

‘Pound Of Flesh’ has the same kind of tone. This time it is a question of body image and the narrator is seeing how she would look if she carries out the self-mutilation that seems very logical to her. Whichever way it is read, both of these stories lead to the protagonist carrying out acts that a sane person would not contemplate.

Ghosts that appear in supernatural fiction can take many forms. Some are benign, some deadly. They have a purpose such as revenge or may have lost their way to the next world. In ‘The Things I See’, the narrator sees the ghosts of murdered children. She always has but has found that no-one believes her. They show themselves to her because she nearly became a victim like them and they are trying to get a message across through her.

Of these and the three other stories in this volume, ‘Pound Of Flesh’ is the one that is the most satisfactory. Derwin has excellent ideas but, in most cases, the stories are too short, needing a longer treatment to explore the idea more fully. As it is, the short scenes in several cases make the storyline muddled. The other problem with this book is that the layout makes it frustrating to read with mostly no indents to paragraphs. What makes it worse is that some stories start off being laid out conventionally, only to slip back into the annoying pattern. This is easy to spot if the final copy is checked. It spoils the appearance of the book and I know this publisher can do better.

Pauline Morgan

June 2017

(pub: Quantum Corsets, Birmingham, UK. 103 page paperback. Price: £ 4.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-5304686-6-9)

Category: Books, Horror

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