Cycle of the Werewolf

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Cycle of the Werewolf
Cycleking.jpeg
First edition cover
Author Stephen King
Illustrator Bernie Wrightson
Country USA
Language English
Genre Gothic, Horror
Publisher Land of Enchantment
Publication date
November 1983
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 127
ISBN 978-0-9603828-2-8

Cycle of the Werewolf is a short horror novel by Stephen King, featuring illustrations by comic book artist Bernie Wrightson. Each chapter is a short story unto itself. It tells the story of a werewolf haunting a small town as the moon turns full once every month. It was published as a limited edition hardcover in 1983 by Land of Enchantment, and in 1985 as a mass-market trade paperback by Signet.

The book is dedicated to the author Davis Grubb: "In memory of Davis Grubb, and all the voices of Glory."

Characters[edit]

The Coslaw Family

  • Marty Coslaw: A ten-year-old paraplegic who serves as the novella’s protagonist. He hears the werewolf howling in March and is attacked by the Beast in July, where he blinds it in one eye with a package of Black Cat firecrackers. He discovers the identity of the creature to be Reverend Lester Lowe in October and kills him with a silver bullet in December.
  • Nan Coslaw: Marty’s mother who tries to treat him as if he were no different than any other ten-year-old boy.
  • Herman Coslaw: Marty’s father who treats him more like a dog than a person, speaking to him in a patronizing voice (called the Big Pal voice by Marty) and worries about his son’s disability. He is the coach at Tarker’s Mills High School.
  • Kate Coslaw: Marty’s 14-year-old sister who seems jealous of him throughout much of the novella.
  • Grandpa Coslaw: Marty’s paternal grandfather who lives with the family. Marty has a good relationship with his Grandfather, who is described as being the typical grandfather. He is noted for being a heavy sleeper.
  • Uncle Al: Marty’s wild-living maternal Uncle who always seems to be in the doghouse with his sister. Al treats Marty better than anyone else in the story, and buys him the fireworks Marty uses to blind the werewolf in one eye after the Fourth of July fireworks are cancelled. He also supplies Marty with the silver bullets and the gun he uses to kill the beast in December.

The Werewolf

  • Reverend Lester Lowe: Reverend Lowe is first mentioned in the story in April preaching a sermon about the coming of Spring. In May, he has a dream in which his entire congregation – and then himself – transform into werewolves – before he awakens. The next morning he finds Clyde Corliss, a custodian, dead on the pulpit in his church. He is seen as a pillar of the community and has been viewed that way for years, coming to call Tarker’s Mills home.

In November, he acknowledges that he is the werewolf and decides that he cannot risk going out in the woods, as he could be killed by the group of vigilantes who had taken to the woods that month. Lowe comes to realize that he is the werewolf after having awaken with fresh blood on his finger nails and (to his horror) mouth. He also discovers clothes that are missing and sometimes finds scratches and bruises which appear to have come from running through the woods. The dream in May serves as a further omen to his curse, but he doesn’t fully realize his curse until July 5, when he awakens with his left eye blasted out. After Halloween, he began getting anonymous letters from someone who knows his secret, suspecting that it is the person whom he attacked in July and failed to kill; the person who blasted his left eye out.

He hasn’t been a werewolf his entire life, and he hasn’t been a werewolf since he arrived in Tarker’s Mills. In fact, he has no idea about how he became a werewolf, but he suspects that it has something to do with some flowers he picked at a cemetery on Sunshine Hill months prior to his first transformation. He went to put them in vases at the church vestry but they turned black and died before he could finish the relatively quick job. He has no reason to pinpoint this event as the beginning of his curse, but he believes that this was the beginning of the events. As the werewolf, he serves as the primary antagonist of the novella.

To avoid the vigilantes, he travels to Portland where he kills Tarker’s Mills resident Milt Sturmfuller outside a cheap motel. After returning home he decides to find out who he attacked in July, and kill that person. Marty eventually signs his name to the last letter he sends in December, shortly before the next full moon. Lowe is killed by Marty on New Year’s Eve.

