SCI FICTION, September 22, 2004

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"The Wolf-man of Alcatraz" by Howard Waldrop

Howard Waldrop's "The Wolf-man of Alcatraz" is the tale of Robert Howlin, incarcerated in Alcatraz for murder and mayhem carried out during the full moon while in the thralls of a full-blown episode of lycanthropy–fangs, fur, fuzzy feet, and all.

In general, Waldrop's prose is on the Spartan side, with few ornaments or flourishes. There's a light-hearted tone which manifests memorably via Bob-as-wolf's penchant for postmen (and the guy's name is "Howlin" for godsake).  Interspersed with the humor is a touching examination of the man–Bob's philosophic acceptance of his imprisonment and his passion for books as the only way he can experience the world outside his cell.  There's even a bit of tension a la a prison jailbreak attempt.

Waldrop is a veteran writer and storyteller, that much is obvious. However, I've grown to expect more edge in SCI FICTION stories and was disappointed by this week's offering.  For a werewolf story to intrigue and impress, it has to be better than competently written; it has to be innovative and fresh.  In this reader's opinion, "The Wolf-man of Alcatraz" missed that mark.