Does anybody else remember their middle grade and high school health classes? A few of you, good. I remember mine as well. Does anybody remember the chapter(s) on sexually transmitted diseases? I think I saw a few of you cringe with, ahem, familiarity. It was alternately humorous, awkward, and boring to read and listen to lectures about syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and all the rest of the gang while you and your friends giggled or felt like crawling under your desk when the teacher fired up the slideshow to let you see what all the fuss was about. Gotta love public education.
Some of you may be thinking, “Hey, how cool would it be if lycanthropy were a sexually transmitted disease? Diddle the wrong person and wake up a werewolf.” It is a fantastic proposition, and quite a hell of a way to become a werewolf (it’s certainly better than anything any of the Twilight franchise ever offered; in full transparency, I’ve never read the books, but I was forced to watch the movies). It would have made my health classes a lot more interesting. After seeing all the pictures of what the diseases can do to a person, becoming a werewolf, or even meeting one, seemed like a much better option.
If werewolfism as VD teases your attention, then you should definitely read Ray Garton’s modern masterpiece of pulp horror, Ravenous.
Situated on the coast of California, Big Rock is a lovely little town, but a terrible place to live. Late one night, police receptionist Emily Crane’s car breaks down in the middle of a stretch of nowhere. She soon discovers she’s not alone, though, as she is attacked by a man who rapes her. She manages to fight back and actually kills the rapist. The case is cut and dry, and there’s no shortage of relief that Emily survived the encounter.
While it seems like an ending, the murdered rapist is only the beginning. The attacker’s corpse gets up from the cold slab in the hospital morgue and walks out the door. Sheriff Arlin Hurley witnesses the walking corpse and has a hard time believing the explanation for it and for all the violence and partly devoured bodies littering his town in the aftermath.
You guessed it, werewolves. These monsters are more than they appear, and it’s up to the good sheriff to uncover the real plot against his formerly quiet piece of paradise.
Ravenous is a finely tangled web, but Ray Garton does not deceive us. This is a piece of virtuoso writing. Garton leads us into Big Rock and shows us all the secrets behind its perfectly painted neighborhood doors. The way the werewolf virus spreads throughout Big Rock from person to person until the entire town is practically consumed is more than brilliant plotting, it’s an architectural marvel. It also makes you think of our modern society and how we’re all connected, and that could make you tremble with fear in these present times. Imagine, if you will, if lycanthropy spread like the COVID-19.
I read Ravenous when it was first published in 2008. I’m a fan of werewolves and this unique spin on them has remained a favorite of mine lo these many years later. It is a violent, bloody, hardcore read that verges on overkill, but when it comes to werewolves that’s kind of what a reader expects. These are not cute, cuddly little puppies– these are vicious monsters.