The Last Wolf

Recently, I watched The Last Wolf: Karl Edward Wagner, a documentary about – well – Karl Edward Wagner. It was a fascinating and somewhat sobering ‘warts and all’ look at one of the most accomplished dark fantasy and horror writers of the late Twentieth Century.

Wagner has always been one of my literary touchstones. Like Manly Wade Wellman, Wagner’s work has often informed my own, and I often turning to his stories when I feel my creative energies at an ebb. His stories display an inventiveness second to none, with characters of such unparalleled vividness that more than once I have found myself attempting to dissect his work, to learn that secret alchemy by which I might improve my own writing.

He’s also something of a warning – of drinking too much, of taking on too many contracts and breaking them…the sort of lessons any jobbing writer needs to learn. In Wagner, the best and worst of the writer’s life was on view. Wagner’s relative obscurity these days is also a reminder that the glory of the written word is – at best – fleeting, for all save a lucky few.

The film itself is impressive, boasting interviews with Wagner’s family and friends, including Peter Straub and David Drake. It’s well worth a watch if you have any interest in the man, or his work – or just in that particular period in the history of horror writing. I highly recommend checking it out, if you’ve got a few extra bucks burning a hole in your pocket.

The Last Wolf: Karl Edward Wagner from The Last Wolf: Karl Edward Wagner on Vimeo.

3 thoughts on “The Last Wolf

  1. I read a collaboration between Drake and Wagner, called Killer. It was a baen book and sadly, it was pretty bad. Turned me off from ever trying anything else by Wagner.

    • Killer was written towards the end of Wagner’s life, when the booze had its hooks in him pretty bad. From what Drake has said, it was an uneven collaboration, requiring multiple rewrites because KEW’s heart just wasn’t in it. If you want to look at some of his stuff from when he was ‘on’, I’d recommend the Kane stuff, or some of his short stories, like “.220 Swift”, “Where the Summer Ends” or “Sticks”.

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