Book review: The Wulf by Steve Harris

WulfWulf by Steve Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Going into the back paddock isn’t normally this bad.

Jame “Heater” Healey has only one dream. Buying a new bike. With an abusive father, no money, and a handful of friends with similar small-town struggles, the only thing that makes him feel good is riding. After the latest in a series of beatings, Heater starts to notice strange things happening in his little country town. He and his friend Ember attend the local harvest festival where things take a turn for the weird. From here on in it is all downhill. Can Heater survive the return of the Wulf?

A couple of years ago I decided to revisit the novel The Hoodoo Man, which I read when I was young. It was just as good as I remembered and felt the need to hunt down the rest of Steve Harris’ books. This was no easy task as the late Steve Harris (born 29 September 1954 in Basingstoke, died 4th October 2016) was one of those talented authors who was just becoming established when his career suddenly ended in the late 90s. Between his publishing house being bought out and the rejection of one of his novels for being too horrifying, his books went out of print and are largely forgotten.

The Wulf was Harris’ second novel and has a similar narrative style to many horror novels. We get introduced to the small rural village of West Waltham and its inhabitants. There are abusive parents, cheating partners, semi-famous philanderers, tree-changers, impoverished jerks, and small-town folk. And in true horror novel form, the supernatural elements that seek to destroy this little corner of the world are only really as bad as the easily corrupted inhabitants living normal lives up until now.

Which is why I’m only giving this novel 3 stars. It is fairly good, if too drawn out, horror novel that doesn’t have quite the impact that I’d been expecting. Of course, reading a horror novel in 2020 is like accidentally hitting your thumb with a hammer and then putting your thumb down on an anvil to make sure the hammer really connects cleanly this time.* So horror fans will probably enjoy this earlier Harris novel.

*My wife called this a heavy-handed metaphor. We’re both very punny.

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Book Review: The Hoodoo Man by Steve Harris

The Hoodoo ManThe Hoodoo Man by Steve Harris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Budgie as a weapon? Sure, why not.

Danny Stafford was an ordinary kid until his brother shot him in the face. It was an accident that changed Danny, but it isn’t until his 30s that the change fully takes hold. Now in a stable relationship, renovating a house, and working a dead-end job, Danny’s life is turned upside down. And that’s before the Hoodoo Man starts coming for him.

Back in my formative years, the local librarian introduced me to the adult section of the library after I’d read everything on offer for young adults and kids. This novel, The Hoodoo Man, was the first she pulled off of the shelf for me to try. A brand new horror novel by a UK author. Bit of a leap. But I was hooked. I clearly remember devouring this book, to the point that I missed at least one meal.

Twenty-six years later I wanted to test if my memory of this novel held up. Was The Hoodoo Man as good all these years later, or was I just an impressionable kid who had just discovered his first horror novel? Oh, it stands up alright. It has aged very well and I wasn’t disappointed at all. My immediate response upon finishing was to exclaim “Well, I’m going to have to find more of Steve Harris’ books.”

This is where this story becomes interesting. The Hoodoo Man was Steve’s third novel and it was his most successful, it put him on the map, and became his website’s name. But his career was all but over by the time his seventh novel was released and he retired at the end of the 90s. His career came to an end after his publisher was bought out and he was dumped. He had one completed novel he was shopping around, another in the works, and a third that had originally been intended as his sixth novel but was deemed too terrifying*. Harris’ novels went out of print and after no success in finding a new publisher, he retired from writing and ran to the hills**.

In this day and age, a writer in this situation would probably take their back-catalog and self-publish, then release their new material. Of course, a publisher would be unlikely to let an author go out of print. But it does make me wonder how many authors are in a sense lost to us because of the machinations of the publishing world. I guess they won’t be getting any money from me*** hunting down Harris’ back-catalog in the secondhand stores.

*The Switch was an attempt by Steve to bring the reader as close to feeling actual pain as possible. Back when his website was active I read an excerpt and can confirm that he succeeded. I have never looked at liver the same since.
**This bad reference to Iron Maiden’s bass player of the same name brought to you by the number 666.
***Obviously, Steve won’t be either.
http://www.shadow-writer.co.uk/kinter…

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