Galad Elflandsson’s “The Black Wolf”

“A fantastic weird novel by a talented new author. The record of strange events and monstrous worship from colonial times. “…just as formidable as was your first encounter with Poe, Machen, Robert Chambers, or H.P. Lovecraft.””

Front and back cover art for the Centaur Books trade paperback edition of

Front and back cover art for the Centaur Books trade paperback edition of “The Black Wolf” (1980).

Thus reads the back cover blurb of the trade paperback edition of Galad Elflandsson’s lone novel,  “The Black Wolf”, which originally was published in 1979 by Donald M Grant in a lovely hardcover edition, beautifully illustrated throughout by renowned horror illustrator Randy Broecker.  Auspicious beginnings for any young  author of the weird variety. In the day, Elflandsson was touted as being the great new hope for fans of old school horror fiction, but he only got out the aforementioned novel and a handful of odd stories, which were published in various genre collections of the day before he got fed up with the politics of the publishing world and halted his output.

For someone who was so celebrated by the horror fiction establishment, it boggles my mind to see how quickly his star rose and fell into obscurity. I who have scoured second hand bookstore shelves and Internet inventories for years to find those hidden horror gems have never heard of him until I stumbled upon his novel in a recycle bin at work. I pulled it out to see what it was and saw that it was illustrated by Randy Broecker, whose illustrations grace the lovely PS Publishing edition of Ramsey Campbell’s collection of early Mythos tales, “The Inhabitant of the Lake and Other Unwelcome Tenants” (2011) which holds a treasured spot in my personal library.

Upon further inspection, I saw the claim in the blurb, which caught my attention, so I figured I’d give it a try. It took me two days to read it all and I must say that I enjoyed it thoroughly, but the accolades were completely off the mark. I first encountered Poe as a pre-teen and it was a life changing experience that still affects me to this day. I came across Lovecraft a few years later and had a similar experience  with his work too. Although Elflandsson drops a few references to the Ancient Ones, Abdul Alhazred and his dreaded tome, the Necronomicon, that is where the similarities to Lovecraft end and there is nothing to tie this novel in with Poe, Machen or Chambers. There is no atmosphere here. The is none of the Gothic decay of Poe, Chambers or early Lovecraft, and there is nothing remotely Machen-like. If there were to be a Weird Tales connection, it would be Robert E Howard. The novel is more of a weird action adventure tale, with a manly proactive protagonist rather than a quailing Lovecraftian character who goes mad in the face of impending doom. There is a section where the protagonist reads a few journal entries from the 18th century which sound a bit like Lovecraft’s sojourns into antiquarian language, that sounded convincing enough, but there was none of the dread, or the Gothic atmosphere, despite the references to ancient black magic rituals and the like.

The basic premiss is that Paul Damon, one of the “city folk” coming to Thatcher’s Ferry for a camping trip on his summer vacation finds himself embroiled in a local feud between the town-folk and the remaining descendant of the town’s namesake. Eventually it escalates into a full blown supernatural horror tale with werewolves raiding the town and ancient dead coming back to life to exact revenge for a perceived two  hundred year old affront on the founding family. The story has much action with just enough sorcery and horror to keep the attention of fans of the weird tale genre without getting too bogged down with unpronounceable names and the myriad tentacled monstrosities of most Mythos fiction.

Mr Elflandsson spins a good yarn and it was an enjoyable ride to read his novel, but I think people expected too much from this young writer and he fell short. Even so, his prose is modern and lean, with only a few stylistic nods to the genre (e.g., “gibbous” moons abound in this tale) and I would like to see where he would have taken his fiction after a couple of novels and I would also like to read his short stories, if I can hunt them down.

If I can find one at a reasonable price I would love to procure a copy of the Donald M Grant hardcover edition of “The Black Wolf”. The Randy Broecker illustrations alone are worth it, being grotesquely gorgeous and surprisingly not at all represented on the Internet as far as I can see. If you find this book in your local bookstore, do yourself a favor and buy it!

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One Response to “Galad Elflandsson’s “The Black Wolf””

  1. Hi…I don’t normally go googling myself…was actually looking for a scan of Randy’s illustration opposite page 46 in Black Wolf so I wouldn’t have to do one myself…entirely by serendipitous chance so I might offer the original for sale to a bookseller acquaintance. I’m glad you enjoyed my book; agreed entirely with everything you had to say about it. I don’t know if you collect art or if you’ve got any of Randy’s originals, but alas I must give this one up and you are welcome to it at a price I’m sure we could find mutually acceptable. Hope spring has found you wherever you are.

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