Book Review: Werewolf Cop by Andrew Klavan

Guys, I read the craziest book over the past couple weeks, and I just had to tell you about it.

It’s Werewolf Cop, by Andrew Klavan, and if the title alone doesn’t make you want to read it, I don’t know what to tell you.

Werewolf Cop

 

From Amazon’s description:

Zach Adams is one of the best detectives in the country. Nicknamed Cowboy, he’s a soft-spoken homicide detective known for his integrity and courage under fire. He serves on a federal task force that has a single mission: to hunt down Dominic Abend, a European gangster who has taken over the American underworld.

In a centuries-old forest under a full moon, a beast assaults Zach, cursing him forever. In the aftermath, he is transformed into something horrible—something deadly.

Now, the good cop has innocent blood on his hands. He has killed—and will kill again—in the form of a beast who can’t be controlled or stopped. Before he can free himself, he’s going to have to solve the greatest mystery of all: How can you defeat evil when the evil is inside you?

This isn’t the type of book I typically read. Crime novels aren’t really my thing, and I generally steer clear of anything horror-related. But Andrew Klavan is one of my favorite podcasters, and I’m generally interested in what he has to say. Plus, like I said, the title intrigued me, so I decided to give it a shot.

And I’m glad I did. I was deeply impressed by this book. Klavan is a fantastic writer. There is a good balance of action and introspection, and the prose is  smooth and intelligent without ever becoming pretentious. Heck, I even learned some cool words while reading this book, which is always fun. The characters are compelling, especially the Houston-born, cowboy-type protagonist, Zach Adams. Setting-wise, this book is spot on—a werewolf attack in the middle of the Black Forest in Germany? Awesome!

I wouldn’t have predicted this, but Werewolf Cop was actually an uplifting read. I guess amid the werewolf and shoot-’em-up mayhem I wasn’t expecting so much discussion of good and evil and down-home-old-timey-American values. Zach confronts evil in many different forms—his own sins, the werewolf curse, and Dominic Abend—and in each case it would be so easy for him to take the easy way out, let the “natural man” (or wolf) take over, and blame the universe for the hand he’s been dealt. But in each case he manages—barely—to do what’s right.

Here are some quotes I thought were really interesting:

“Peace would be wonderful, the most wonderful thing,” she said, “if only there were no God. Then there would be no good or evil, nothing to fight over. But there is, you see. There is good and there is evil. And if you will not fight for the good, if you will not suffer for the good, if you will not accept pain even unto the pain of your own damnation for the good, then there is only evil.”

“You know the word liebestod? […] Love-death, it means. A song or story about lovers who must together die. Romeo and Juliet—these you know, yes? But Americans do not tell such stories. Each one is everything to himself there, so I think. And always they believe they will make for themselves the happy ending. They do not know about liebestod.” […]
“And yet it has been like that for me and my country. […] Liebestod. I have sacrificed even my immortal soul to defend her—to defend her from evil and from death—to chase them through the centures of unbelief, alone in my understanding of them. Umsonst. For nothing. I have failed and she is gone. My country…my continent…my culture….”

“It’s just…Well, there comes a time in a person’s life when doing wrong just makes perfect sense to him. And if he hasn’t got…well, something in him—” He knew she was going to say The Word but had amended it to suit his more broad-minded view. “If he hasn’t got something in him that makes him say ‘Well, I don’t care what sense it makes, I’m not doing wrong anyhow,’ then that’s when the Enemy can make his move on him.”

I’d hesitate before reading this book again. There’s some foul language, which isn’t my cup of tea. Predictably, there are some graphic descriptions of people getting mauled by werewolves and chopped up by German gangsters. Also, Zach has an affair (before the story begins) and agonizes over it in way more detail than I’m comfortable with.

(I was also creeped out a few times because in my head the bad guy sounded like the German perinatologist who delivered Dan, and another major character sounded like the chain smoking German lady who runs the local schnitzel establishment, but that’s a personal problem.)

