I wrote this article for Mystery Scene Magazine in December of 1991. It
gives some insight into the writing of Moon of the Werewolf and how I
came up with the idea my novel of Irish werewolves dwelling in
WRITING MOON OF THE WEREWOLF
By Ronald Kelly
So, you might be asking, "Why another werewolf book?"
And, in my customary Southern drawl, I reckon I'd answer you with a plain and
"Why the hell not?"
Oh, I know what you must be saying. The legend of the bestial
lycanthrope has been done - and overdone - countless times before;
almost as much as the ever-popular vampire. Let's see, the movies have
given us Lon Chaney Jr. as the infamous Wolfman and Oliver Reed as the
Werewolf of London, as well as fright films like The Howling and
American Werewolf in London. (My personal favorite is Neil Jordan's
mystical The Company of Wolves.) As for published works of fiction, the
horror genre has also seen its fair share of werewolf novels, most
noteworthy being Strieber's The Wolfen, McCammon's The Wolf's
Hour, Somtow's Moon Dance, and King's Cycle of the Werewolf.
So, out of all the supernatural themes that horror has given us over the
years, why did I choose the werewolf as the basis of my fourth novel?
And, having done that, why do I think that my book is a cut above other,
less memorable novels about those cursed beings who sprout hair and
fangs, and feast on human flesh beneath the glow of the full moon?
Well, to answer the first question; the choice was inevitable. I've
always been a big fan of werewolves, both in movies and literature. Next
to the Creature of the Black Lagoon, the Wolfman was always my favorite
of Universal's movie monsters. Since I first began to write horror, I've
had a compelling desire to pen my own werewolf novel. As far as themes
go, my first three novels were all pretty unconventional, so I figured
that I'd try my hand at something more familiar and explore the werewolf
legend. In regards as to whether of not my book can hold its own with
similar works out there on the book racks, I reckon only time will tell.
But in my own opinion, I honestly believe that it can.
Moon of the Werewolf (which was initially called Undertaker's
Moon before Zebra decided that the title wasn't quite generic
enough) deals with a pack of lycanthropes who live beneath the
protective guise of morticians in order to survive in a modern world
without leaving a trail of conspicuous victims behind them. When I first
decided to write the book, I asked myself, "If I were a werewolf in
the twentieth century and I didn't want to get caught, what could I do
to feed myself?" The profession of funeral director and undertaker
seemed to be the logical choice. Then you could secretly avoid embalming
the bodies brought to you and, when the full moon came into cycle, you
could covertly dig up the body, strip it clean of flesh and organs, then
rebury it with no one being the wiser. Pretty appetizing, huh? Of
course, the days of hot meals would be a thing of the past.
You'd either have to develop a taste for cold cuts or risk the
likelihood of ending up with a silver bullet in the old brain-pan.
After working out the undertaker angle, I decided to make my werewolves
refugees from the Emerald Isle. That really wasn't very unusual in
itself. My own family originated from the bonnie land of County Mayo,
and I've been a student of Irish history and folklore since I was a
teenager. The sinister head of the werewolves, Squire Crom McManus, and
his confederates, mortician Patrick O'Shea and his family gave me an
opportunity to inject a bit of Old World flavor into the storyline. It
also gave me a chance to invent my own Irish legend in the form of
McManus the Beast, a fourteenth century tyrant the equal of Vlad the
Impaler, who terrorized sweet Erin with an army of bestial followers
until they made the fatal mistake of slaughtering the occupants of a
Gaelic convent. A single monk survived the attack and, over the
centuries, pursues McManus, eventually driving him and his new recruits
from Ireland to the shores of the New World.
Thirdly, I had to decide where in the United States those Irish
lycanthropes could set up shop and practice their secret methods of
survival. Anyone familiar with my past work would know that it didn't
take me very long to make that decision; I set the story in a small
Southern town located in central Tennessee. The community of Old Hickory
is a fictional composite of several different rural towns that I lived
in and grew up around. The picturesque town with its brick courthouse,
twin rows of small businesses along its main street, and friendly - if
slightly nosey - citizens seemed like a suitable backdrop for the secret
depravity and bestial appetite that McManus and the O'Sheas bring with
them. The main characters of the novel were also based in part on folks
I've crossed paths with over the years. Brian, the school nerd, Jake,
the football star down on his luck, and Joyce, the lady publisher of the
town paper, all come to the disturbing realization of what the Irish
family really is and what they're up to. And the owner of the local gun
shop, Burt Dawson, finds out in the worst way possible; the body of his
recently deceased wife is exhumed and turned into a midnight snack by
McManus and the others.
Like I said before, whether the combination of all three of these
elements provides a unique and enjoyable read, well, I'll let my readers
be the judge of that. Hopefully my instincts will have proven right and
those who choose to spend some time between the covers of Moon of the
Werewolf will discover that there are still quite a few surprises and a
helluva lot a of life left in the ancient legend of the werewolf.
This article appeared in MYSTERY SCENE #32 in December 1991.