'Talulla Rising' a howling good read for horror fans

Glen Duncan says, " A combination of mercenary pragmatism and drunken inspiration" led to his books.

Story highlights

  • Glen Duncan releases his second werewolf novel this week: "Talulla Rising"
  • Duncan got the inspiration for the series during a drunken New Year's celebration
  • The novelist predicts his next book will feature: "Sex, violence, jokes, philosophy, love, death."

Werewolves are usually the stuff of B-movies and bad novels, but last year British author Glen Duncan did the unthinkable in literary circles, crafting a howling good tale out of the weary werewolf myth. The result was the best-selling thriller "The Last Werewolf." Critics and readers happily devoured the darkly comic novel.

In the book, Jake Marlowe, a 200-year-old lonely lycanthrope, believes himself to be the last of his kind until he meets Talulla Demetriou. It's your classic tale of boy meets girl, except this pair turn into werewolves, battle vampires and fall in love. While their relationship came to a tragic and bloody end, Demetriou returns in Duncan's eagerly awaited sequel, "Talulla Rising."

Hitting bookshelves this week, the supernatural story picks up soon after where "The Last Werewolf" left off. Talulla is grieving the loss of her werewolf lover; she's on the run and about to give birth to Jake's child, under a full moon no less. To give away any more would spoil the surprise for fans, but suffice to say Talulla turns into a monstrously protective mother.

Adventurous readers who are looking for a break from the usual beach read should consider this alternately horrifying and humorous, imaginative and energetic novel. CNN recently spoke to Duncan by telephone from his London home about the new book. The following is an edited transcript:

CNN: What was the spark that led you to write "The Last Werewolf" and "Talulla Rising"?

Duncan: A combination of mercenary pragmatism and drunken inspiration. After seven novels which, though well-received, hadn't made paying the bills any easier, I decided to write something my agent could sell as a book with commercial potential. Cut to New Year's Eve 2009. A party, friends, everyone drunk. We've had the forced-down champagne and abused fireworks on the roof terrace, and are now taking stock of what we've done in the last year -- and what we plan to do in the new one. Pretty much ex nihilo I said: "I'm going to write a novel about the last surviving werewolf." The idea met with feeble unanimous approval. So I woke up the next morning and started work.

CNN: Talulla is such a compelling character, was there a big difference between writing her voice and Jake?

Duncan: Yes. Jake is just me. Or, rather, me in his predicament: not very difficult to write. With Talulla I didn't have the crutch (ahem) of my own gender and personality to lean on. There's no way of knowing if the imaginative projection is a success except in so far as readers find Talulla a convincing female. Let's see.

CNN: How did you develop the werewolf mythology behind your story? Were there traditional elements you wanted to keep, change or explore further?

Duncan: I just kept the parts of the traditional mythology I liked, or that served my thematic purpose, and ditched whatever I didn't. Death by silver, I liked, so it was in. Ditto visceral antipathy to vampires. Some versions of the myth allow for the lycanthrope's voluntary metamorphosis -- but that's not as rich a moral quandary as being forced to change, whether you like it or not, every full moon.

Watch Glen Duncan read an excerpt from "Talulla Rising"

CNN: Do you have a favorite werewolf story and why do you think they have appealed to readers for so long?

Duncan: I've never read a werewolf story in my life, but my favorite werewolf movie is, of course, "An American Werewolf in London." (Closely followed by the brilliantly mad "Dog Soldiers.") Myths of metamorphosis are as old as the human ability to tell stories, and survive because they express something fundamental to the psyche. In the case of werewolves, the fear of the beast within, and the desire to be liberated into it.

CNN: You've unleashed your writer's id in these novels. There's lots of sex and violence, definitely not for the faint of heart. Was it fun to write?

Duncan: For me writing a novel isn't fun, no matter how much sex and violence it contains. It's satisfying, yes, to get something right at the level of the sentence, and it's fun to have finished writing the thing. ... But the actual writing? No. It's agony, every day, an endless search for reasons to not start writing. I wish it were otherwise, but there you are.

CNN: What would you like readers to take away from "Talulla Rising"?

Duncan: The feeling of having just read the best werewolf novel (along with its predecessor) the world has yet produced -- what else? Or, more reasonably: It's not so different for girls after all.

CNN: Is there anything you've read recently that inspired you?

Duncan: I'm not reading much contemporary work at the moment (not until the third werewolf book's done, in fact), but I'm a couple of hundred pages into "Don Quixote" -- which is absolutely hilarious. That'll last me through summer. Especially if it's an English summer.

CNN: Without giving too much away, it feels like you've set things up quite nicely for a trilogy. Any hints you can give us about your next novel?

Duncan: Impossible without spoilers. But multiple narrators -- including a vampire -- and a myth of origin for werewolves. Sex, violence, jokes, philosophy, love, death. Business as usual.

Read an excerpt from "Talulla Rising"