(Cycle of the Werewolf)
If I remember the story correctly, Cycle of the Werewolf started out as an idea for a calendar. Each month was to be a werewolf picture and a calendar-sized short story by King. It’s a great idea, but Constant Readers will know that while King might be the master of many things, keeping it short is not one of them. Perhaps inevitably, the stories got too long to go on a calendar page. So, instead, a book happened.
When you read the story, divided into months instead of chapters, you can kind of see how this happened. The first few months are short and could be unconnected vignettes. Before too long, though, you get more connectedness and the vignettes get longer — too long to be properly called vignettes.
It’s simple enough: the town is Tarker’s Mill (you’ll see it again as a sister town to Chester’s Mill, in Under the Dome, as well as in the adaptation of this story called Silver Bullet.) A werewolf is stalking the town. It killed in January, February, March, April, May, and June, all around the time of the full moon. In July, however, the wolf surprises a disabled child, Marty Coslaw, who is attempting to light some fireworks. Marty throws the fireworks into the face of the wolf, destroying one of its eyes. Marty is unharmed, but the wolf escapes.
The rest is fairly predictable. If you believe Marty’s story, there should be a one-eyed man somewhere in town who is responsible for the carnage. There is, as it happens, a one-eyed man in town. But it can’t be him. He’s a man of God — a minister. Only, of course it is him. His guilt is finally proven on the night of New Year’s Eve, when he goes to eliminate the one living witness — Marty — while in wolf form, and is instead shot by a silver bullet — Marty has been lying in wait for him.
I get Scarlet Letter vibes from this story — probably because of the sketch of a guilty priest. It might have been too long for a calendar, but it’s still short by King’s standards — shorter than some of his novellas and technically a novella itself, despite being published as a standalone. I have not seen the film adaptation. (I do keep mixing up the film adaptation Silver Bullet with novella and adaptation of Riding the Bullet, however) I’m not a huge fan of werewolf movies — it’s so hard to make a werewolf appear in any way real and scary. Even good costuming and makeup ends up looking over the top and fake. My imagination will run away with a good story, though.
This is a good story without being too involved. It’s got some or all of the elements of a traditional werewolf story, and Marty Coslaw is a typical Kingian protagonist — young and at a disadvantage, but smarter and more self-possessed than he probably should be. I read a Kindle version, which is fine, but does no favors for the included illustrations. I think that reading a physical book with the illustrations as they were intended to be would probably enhance the reading of this particular story.