Charles L. Grant’s “The Dark Cry of the Moon” (1986)

Published in 1986, “The Dark Cry of the Moon” is the second book in the Oxrun trilogy, which takes place in historical Oxrun Station. Each of the books in the trilogy features a classic monster. In the first installment, “The Soft Whisper of the Dead”, the villains are vampires; in the second, “The Dark Cry of the Wolf”, the monster is a werewolf.

"The Dark Cry o the Moon" 1986 Donald M. Grant Publisher.

“The Dark Cry o the Moon” 1986, Donald M. Grant Publisher.

The story picks up a generation or so after the first book. The are no recurring characters, although a few do seem to be descended from a few of the protagonists of the previous tale. The town doctor, John Webber bears his progenitor’s name, and the new chief of police, Lucas Stockton, is apparently the son of Detective Ned Stockton, and has even named his own young, Ned, son after his father.

As in “The Soft Whisper of the Dead”, the hero policeman and his plucky sweetheart race against time to figure out who is perpetrating the horrible murders which have upset peace in the sleepy town of Oxrun Station. There does seem to be a formula here, but it is well-executed nevertheless.

There is a wise old gypsy woman, Lucas Stockton’s faithful housekeeper Maria Andropayous, apparently modeled after the character Maleva from the Universal Studios Wolf Man movies of the 1940’s, who is steeped in arcane lore and spouts cryptic warnings. “The wolf,” she said, “walks on two legs.” [pg. 40]

There are several references to wolfsbane throughout the story. In this tale, the blooming of wolfsbane in the moonlight indicates the nearby presence of a werewolf. This is also mentioned in the Universal films, but has some precedent in the classical poem “Metamorphoses”, by Ovid. It tends to pop up now and then in supernatural fiction and film, but its uses vary. Universal used it, under its other name, aconite, as a vampire deterrent in “Dracula” (1931).

Odd that with so many references to the Universal films, Grant’s essay “A Foreword for Those Who Remember Ralph Bates” seems to focus on the Hammer films. Then again, I don’t recall having read it, so perhaps he does give them a “shout out” in there, as the kids say.

There is a bit more mystery in this book, and with all of the red herrings, I honestly couldn’t recall who the werewolf was until only a few chapters from the end of the book. The story is good, with likeable characters, as well as a few highly unlikable ones. It is fast-paced, much like its predecessor, and really reads like a classic horror film. The book is lavishly illustrated by R.J. Krupowicz, who did such an awesome job on “The Soft Whisper of the Dead”, although this time, he left out the red highlights, which were so eye-catching in the previous book. This would be the last book he would illustrate for this series. The follow up, “The Long Night of the Grave” was illustrated by artist Jill Bauman, whose style is much less baroque.

Paperback edition of "The Dark Cry of the Moon" (1987, Berkley Books).

Paperback edition of “The Dark Cry of the Moon” (1987, Berkley Books).

Unfortunately, even though the book looks lovely, there are many typos. I had spotted one or two minor ones in “The Soft Whisper of the Dead”, but there were many in this volume and for a pricey collectible I believe Donlad M Grant Publishers should have taken more care to weed these out. Even so, I highly recommend this novel and I believe that if you can afford it, the Donald M. Grant hardcover is the way to go, if only for the lovely dust jacket and interior artwork by R.J. Krupowicz.


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