That said, Werewolf Cop is a fantastic book, and I’m glad I read it. I’ll probably give it a solid 4 stars on Goodreads and call it a day.

I’ll leave you with Wagner’s Liebestod, from the opera Tristan und Isolde. It’s appropriate, and worth eight minutes of your time.

How I (Almost) Met Shannon Hale

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Hello, friends! I hope you had a good Valentine’s weekend.

We just got back from a lovely trip to Utah, where my family lives. As you can imagine, the Dan was thoroughly spoiled by his aunt and grandparents.

This little boy loves his grandpa!

This little boy adores his grandpa!

He also learned how to eat Cheerios, and now he won’t stop shoveling them into his mouth. I’m not complaining, though, because they made our 2.5-hour flight home a breeze.

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

In addition to fun family times, I was also in Provo for Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE), an academic symposium on science fiction and fantasy. If you’re into writing in those genres and have the resources to get to Provo in February, I highly recommend it. This was my second year attending, and I learned so much about writing and publishing.

I forgot to take pictures, but here are some notes I took. Also, if my name tag looks like its been chewed by a teething baby...it has.

I forgot to take pictures, but here are some notes. Also, if my name tag looks like its been chewed by a teething baby…it has.

I could tell you guys all about the magnificent learning experiences I had at LTUE, but we all know that’s not why you read my blog. Instead I’m going to tell you about my painfully awkward experience with Shannon Hale. This type of thing is why I love writing so much—when I’m busy writing, I don’t have to interact with people.

***

On Saturday, I thought it might be fun to take a break from furious note-taking by sitting in on a live recording session of my second favorite podcast, Writing Excuses (again, if you write genre fiction, you really need to be listening to this. I’m just plugging all kinds of things today). It was interesting, but I soon found myself zoning out and scribbling in my notebook. As I was doodling, a woman asked if the empty seat next to me was taken.

I thought for a moment, and then remembered the chair’s previous occupant muttering about having to leave early, so I told the woman to go ahead and take it. Then I turned back to my notebook.

During a break, people kept coming up to chat with my neighbor, asking her if she was going to be at Comic Con and if they could take selfies with her. I realized she must be a panelist, but I couldn’t remember having seen her before. I peeked at her name tag—and sure enough, I was sitting next to Shannon Hale.

Shannon Hale is kind of a big deal. She was actually one of the Guests of Honor. I’m not a passionate fan of her books (and in fact, I skipped her keynote address to run back to my parents’ house and feed the Dan), but they’re enjoyable, and similar to the kinds of books I’d like to write someday (light, YA fairy-tale-type stories). I probably should have recognized her, but in my defense, her hair was lighter and shorter than it was in her picture in the program:

Shannon Hale

Suddenly I felt very awkward. Shannon Hale was sitting next to me, and I had all but snubbed her. Now that I knew who she was, I couldn’t just ignore her and doodle. Here’s a bit of my thought process.

“Maybe I should say something to her.”

“Why on earth would I do that? I don’t talk to people!”

“I’m at a con. People come to cons to talk to people.”

“This isn’t that type of con. I didn’t come here to kiss up to famous people.”

“I came here to network. This is kind of like networking.”

“But not really.”

“Come on, this is a neat opportunity.”

“What do I say? ‘I’ve only read two of your books and they were a’ight, and I’ve just ignored you for the past twenty minutes because I ditched your keynote and didn’t know who you were. But you seem pretty cool, so let’s take a selfie’?”

“For the love of all that is Mike, do not say that to Shannon Hale. And who says ‘a’ight’ anymore?”

As I dithered, Tom pointed out that a panel I’d been interested in was about to start. I took my opportunity to escape.

“Sounds good. Let’s go.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, let’s go! Now!

Tom seemed a little surprised at my urgency, but he rolled with it. We packed up our stuff, squeezed past Shannon Hale, and booked it out of there.

***

And that’s the story of how I almost met ran away from Shannon Hale at a writing conference. Ms. Hale, if by some bizarre chance you happen to read this, I’m sorry. From one Jane Austen fan to another, “Tallyho!”