Werewolves: Horror or Paranormal?

So, moving on toward Halloween, seems like a good time to pose one of the important questions about monsters: Which is the best werewolf? The werewolf we see in the horror genre? Or the werewolf we see in paranormal/UF?

Or, wait, the werewolf in a spy thriller?

1. The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon: Michael Gallatin is a master spy during World War II. He also happens to be a werewolf. He comes out of retirement for one last mission: to stop a secret Nazi operation called Iron Fist.


2. City Under the Moon by Hugh Sterbakov: “Bioweapon catastrophes, government conspiracies, military sieges, historical revelations, psychological warfare and werewolves. You want more thrill from a thriller?” On New Year’s Eve in Manhattan, a werewolf attack sparks an epidemic. Each night the victims multiply.

So, see, the first isn’t really horror, certainly not paranormal, it’s smack dab in the spy thriller genre. Not many werewolves in spy thrillers or detective novels or murder mysteries . . . are there? If you know of a good one, point it out, because it’s a trope that appeals to me. I can think of more vampires in this subsubgenre than werewolves. Anyway: McCammon’s book is certainly a werewolf classic.

The second title looks like a thriller, too — I haven’t read it, but it sounds like it fits in the thriller genre at least as much as the horror genre. Almost more like a zombie novel, really, with a plague of werewolves unleashed in Manhattan. The werewolves are both victims and menace, but the real bad guy is evidently the guy who unleashed the plague. Sounds like a pretty keen idea for a story.

Moving on:

3. The Wolfen by Whitley Streiber: The savage killing of two New York City policemen leads two detectives, a man and a woman bound together by a strange, tough passion, to hunt down the wolfen, called werewolves in former days.

4. The Howling by Gary Brandner: Karyn and her husband Roy came to the peaceful California village of Drago to escape the savagery of the city. On the surface, Drago appears to be like most small rural towns. But it is not.


5. The Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King: When the moon grows fat, a paralyzing fear sweeps through Tarker Mills. For snarls that sound like human words can be heard whining through the wind.

Here we have the horror werewolves. You get normal people trying to survive when they’re surrounded by monsters. The good guys are human and threatened, the werewolves are the bad guys and not the least bit sexy, the stories are horror stories using horror tropes, atmosphere, and plotting. These . . . are not really my thing. I didn’t ever pick up werewolf books until I suddenly found I was on a panel about werewolves at a convention some years ago, and then I read quite a few werewolf stories in a row, including a couple of the classic horror titles. Not the Stephen King one, though; I didn’t know about that one at the time.

And what I found out via this exercise was: I don’t really like horror werewolves. This is not a surprise, because honestly I am not too keen on horror generally. I have liked some Stephen King, but I prefer Dean Koontz, simply because with the latter you can be sure that your favorite characters will survive. He writes horror-light, so to speak, and I prefer that.

But what I also found out was that I greatly prefer the paranormal/UF werewolves, such as:

6. Moon Called by Patricia Briggs: Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson is a talented Volkswagen mechanic living in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. She also happens to be a walker, a magical being with the power to shift into a coyote at will. Mercy’s next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she’s fixing a bus for a vampire.


7. Bitten by Kelly Armstrong: Elena Michaels is the world’s only female werewolf. And she’s tired of it. Tired of a life spent hiding and protecting, a life where her most important job is hunting down rogue werewolves.

Not my favorite series, but some of my favorite wolves. When Armstrong’s werewolves shift to their wolf form, they behave very much like real wolves rather than like the far-too-aggressive wolves or just-straight-up monsters of some writers

8. Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks: Lily Yu is a San Diego police detective investigating a series of grisly murders that appear to be the work of a werewolf. To hunt down the killer, she must infiltrate the clans. Only one man can help her–a were named Rule Turner, a prince of the lupi.

I like some things about this series, but the insta-love compulsion thing is a hard sell for me and I’ve only read the first couple books. Still, lots of people love this series, so eventually I may go on with it.

Now, for something a bit different: neither horror nor SF (nor spy novel), we have —

9. Howling Mad by Peter David: Well, New Yorkers have seen their share of lunatics. But are they ready for a wild and weird man-wolf named Joshua who’s never heard of fastfood, cable TV, or that many-splendored thing called “dating?”

This one sounds like such a neat idea: a werewolf bites a wolf, who then turns into a man during the full moon. You may recall that Ilona Andrews did the same thing, but with a bouda (hyena), and in the backstory, not the actual story. Anyway, this one is very much a concept novel, meant to be lightly funny, I gather (I haven’t read it). Such a snazzy concept.

And, of course . . .

10. Black Dog


You saw that coming, didn’t you?

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7 thoughts on “Werewolves: Horror or Paranormal?”

  1. Ilona Andrews also has sci fi werewolves – in her Innkeeper serials they’re an alien race (as are vampires). Wen Spencer has a sort of alien werewolf thing in her Ukiah Oregon series (no shape shifting, but a mix of human, alien, and wolf dna).

  2. Have you ever read Benighted by Kit Whitfield? That was a really fascinating werewolf novel. Basically, people who aren’t werewolves are the minority. It’s mostly a mystery, if I remember correctly, but also then explores the minority experience too.

  3. Benighted does sound like an interesting twist! And Whitfield’s book In Deep Waters was impressive.

    And yes, I had forgotten the SF-ish werewolves in Ilona Andrews’ newer series. I liked the first introductory story in that series. Hmm, no, checking on it, I guess the second book isn’t out yet.

  4. My husband just acquired a book featuring nanotech werewolves, PACK DYNAMICS by Julie Frost. And I’ve recently read RANDOM by Alma Alexander where there are lots of weres, both fullmoon and new moon variety, and the randoms become whatever they’re looking at when the change first happens. Others are always wolves or birds or whatever. Our POV character is a random who turned unexpectedly and was really looking at the wrong living being. Also deals with being an immigrant, the only one born to the new country and family strains due to being were, immigrants etc. First of a trilogy and I really ought to get the others.

    I like the sort of rationally explained ones.
    BLACK DOG doesn’t in story hammer on the rationality but it is there in the underpinnnings. Like it.

    I avoid horror, so I can’t opine on horror werewolves.

  5. Rachel, the second one isn’t out yet as a published volume, but they put it up on their website a chapter at a time as they wrote it. It has a crossover with their Edge series.

    Also, I thought of another strange version of werewolves – the ones from Jackson Pearce’s fairy tale series. The first one is based on red riding hood, which is a natural enough fit, but the later books are the little mermaid and the snow queen, which seemed like more of a stretch & introduced a lot of complications to her werewolf mythology.

  6. M.L.N Hanover (men have to pick ambiguous pennames for UF) does an excellent job in the genre. Even if you don’t like the more brutal stuff he does under a different name.

  7. MLN Hanover = Daniel Abraham, I see, having looked up the name. Wow, Abraham writes everything, doesn’t he? Impressive range, for sure.

    SarahZ, ah, well, I’ll just wait for the second one to come out for real. No rush. I kind of like the idea of blending it in with the Edge series. I think. As long as the world doesn’t get too cluttered.

    Elaine, for some reason I’m not as keen on the types of shifters where you can shift to any animal. RANDOM sounds pretty good, though, what with pulling in themes dealing with immigration and so on. Also, now I’m curious about what kind of animal the protagonist was looking at. An arthropod? A fish? (Talk about unfortunate; a fish would be amazingly inconvenient, wouldn’t it?)

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