The Victims

  • Arnie Westrum: Arnie is a railroad employee killed sometime in the wee hours of the morning on New Year’s Day in January. He was snowbound in a blizzard after trying to clear snowdrifts off the tracks which had blocked the trains. Westrum manages to hit the werewolf with a pick axe once before it kills him.
  • Stella Randolph: Stella is a virginal seamstress whose business is beginning to fail. On Valentine’s Day in February, she sends herself cards from 1980s heartthrobs and longs for a lover. She sees the werewolf watching her from outside her window and lets it in, believing she is dreaming. The werewolf pounces on her and kills her in her bed.
  • The Drifter: A drifter killed on St. Patrick’s Day in March. He is found by an employee of the Electric and Gas Company while searching for downed lines. His body is surrounded by wolf prints.
  • Clyde Corliss: Corliss is found dead in the Grace Baptist Church by Reverend Lowe on Homecoming Sunday in May. He had done janitorial work at the church since the late 1970s.
  • Alfie Knopfler: Knopfler is the owner of the Chat ‘n’ Chew, the town’s only diner. He is killed after High School Graduation in June in his diner. He sees the werewolf (later revealed to be Reverend Lowe) transform in front of him before he’s killed.
  • Constable Lander Neary: Neary is the town Constable and is frustrated by his inability to solve the case and by his patronizing treatment by the Maine State Police. Neary reveals that Marty was sent to live with relatives in Stowe, Vermont after his attack in July. The Troopers do not let Neary interview Marty, but allow him to have a copy of the deposition Marty gave to them. In it, Marty describes the werewolf in vivid detail, which both the Troopers and Neary ignore, including the fact that the werewolf is now missing his or her left eye in human form. Had they not ignored this fact, they could have apprehended Lowe immediately. Both Neary and the Troopers believe Marty is suffering from extreme post traumatic stress syndrome and that the werewolf is a manifestation by Marty’s psyche as a mental block to the trauma. Neary is killed in August while drinking in his parked truck.
  • Elmer Zinneman's pigs: Zinneman is a pig farmer who has his entire pen of pigs killed by the werewolf but who manages to avoid being killed himself on Labor Day in September. He sees something indeterminate running into the woods after his last pig dies, but he cannot say who or what it is that he saw. The next day he discusses the carnage with his brother Pete from two counties away. Pete tells Elmer that he knows that a werewolf is killing in Tarker’s Mills, citing the unusual tracks in the mud as evidence. The two decide to begin hunting for the Beast in November.
  • Milt Sturmfuller: Sturmfuller is the town librarian who is shown to beat his wife in March and again in October. He begins an affair in November and starts staying at a hotel in Portland. He is ironically killed by the werewolf while at the hotel in Portland.

Synopsis[edit]

1985 paperback cover

The story is set in the fictional town of Tarker's Mills, Maine. A werewolf is viciously killing people and animals and strange incidents take place at each full moon. The otherwise normal town is living in fear. The protagonist of the story is Marty Coslaw, a ten-year-old boy in a wheelchair. The story goes back and forth from the terrifying incidents to Marty's youthful day-to-day life and how the horror affects him.

The first victim is Arnie Westrum, who is murdered in a tool-shack during a blizzard when the full moon comes in January, shortly after midnight on New Year's Day. Although the police admit that they are looking for a serial killer later on in the novel, and the killer is dubbed "The Full Moon Killer", Arnie Westrum immediately identifies the killer in his mind as being "the biggest wolf he has ever seen."

The next victim is Stella Randolph, a depressed, unmarried, and impoverished seamstress, who is killed on St. Valentine's Day in February, after she has sent several Valentine's Day cards to herself from 1980s hearthrobs such as John Travolta and Ace Frehley. Believing she is dreaming, Stella sees the wolf watching her, delusively convinces herself that it is a man, and lets it into her house through the window. Stella is the only victim who seems to accept her fate, failing to so much as ward off the beast.

The next victim is an unknown homeless drifter killed in March. During an intense blizzard, virtually the entire town loses its power. While several members of the town are unable to sleep during the power outage, they hear a wolf howling. Several prominent members of the story hear the howling, including Marty and Town Constable Lander Neary. Although no one can say exactly where the howling originated from, it is at this point that the rumors of a werewolf begin to spread through the town. The drifter is found by an employee of the electric and gas company sent to repair the power lines. Wolf prints are found frozen in the snow around the body. This is the first discovered evidence of a non-human killer.

