The Werewolf of Paris, by American writer Guy Endore, was first published in 1933. This was the novel that inspired the 1961 Hammer horror movie The Curse of the Werewolf, which starred Oliver Reed.
The book was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller upon publication. Set against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War and The Paris Commune of 1870-71, it is part horror story and part historical fiction,
It opens with a framing story in which the author discusses his struggle with the extraordinary aspects of his tale. The narrator, an unknown American working on his doctoral research in Paris, finds a manuscript owned by some rubbish pickers. He describes it as “the Galliez report”: 34 sheets written in French, an unsolicited defence of Sergeant Bertrand Caillet, the eponymous werewolf, at the latter’s court-martial in 1871.
Caillet is a young man who was conceived when his mother was raped by a Father Pitamont, a priest descended from a rather notorious family. Coupled with a Christmas Eve birth, this degrading conception condemns Bertrand to a life of incessant horror and misery as he is cursed to become a werewolf.
In fact, Bertrand Caillet is more of a secondary character in his own story, as it is told purely from the viewpoint of his adoptive father, Aymar Galliez. The actions of the werewolf itself are never shown, and despite some fascinating clues derived from different items of evidence, there is still the ambiguity that Bertrand’s supposed lycanthropy could just as easily stem from some kind of psychological disorder as it could from an actual werewolf curse (a trope we often find in such stories).
The Werewolf of Paris handles the concept of the darker side that exists in every human being brilliantly. It’s the old, endlessly fascinating Jekyll-and-Hyde syndrome again. Bertrand’s struggle with coming to terms with his horrific curse, much like Lawrence Talbot in the Universal Wolf Man movies, adds much depth to his character. However, unlike the tragic Talbot, he is not a very endearing character, for he commits many horrific crimes due to his cursed nature. But all this bestial savagery aside, you still can’t help feeling some sympathy for him as the story goes on.
The book deals with many social issues, such as sex, war, politics and pure evil. It’s a story that certainly does not pull any punches. With its fog-enshrouded images, Gothic horror surroundings and explicit sex scenes, The Werewolf of Paris has been a highly influential book for countless horror writers over the years. As shocking and disgusting as it is in parts, it is still a great werewolf novel to curl up on the couch with on a cold, rainy evening.
Robert Bloch, author of Psycho and countless other horror stories, included The Werewolf of Paris on his list of favourite horror novels.
You can The Werewolf of Paris by clicking on the book’s image link above this article.
If you enjoy werewolf stories, then why not check out my own book, WEREWOLF NIGHTMARE, which you can buy now from Amazon by clicking on the following link: