It is easy to characterize author J.R. White’s novel SHADOW OF WOLVES as a “weird western.” Yes, it is set in the Old West, and yes there are plenty of weird things going on in it. First of all, the settlement of Shank’s Point is in the grips of “something strange — something unnatural.” Rather tuck tail and run the other way, John Swift-Runner, a Navajo tracker and a veteran of the unforgiving Mojave Desert, is intrigued. He is not alone, as his friend, the gunslinger Kit Barker, also wants to know more about the strange goings on. It turns out that Shank’s Point, as well as the Mojave, is home to a series of strange creatures, none more fearsome than the werewolf. Is this werewolf a Navajo skinwalker brought into the world by a black-minded shaman? Or, as a Dutch document from 1590 claims, is the werewolf the same serial killer responsible for a series of barbaric atrocities along the Rhine in the 16th century?
SHADOW OF WOLVES is pure, distilled, and unfiltered American pulp. Its tale is unhinged in the best way, with the supernatural mixing with the ultraviolent. The central story could have easily been penned by Robert E. Howard, the father of Conan the Barbarian and the sword and sorcery genre, sometime back in the 1930s. This is no knock, for the timeless quality of SHADOW OF WOLVES is one of its better features. This is just a fun novel with two excellent characters (Barker and Swift-Runner) and one heck of a problem to solve. The novel also deserves applause for its wonderful ability to set a scene. One almost starts to sweat from the sheer heat of the Mojave as it is described herein.
White’s writing is punchy and never resorts to purple prose. Action and dialogue are prized over exposition. The conclusion is perfect too, in that it sets the stage for future Barker and Swift-Runner adventures to come. Here’s hoping that the next novels feature ghosts, ghouls, and other monstrosities.
SHADOW OF WOLVES by J.R. White is an endlessly fun and immersive adventure novel that perfectly mixes horror and western all the while telling an entertaining yarn.
~Benjamin Welton for IndieReader