As April arrives, so does Spring, and while children celebrate the warmer weather as normal, the presence of a killer has engulfed the town in terror. On April Fool's Day, 11-year-old Brady Kincaid is flying a new kite given to him as a birthday present. Having realized that he has stayed out too late, he starts to prepare to leave. Upon doing this, Brady tells himself he has to hurry home in order to avoid a beating from his father, but in reality he is afraid of seeing the werewolf. Before he can leave, his fears are realized. He is found the next day in the park by a volunteer search party, only feet away from where other children had reported him playing, decapitated and disemboweled.

The May full moon comes on Tarker's Mills' Homecoming weekend. The chapter begins with Baptist Reverend Lester Lowe awaking from a dream and half-expecting to see a werewolf outside of his church. Lowe had dreamed that he was giving his sermon in front of a packed congregation, not unusual on Homecoming Sunday according to Lowe, and he was preaching the sermon of his life, in contrast to his usually drab homilies. As Lowe continued to preach, speaking about the presence of the Beast, the congregation began to transform, although Lowe did not cease preaching. Eventually, Lowe began to transform himself. At this point, he realizes that he has been dreaming. The next day, Sunday, Lowe finds Clyde Corliss, a janitor at the church, gutted on the pulpit, and realizes, to his horror, that something is wrong with him (though he is not absolutely certain yet that he is the wolf).

In June, Alfie Knopfler, owner of the Chat n' Chew, a diner, is considering closing early, as it is near high school graduation, and he has no customers, when a customer enters and orders coffee. The customer is left unidentified, except to say that he is a regular, only out late. As Alfie surmises that he looks sick and probably will not stay long, the customer transforms before his eyes. Alfie compares it to the transformation scenes in The Incredible Hulk television series, and can hear change rattling in clothes pockets when the werewolf moves around, as his clothes have not been completely removed. Alfie, a Navy veteran, puts up somewhat of a struggle, but is killed relatively easily. Dying while looking at the moonlight through the window.

In July, the town's Independence Day fireworks have been canceled. This is very upsetting to Marty, who has been looking forward to them all year. Because he feels bad for him, Marty's Uncle Al brings him fireworks, warning Marty to set them off really late so that his mother will not find out. While Marty is outside enjoying his own private Independence Day celebration, the werewolf attacks the boy, who manages to put out the monster's left eye with a package of black cat firecrackers. The werewolf escapes and Marty's parents call the police.

In August, Constable Neary is getting his hair cut at the barber shop and is discussing the killer with the other patrons of the barber shop. It is revealed here that Marty has described the killer as a werewolf, not a person, and that he had been sent to live with relatives in Stowe, Vermont for the remainder of the summer, as the Maine State Police are fearful that the killer may return to kill Marty, and that Marty will recover better from the shock if he is away from Tarker's Mills. It is because of this "shock" that both Neary and the State Police have surmised that Marty, who had seen the killer, is suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, and having heard the stories of a werewolf at school, had juxtaposed the image of a wolf and the human killer together. The police also ignore the fact that Marty claims the killer is now missing his left eye. While one of the patrons of the barber shop suggests that the killer wears a costume, Neary dismisses it, saying the killer is purely human, and may be completely insane, possibly not even aware that he has committed the murders. Later that night, Neary is attacked in his truck by the werewolf. Remembering the discussion about a werewolf costume, Neary attempts to pull a mask off of the killer, realizing too late that no mask exists. The werewolf then kills him in a rather playful manner (pulling off the skin of his face, as though it were a mask) and feeds upon his remains.

In September, Elmer Zinneman hears his entire pen of pigs being attacked. While initially planning to shoot at a natural predator, Elmer abandons these plans when he hears a wolf howl. Later on Elmer goes outside to see something huge and black running into the woods. Elmer's brother Pete comes over later that day and the men discuss how much of the loss will be covered by insurance. Pete mentions the wolf track evident in the mud, and notes that even he knows that those tracks belong to a werewolf, and he lives two counties away. Later on, both Elmer and Pete discuss going hunting for the werewolf, but not until November, saying that until then, people will have to be careful during the light of the full moon.

