Book of the Month, May: The Wolf’s Hour

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In early 1944, the Nazis know the Allies are planning a massive invasion of the continent. They don’t know where, or when, the strike will take place, though. All they can do is initiate their counter-measures to thwart whatever their enemies have in mind.

The Allies do not know what the Nazi have planned, but a British informant, Adam, living in occupied Paris, has some information about it. Adam is under heavy surveillance by the Gestapo, so contacting him to learn what he knows will be a treacherous endeavor.

The British decide the best man for the job is their own Michael Gallatin. The only problem is Michael retired from service after defeating Rommel for control of the Suez Canal. Convincing him to return for one last mission is only slightly more difficult than travelling to his isolated home in Wales. It takes some talking, but Michael joins up and it isn’t long before he is parachuting into the French countryside.

The drop doesn’t go well. Michael crashes through a barn and the Nazis, ever on the lookout, soon swarm the village. After a firefight, and commandeering an enemy tank, the Brit escapes with Gaby, a member of the French Resistance. With her help, and that of the other members of the underground, he makes it to Paris, disguised as a German officer, with occasional roadblocks and detours.

Contacting Adam is just one of Michael’s formidable tasks. Whatever he does, the Nazis do not make things easy– they, and their spies, are waiting around every corner. Luckily, Britain’s spymaster has a special ability up his sleeve.

Michael Gallatin was born Mikhail Gallatinov, the son of a decorated Russian soldier. When Mikhail was an adolescent, his parents and sister were murdered as a result from the fallout of the Russian Revolution. Fleeing from the murderers, wolves attack and kill the men who massacred his family. They attack Mikhail, also. Mikhail awakes in a secluded, decrepit palace with only a bite and surrounded by a motley group of people. They are werewolves and they have brought Mikhail into their pack.

The Wolf’s Hour follows Michael Gallatin’s attempts to stop the Nazis’ secret plans and also shows how Mikhail Gallatinov, orphaned Russian aristocrat, became Michael Gallatin, super spy and werewolf. We also learn how the spy must reconcile the wolf with the man and vice versa.

I have a cousin who once (somewhat jokingly) suggested that to make any story better, just add a werewolf. Would Sophie’s Choice had been better with a werewolf in the mix? I don’t know, but it definitely would have been quite interesting. A World War II spy novel with a werewolf protagonist may sound odd, maybe even cheesy, but if anyone could ever make it work, it’s Robert McCammon. Seeing as this novel was first published in 1989 and there hasn’t been a rush of werewolf-themed WWII spy novels, it makes one think that McCammon is the only one suited for the job. He can write action, horror, pulp, and thoughtful prose, all of which you can find in this story.

Once you finish The Wolf’s Hour, you’ll want more McCammon. I suggest you read Night Boat (from 1980) about a salvage diver who accidentally raises a long-buried U-boat, in the Caribbean, full of Nazi zombies. Then (or in no particular order) pick up Speaks the Nightbird (2002), a Colonial America-set witch tale that is the first of his Matthew Corbett series and was McCammon’s return to publishing after a ten year hiatus.