What an eye catching cover and impactful title this book has. Include the tagline “Punks vs Nazi Monsters From the Depths of Hell,” and it sounds like the greatest B movie ever in book form. Considering my movie taste, that’s certainly not an insult. Mentioning Nazis and wolves immediately brings to mind the Grindhouse (2007) fake movie trailer that ran in between Planet Terror and Death Proof. It was called Werewolf Women of the S.S and was loosely based on the sexploitation movie Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. Oh, and it was awesome.
The story follows Paul, who moves to Chicago from a small town. The move means he finally gets to meet other skinheads — the kind of skinheads who enjoy punk, ska, and the anti-racist lifestyle. For the first time he is with people whose culture he holds dear, and can express himself and fit in. He makes friends, finds a girl, and finds acceptance. It’s then that things start to go wrong. Paul’s gang encounters a group of the other skinheads, the hate-filled neo-Nazi skinheads.
For the first quarter of the book, I had some trouble paying attention. There was not too much in the way of thrills and spills, apart from the opening back in World War II. After that, we mostly follow members of both gangs and look at their cultures and their day to day lives. The author clearly knows his stuff about skinheads. At the same time we are witnessing Paul’s coming of age. It’s a little bit of a chore to get through. That’s not to say that I didn’t feel invested in the Paul character, or find the insight into the skinhead culture interesting. I did, but I was hungry like the wolf (sorry) for some action. The Nazi skinhead group comes across as a bit of a caricature, spouting hate and being a bit pathetic and almost laughable. In run-ins with the other skins they continually receive a beating. When the leader of the Nazi skinheads, Tom, beats a black teen to death, the tone of the book suddenly gets much darker and is hit with a vivid realism that isn’t found throughout the rest of the book. It’s the type of action that, unfortunately, could be ripped from the headlines. It’s this hate crime that brings the gang to the attention of exiled and on the run SS officer Klaus Schroeder. At the end of the war, Schroeder fled from Germany to Argentina, but was recently forced to relocate to Chicago. Despite being an old man, he has a relic – an occult wolfskin – which can transform the skins into powerful, inhuman, wolf soldiers.
The key relationship dynamics in the book revolve around Paul, his girlfriend Tracy, and Tracy’s ex-boyfriend Sonny. Sonny used to be in the liberal skins gang but defected to the Neo-Nazis. Much of his rage is fuelled by the fact that Tracy is now with Paul, when she should be his. In Sonny’s eyes, what makes things worse is that Paul is mixed race, so he sees this as an even greater slight against him. There are moments when members of the Nazi group are led to question their beliefs and wonder what all the hate is for. There is a particularly good scene where, after getting hauled in by the police, Paul finds himself locked up with a Nazi, and they have nothing to do but talk. All of the Nazi skinheads had some kind of trauma or issue that led them to seek salvation in hate.
In the second half of the book, the gore picks up as the Wolf Reich begin their reign of terror. The wolf transformation scenes are really well written, especially when the racists are first initiated. Loyalties change and the relic comes into the possession of the good skins. This allows them to level the playing field and form a wolf pack of their own. This builds to more than satisfying werewolf gang warfare. If you can imagine it, yes it’s that good. Despite some dark subject matter, it’s an entertaining read, and well worth checking out.
Reviewed by Andrew Tadman. @thebooksofblood