Forgotten Book: Walking Wolf by Nancy Collins (1995)

Walking Wolf is a short novel but one full of wonders and magic.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 177th in my series of Forgotten Books.

It is no secret that I am a fan of the weird western. I’ve written a couple of weird western short stories over the years. I am also a fan of Nancy Collins. I first met her at a convention in New Orleans when Sunglasses After Dark had just come out. It was a wonderful inventive vampire novel featuring Sonja Blue, who would later star in several more novels.

Later we were both nominees for the John W. Campbell Award at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago in 1991 which was won by Julia Ecklar. Other nominees that year included John Cramer and Michael Kandel.

That’s pretty much were our similarities end. Nancy went on to write a bunch of novels and comic books and stuff. I occasionally produce a short story.

Walking Wolf is a werewolf novel set in the old west and is also the name of the main character. Walking Wolf, the character, is found as an orphan by the Comanche Indians and raised as one of them. At first he has no idea of his identity and abilities. Through his eyes, we get a view of the plains Indians in the mid 19th century. He is raised as an Indian brave and finds himself a friend in Quanah Parker who would later become a fierce chief even though he was half white.

He becomes apprenticed to Medicine Dog, the shaman of the tribe who recognizes Walking Wolf as a skin walker or shape shifter. Walking Wolf does not even know what he is or what he is. One day when hunting buffalo he shifts into wolf mode and astounds the tribe, especially Flood Moon, the girl he intends to marry. Where she had been friendly before, she has no desire to be a shape shifter and she attempts to kill him which results in her death.

Walking Wolf is ashamed of his action and feels he must learn more about himself, So he decides his name is Billy Skillet and he sets out to see the West. He teams up with a Reverend Near in the small town of Vermillion. The Reverend is not a nice person and he attempts to have Billy be his slave while he kidnaps and rapes young girls which he blames on Billy. Billy escapes and the town in destroyed. Billy next meets Professor Praetorius, a charlatan selling snake oil in his medicine show. He has a pinhead which he brings out when sales are tough to show for a nickel. Billy and Praetorius get along well until some folks who tried the snake oil with bad results. Everyone gets lynched which does not work well for the Professor or the pinhead. Billy, however, cannot be killed in this way, but it does hurt.

He soon finds himself in the company of The Sundown Kid, a vampire gunslinger who tells Billy information about the werewolves who had immigrated from the Europe. Unfortunately he is being hunted by a supernatural bounty hunter named Witchfinder Jones, who wears a wolf pelt that Billy instinctively knows is the pelt of his father. Jones also has a wallet made from a woman’s teat that is from Billy’s mother. Jones travels with silver bullets and other paraphernalia. Jones is to become Billy’s nemesis and to be a constant antagonist.

Billy reverts back to the Indian ways and becomes Walking Wolf again. He meets the famous from the period, including Custer, Sitting Bull (whom he regards as an uncle), and more. As an outcast in either world, Walking Wolf offers a differing view of the world around him. He does not age in the same manner as normal people.

This is a good novel, rather short but filled with lots of wonder and magic. I enjoyed pretty much everything about it. Think Lawrence Talbot (theWolfman) as Little Big Man and you have an idea of what this one was like.

Originally published by Mark Ziesing in a nice hardcover edition with a wonderful J. K. Potter cover, It is currently available in e-book form or as a trade paperback. So, if you find this intriguing, it’s available. I think it’s well worth a try.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.