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.