Review: Wolf Moon by Ed Gorman

If you’re looking at the above cover image and scratching your head, don’t worry–you’re still at The Violent World of Parker and I haven’t gone off the rails.

Ed Gorman’s Wolf Moon is a Western, but it is also noir. It certainly fits Otto Penzler’s definition that “noir is about losers” (a definition I don’t entirely agree with in its full explication). Wolf Moon could have taken place in the 1940s or another decade more associated with noir, except for one critical element: The title character, a huge wolf raised in captivity to be a savage killer. He wouldn’t exactly fit on the dirty streets of San Francisco in the 1940s.

Wolf Moon is the story of Robert Chase, who is hired along with his two brothers by Schroeder, partner in a bank and owner of the wolf, to rob Schroeder’s own bank. Schroeder betrays them, leaving Chase’s brothers dead and Chase in jail for several years. When Chase is released from prison, he heads to the town of Rock Ridge to reunite with his old flame, Gillian. And Schroeder.

A sense of inevitability infuses the entirety of Wolf Moon. While this makes some elements of the story predictable, it also imparts a lingering dread over the entire novel that adds greatly to its effectiveness–a worthwhile tradeoff that also contributes to it being more noir than Western.

Wonderfully efficient (Amazon lists the paperback at 163 pages), you could easily polish off Wolf Moon in one sitting and there’s a good chance you will. It’s the first of Ed Gorman’s books that I’ve read, but it most definitely won’t be the last.

Wolf Moon is available for the Kindle at a mere $2.99 (a Nook edition is promised soon). The paper version is out of print, but used copies can be found inexpensively from the usual sources. The Kindle edition features the bonus short story, “Deathman,” also quite dark.