Review: The Wolves of El Diablo

A review by R. Padilla

 

The Wolves of El Diablo (The Men Who Walk Like Wolves)
by Eric Red
280 pages
Short, Scary Tales Publications
Paperback $15.95

The second book in Eric Red’s The Men Who Walk Like Wolves series, The Wolves of El Diablo begins a month after the events of The Guns of Santa Sangre, just in time for another full moon—giving Azul the perfect opportunity to avenge her brother’s death at the hands of gunslingers. Led by Tucker, the gunslingers are now in El Diablo, planning to rob a military train full of silver guarded by the honorable and vigilant Colonel Higuerra.

The first book in Red’s series tells the familiar Western tale of a boy seeking out a group of grizzled and notorious gunslingers and hiring them to save his village from ravening outlaws, with the fantastical twist that the boy is a young woman in disguise and the outlaws are a pack of bloodthirsty werewolves. The Wolves of El Diablo falls into another classic Western subgenre: the roaring rampage of revenge, with the roaring (or more appropriately, howling) being literal, as Azul and her pack chase after Tucker and company on a quest to rip them from limb to limb and devour them in vengeance.

Like the previous book, The Wolves of El Diablo is not for the squeamish. Red, whose original script for the film The Hitcher had to be toned down for its extreme brutality, holds little back in the gruesome descriptions of the relentless violent acts in the book, one of which includes a womb-buster of a childbirth, followed quickly by attempted infanticide. Sexual violence, on the other hand, is mercifully short and sparse.

Red manages to keep the violence from being too overwhelming and tedious. The fast-paced and thrilling action sequences will have readers holding their breath as the protagonists shoot their way through one train compartment full of ravening werewolves after another, desperate for safety.

The Wolves of El Diablo delves further into the origin of Azul and Mosca, and their pack of werewolves. In Mesoamerican folklore, the nagual is a human who can shapeshift into the form of an animal. The belief holds that when a person is born, their spirit is linked to an animal (similar to that of a totem, known also as the much-appropriated “spirit animal”). Nagual are mostly benign, though some sources say they are thieves and rapists, or malevolent wizards.

Despite being set in Mexico, and Azul being described as having “Aztec” features and  belonging to a Mesoamerican tribe predating the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, Red’s werewolves are wholly of European origin, from their wolfish features to their weakness to silver. This incongruity is not in itself a bad thing—the book is a work of pulp fantasy fiction, so historical accuracy isn’t that high of a priority. Moreover, the werewolf is a central part of the story’s appeal and its uniqueness, and Red does reasonably well in attempting to link the werewolves’ origin with that of the local folklore.

Bloody, brutal, and at times bombastic, The Wolves of El Diablo and The Men Who Walk Like Wolves series will please those looking for an entertaining mix of horror and breakneck action sequences reminiscent of Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn, but turned up to eleven. And with werewolves.

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