Joe likes his music, attending weekend gigs in his best shmatta of brogues, Sta-Prest trousers, and Brutus shirts. He avoids the National Front elements creeping into his beloved Skinhead world, preferring to get pissed or get laid, hopefully both. The fact that he’s also a werewolf doesn’t seem to alter his plans.
Set in 1979, Moonstomp, a pulpy, London based lycanthrope-meets-youth-culture tale of shagging, pubs and Reggae beats, could only have been penned by someone who was there, with a full understanding of the complexities of that time, when we moved wearily and angrily from one decade to the next, the threat of Thatcher, World War Three and the decimation of UK industry hanging on the horizon like that influential and imposing distant lunar satellite.
Wells, a veteran wordsmith, part of the poetry scene, before it was even a thing, before it slid into its current blanched-out Nationwide advert state of banality, delivers a sharp-eyed glimpse into the daily life of his Doc Marten wearing lupine protagonist. His artful use of language skilfully dances to the tune of an east end colloquial patois, embracing club lingo, poetics, and Yiddish echoes in a wonderfully readable novella, which style-wise seems to sit somewhere between a Pan Book of Horror, A Clockwork Orange, and Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Much of it is celebratory in tone, the author’s obvious love for the period, the punk bands, the fashion, and the youthful aesthetic, rings out above the sirens, the aggro laced streets, and the growing sense of unease. Like An American Werewolf in London (1981), Wells mixes comedy and a keen sense of place with real bouts of naked terror, never more so than when the half-arsed police force, more concerned with doling out beatings to local kids, struggles to make sense of an increasingly grisly string of murders. In one scene, a young couple is interrupted mid-coitus by our hairy friend, and their sordid lovemaking ends in a blood-spattered reverie of emasculation and throat-ripping rage.
Yet unlike a lot of werewolf stories, the origin stuff is played down, no complicated history is laid before us, we are simply asked to go along with what is proffered, and it’s all the better for it; to bog us down with explanations would mean we spend less time in the record shops and boozers which Wells describes so beautifully. It’s a mesmerisingly effortless read. No word is wasted. This is a masterclass in editing and pithy delivery, right from the book’s opening manifesto to its soul-searching denouement, it simply never lets up.
So, lace up the boots, snap those braces on, and turn up the Dansette volume. There’s a full moon outside and there’s mischief to be made.