The Last Werewolf – Glen Duncan

There were three reasons for me wanting to read ‘The Last Werewolf’ by Glen Duncan. First was the fact that Marieke Hardy, who I often mention on Savidge Reads, discussed it on The First Tuesday Book Group and said some hilarious, if rather negative, things about it, which of course made me want to read it all the more. There had been a buzz about the book, true, but for some reason that hadn’t put me off. Secondly, I wanted to read it because I have always been rather fascinated by the idea of werewolves. Thirdly, my friend, the lovely Emma Jane Unsworth had read it and couldn’t stop raving about it, she had also gone on and binged on all his books afterwards, a sign she was authorly smitten. So when it came time to choose a book for The Readers Summer Book Club, especially as Gavin is such a genre buff, I thought it would be worth taking a chance on. Would I love it or would I hate it?

Canongate, paperback, 2011, fiction, 346 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Jacob Marlowe, or Jake, is ‘The Last Werewolf’ that the title of Glen Duncan’s latest novel revolves around. At 201 years of age he discovers that he is the very last in the line of his kind, which makes him a werewolf with rather a large sum on his head, as it were (pun slightly intended as werewolves, we soon discover, can only be killed by being beheaded or shot with a silver bullet). Not just from bounty hunters who see him as a conquest, we learn jealous, and incompetent, assassins also want him, as do vampires and not for the reason anyone might guess, in fact it was this twist that made me admire the book all the more. Alas, no spoilers, so really in terms of plot that is all you are going to get. Well almost…

You see one of the most fascinating things for me with ‘The Last Werewolf’ was Jake’s reaction to his impending death. You would imagine that his natural reaction is to go on the run and survive, not in the case of this werewolf. Jake is tired. He has had a few hundred years of killing people once a month, even if he does only try to kill the horrid ones and getting to know people only to outlive them and this of course includes loved ones. There are some superb, and shocking, twists with Jake’s back story and you will literally be finishing one chapter to start the next… but again, no spoilers. I am aware I am teasing you but that’s because you should read the book and I urge you to do so.

If any of you are thinking ‘oh another story with werewolves and vampires’ and rolling your eyes, please don’t. I may admit that I was concerned this would be the case but Glen Duncan is a literary author who turned his hand to vampires (I don’t think he would mind me saying this) because his previous books were getting great reviews but they weren’t turning into sales. The cynical ones of you out there, and was it the other way round I would be, will be thinking ‘oh so it’s a cash cow/wolf’ and rolling your eyes again. Stop, stop because Glen Duncan has managed to create a novel that merges literary and genre and is as far removed from ‘Twilight’ (thank goodness – I can say that I have read three of them) as possible.

I have mentioned that the pace is furious and there are so many plot twists and turns which you won’t see coming, if that wasn’t enough Glen Duncan has another trick up his sleeve. He is a bloody (pun not intended) good writer. The language in this book is masterful. Somehow a gory murder scene will read like sumptuous dinner party, that sounds a bit odd yet I am hoping you understand what I mean. This isn’t just bodies being torn into, there is a beauty in there, the very fact Jake can read their memories as he eats them I found oddly beautiful, heart breaking and downright clever. The language is incredibly graphic, within a few pages I had seen the f-word and c-word more times than I ever have in a book, yet it doesn’t seem to be done for shock. Jake is an animal, this book is animalistic so are the events that unfold and the language used to describe them.

If you haven’t guessed I really, really enjoyed ‘The Last Werewolf’ and will definitely be reading the next in the series if it promises to be as good as this one. Does the sequel have Jake in it? Well, you will have to read this one to find out and again I urge you to. It’s a real adventure story combined with a love story that will have you reading its beautiful prose at a frantic rate. It also has a compelling and complex protagonist who you will be rooting for to survive, even if he himself isn’t. I want to go and try some of Glen Duncan’s back catalogue too, have any of you read any of those? What did you think of ‘The Last Werewolf’ if you have given it a whirl?

As I mentioned above, I read this finally because of The Readers Summer Book Club which it was the first of the selection of. You can hear myself and Gavin interviewing the author and discussing the book with special guests here.


Filed under Canongate Publishing, Glen Duncan, Review, The Readers Summer Book Club

24 responses to “The Last Werewolf – Glen Duncan

  1. naomifrisby

    I’ve been an admirer of Glen Duncan’s work for some years now and I loved ‘The Last Werewolf’. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the sequel over the summer.

    As for previous novels of his, ‘I, Lucifer’ is the one that really grabbed me. The devil comes to earth and lives in Manhattan. It’s fast, furious and filthy!

    • I have to say I am already excited about the sequel, though I think my next read might be one of his lesser known novels. Are they all fast, furious and filthy?

