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The first time I encountered Glen Duncan was when I read I, Lucifer. It was one of my favourite books for a very long time. Glen Duncan has a masterful use of language, and that novel was very inspirational for me.
The Last Werewolf is the first book of his I’ve read since I, Lucifer – and I wasn’t disappointed. Full of Duncan’s trademark wit and panache, The Last Werewolf follows Jake Marlowe, the last lycanthrope of the book’s title. Pursued by the World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena, who are hunting down monsters across the world, Marlowe readies himself for a final battle.
Reading the synopsis alone, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is just another monsters-as-anti-heroes novel. But you’d be very wrong. Like the creatures in his novel, The Last Werewolf is full of transformations. The book riffs off pop culture, drawing on the goth-light of urban fantasy and the magical BDSM of paranormal romance, for a smart subversion of franchises like the Twilight saga and The Southern Vampire Mysteries. For instance, like Anne Rice’s ‘moral’ vampires, Marlowe selects his prey carefully, preferring only those society deems less worthy of life: ‘Two nights ago I’d eaten a forty-three-year-old hedge fund specialist. I’ve been in a phase of taking the ones no one wants.’
Duncan is aware of the perversity of ‘young adult’ novels full of mass-murdering monsters and the softcore vampire-sex that features prominently in books targeted at the adult audience. But Duncan is to the genre what Nancy A. Collins was, and what Poppy Z. Brite was, and what – before them all – Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker did. In using, as it does, the format of a diary, there are explicit connections in this book to the origins of the urban fantasy genre: Dracula.
In terms of language, Duncan writes with an easy synthesis of the contemporary and the 19th Century Gothic novel. Though his prose is ripe and often cutting, its subject matter includes plenty of the horror tropes from which the genre arose. In other words, the book is full of sex and violence, and it’s handled beautifully but without losing its – well, bite.
The Last Werewolf is a powerful satire, a meditation on the beastliness of desire, and a moving ode to the magic of the quotidian.