October comes and so does Halloween. To celebrate, Marty goes trick-or-treating, but although he is ostensibly just trick-or-treating, he is also looking for a man or a woman missing his or her left eye. While out, he sees the Reverend Lowe wearing an eyepatch (Lowe and Marty had not seen each other since their encounter on the Fourth of July, as Marty and his family are devout Catholics, and do not attend the Baptist church where Reverend Lowe presides).

In November, Elmer and Pete Zinneman, along with dozens of others, begin going into the woods everyday, waiting to shoot the werewolf. Although the hunters do not carry silver bullets, and hunt on days when the moon is not full, it is suggested that they are not looking for a mythological creature, but rather some sort of cryptid. Also, it is acknowledged that most of the hunters are hunting for fun, in order to be away from their wives, urinate outdoors, and tell jokes which include racial and ethnic slurs. Reverend Lowe, realizing he may kill another innocent victim, or be discovered himself, has been receiving anonymous, threatening letters from Marty. He plans to listen to gossip, for the first time in his life, so that he may silence the person attacked in July (Marty); this person scares him much more than the hunters, since they know his habits as a man as well as a wolf. However, in order to avoid the hunters, Lowe decides to travel to Portland, Maine and check into a motel. At this point, Lowe, who had at first been reluctant about his curse, which he has no idea how he contracted, has more or less gone insane, and though not actually embracing his curse, acknowledged that all things serve the will of God. Ironically, after traveling to Portland, Lowe kills Milt Sturmfuller, a resident of Tarker's Mills, who is known as a notorious wife-batterer. Sturmfuller has been systematically traveling to Portland to cheat on his wife. After one night in Portland, he contracts genital herpes, when he returns home, maritally rapes his wife, and passes the disease onto her. While walking from his motel room, which is the room adjacent to the one that Lowe has purchased, Sturmfuller is decapitated by the werewolf. Lowe returns to Tarker's Mills feeling more confident, feeling that the death of a cruel man like Sturmfuller is proof that he still does God's will, and resolves to kill his tormentor, whom he suspects is a child due to the handwriting (though he did not see Marty's face on Halloween due to his Yoda mask).

By December, the town of Tarker's Mills is beginning to return to normal, as there has not been a known murder by the Full Moon Killer since Neary in August. However, some residents, such as Elmer Zinneman, point out that his pigs, and the four deer found slaughtered in the woods in October, could have been killed by the werewolf (Sturmfuller's death goes virtually unnoticed as he is far from a model citizen, and he is not linked to the Tarker's Mills murders as he is murdered in Portland). Marty continues to send Lowe anonymous letters asking why he does not kill himself and end the terror. In December, he sends the last letter - signed with his name. Unbeknownst to Reverend Lowe, Marty has convinced his somewhat reluctant uncle to have two silver bullets made and to come spend New Year's Eve (which falls on the full moon) with him. Right before midnight, the werewolf breaks into the house to kill Marty, who shoots him twice with the silver bullets, managing to completely blind and finally kill him. The Cycle of the Werewolf ends almost exactly a year after it began.

Background[edit]

The novella started out as a calendar by Zavista with illustrations by renowned comic book artist Bernie Wrightson. Each month would feature a drawing by Wrightson complete with a short vignette by King. King found the size of the vignettes, which were both small and extremely limited, to be a problem. King proceeded with a short novel and had it published by Land of Enchantment in 1983, complete with Wrightson’s illustrations.[1]

Film adaptation[edit]

The novel was adapted into a film, Silver Bullet, in 1985, starring Corey Haim as Marty, Everett McGill as Reverend Lowe, Gary Busey as Marty’s Uncle, Megan Follows as Marty’s sister, Terry O'Quinn as the local sheriff, Kent Broadhurst as Brady's father, and James Gammon as Arnie Westrum. It received mixed reviews and was a bomb at the domestic box office, though it was more successful internationally.

References[edit]

  1. ^ HorrorKing.com

External links[edit]