  2. Thanks for this, I’m definitely going to buy it now I read your review. The sequel in the trilogy is also causing a buzz, Talulla Rising and if Ridley Scott has bought the rights to the whole series, then I really need to catch up!

    • Thank you Mark. I had no idea Ridley Scott had bought this series… what on earth doesn’t he buy?

      • I just finished it. Exhilarating! There’s a literary weight to the narrative, which you can really get your teeth into. A philosophical werewolf! And so he should be after two centuries of ‘fuckkilleat’. In part, this is actually a treatise on the reality of being a monster, with a strong noir flavour on a gothic backdrop. Like Stephen King’s Carrie, sympathy is with the monster and murder is made magnificent. Relentless and rewarding. I need his other books now, like Jake needs Quinn’s…

      • Glad you liked it Mark. I thought it was very good indeed. I liked the fact it was really escapism but also brilliantly written, good stuff.

  3. Col

    Just finished this and I really enjoyed it. Having read other comment from Naomi, I think I’ll add ‘I Lucifer’ to my What Next list!

    • Glad you liked it (hope you can muster the energy to write another review at some point after losing the last one you poor guy). I think Gav has read ‘I Lucifer’ and really liked it.

  4. So happy to hear that you enjoyed the Last Werewolf. I’ve been reading Duncan forever.. and while this paranormal-genre-esque novel is a departure from his other, lesser known novels, it still embraces his anti-religion / atheists ponderings. There were so many quoteworthy lines in this book! I highly recommend reading “I, Lucifer” and “Death of an Ordinary Man” and “Weathercock”.. oh hell, read ’em all!!

    • I really enjoyed it. Its interesting that you, like my friend Emma, have said that while its a departure for him its also very much a ‘Duncan book’, after talking to him and him being so lovely (it does matter) I am hoping to be equally smitten with all his books.

  5. I really enjoyed the second book too and am looking forwad to the third. And yes, I am tempted to read his other novels as well:)

    • I think its a really interesting way of getting your books to a whole new audience. It does interest me the fuss made around thismovement with Duncan when Susan Hill and Kate Atkinson have moved into crime and no one bats an eyelid.

      Oh and HUGE thanks for being on the show. Have you listened back to it yet?

      • I’ve just listened to the podcast and really enjoyed it! The interview you and Gav did with Glen Duncan is brilliant and I may have a little crush on him now. And it was certainly interesting to hear my own voice. Looking forward to the other ones!

      • Glad you liked it Sakura and thanks again.

  6. Dot

    Wow, this sounds so good, off to add it to my wish list!

  7. I can’t really remember enough about the book to join in discussion but I was a bit disappointed by it. I like both literary fiction and what some may call “trashy” werewolf books but this didn’t hit either mark. It was all violence and sex and too much of a thriller for me to love it. I quite like the wolf side of werewolves and the whole thing around pack dynamics and animal instincts but felt that lacking as he was just a man that turned into a monster, not a wolf. Passed the time but I won’t be reading the second.

    • Oh no thats a shame Ellie. Was it because you were so keen to read it? Or because (and I think Gavin found this) you liked it on one level but it didn’t match up to both over all?

  8. I’m looking forward to reading Talulla Rising, which I finally got to pick up from the library today. To link in with one of your other recent posts, my impatience to read this is likely to lure me further back into multi-reading (Tideline, Mansfield Park – because I think I should read more classics – and now Talulla Rising). I’d love to know what you think when you get the chance to read it…

    • Amy, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, it was really lovely to have you on, big thanks.

      I have Tallula Rising on the TBR but I am holding off and thinking of having it as a treat for the autumn when the nights are longer and darker, seems more apt maybe?

  9. I just read “The Last Werewolf” yesterday and loved it — until the last few chapters. What a disappointing ending, and such a similarity to the corny “Twilight” series that I was left feeling very betrayed by the author. When he switched narrative voices the story lost all steam, and again — what a dull denouement to such a delicious and brilliantly told tale! I was also left confused about the kind of creature that the werewolf transforms into, which I think is a failure of the book. Duncan does a genius job bringing the inner life and sensory experience of the werewolf alive for the reader, but what the heck kind of werewolf can get into a car? And use its hands to untie rope? Help me see it! Is it down on all fours, is it upright… how lupine is it? I’m dying to know what the author envisioned, and that’s a serious omission.

  10. Oh, I loved The Last Werewolf but so disappointed with Talullah Rising which I was really looking forward to loving. A man’s version of what goes through a woman’s head and sometimes I just felt a bit disgusted reading it. Having said that I will be reading the next one without a doubt

  11. Pingback: Ghostly Tales, Can They Still Scare Us? | Savidge Reads

  12. Shnooksy

    Any recommendations for a book present for a bloke who loves this one and has already read Glens books???

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