Wolf’s Edge by W.D. Gagliani

On October 4, 2011, Samhain Publishing will release my novel Wolf’s Edge. It’s the fourth book to feature Milwaukee homicide detective Dominic “Nick” Lupo, after the previous novels, Wolf’s Trap, Wolf’s Gambit, and Wolf’s Bluff. The paperback release of Wolf’s Edge is slated for January, 2011.

Since I have a foot in both the thriller and horror camps, it’s understandable that my fourth novel in the series begun with Wolf’s Trap (a Bram Stoker Award nominee in 2004), would continue to tell parallel past and present stories about Detective Lupo. Now, it’s not a leap for you to know that Nick Lupo is also a werewolf, often trying like mad to make his lycanthropy pay off in his police work – and often failing miserably. Wolf’s Trap told the stories, alternately, of Nick’s infection and, in the present, of Nick’s epic struggle against a revenge-driven serial killer who knew his dark, unbelievable secret. I tried very hard to keep the werewolf parts credible and logical, and to be true to the sort of noir-thriller aesthetic I longed to practice. The novel was well-received enough that the publisher asked for more. How often does that happen? (Samhain will re-release Wolf’s Trap in March 2011.)

The second novel – Wolf’s Gambit – was quite a bit more difficult to plot. I had to start from scratch with a whole new story. Because I had considered Trap a one-off, I’d laid no real groundwork for any other monsters-slash-werewolves in Nick’s world. Nick just figured he was an aberration, an unlucky victim and the only werewolf. Boy, was he wrong, he learned when three mercenaries came to Eagle River, WI, hired by a local serial killer to aid in his quest to keep his world safe for the foreseeable future by stalling a tribal casino project. Unfortunately for everyone, the mercenaries soon proved bloodthirstier than usual because they were a “pack” of werewolves, employees of Wolfpaw Security, a Blackwater-like private contractor, and fresh from carnage-strewn tours in Iraq. Of course, Wolfpaw turned out to have more than a few werewolf mercenaries in its ranks – and also a history reaching back to World War II, and perhaps farther.

Now that Nick’s was a world in which werewolf mercenaries could exist, Wolf’s Bluff came along to raise the stakes, as Wolfpaw seemingly turned its attention toward a thorn in their side, Nick Lupo – a renegade werewolf, from their perspective. Meanwhile, Nick had to deal with “animal attacks” in Wausau, yet another northern Wisconsin small town, as well as a dogged Internal Affairs investigator obsessed with nailing him for corruption. Nick was also forced to deal with three beautiful women – his long-suffering girlfriend, his sexy suspect, and a beautiful cop. Since the werewolf gene increases both bloodlust and libido, you can imagine that things got quite heated in this one, when chaos ensues – and not much hilarity!

We arrive then at our current subject, the fourth Nick Lupo thriller, Wolf’s Edge (Samhain Publishing, October 2011), which is also the third installment of the loose Wolfpaw Trilogy. In this one, our messed-up hero finally comes face to face with the corporate-werewolf foe whose grandiose plans are more in line with those of a Bond super-villain than the first book’s humble serial killer vs. cop plot. After all, when stretching the boundaries of the real world in one direction, why stop? Why impose new boundaries?

Also, interestingly, while writing Wolf’s Edge I found myself reaching farther back for the parallel story line. In this case, instead of mining some of my own and observed memories of childhood and high school angst, I remembered the vivid stories my immigrant parents told of their turbulent youth in war-torn Italy. And the seeds I had sown in Wolf’s Gambit bore unexpectedly bitter fruit as I took the story back to include not only Nick’s father as a child, but Nick’s grandfather, who had battled Nazi werewolves as a partisan in the northern Italian hills above the seaport of Genova after the Italian capitulation in late 1943. Overnight Italy’s German allies became occupiers fighting a bloody rearguard action against the Allied forces’ invasion through Sicily. Italian cities and ports were desirable targets for Allied bombing runs, leading invaders to Germany’s underbelly.

As a major German high command as well as factory city and busy harbor, Genova was bombarded nightly by Allied squadrons. My parents huddled in tunnels and bomb shelters along with their parents and other noncombatants, seeing tenement building in their neighborhood destroyed by Allied bombs, witnessing street killings and skirmishes between emboldened partisans and retreating German forces, and smelling bloating corpses in the gutters. After years of lean meals and deprivation, their young eyes recorded the reality of war all around them. Some of these anecdotes found their way into my fictional account of the last days of the war in northern Liguria. The Nazi werewolves are, I certainly hope, my own horror-thriller footnote.

In Wolf’s Edge I chose to tread uncomfortable paths, continuing the story of Wolfpaw as a cautionary metaphor, exposing the dangers of Blackwater-like entities intending to infiltrate – and replace – our armed forces. Though these contractors (a more acceptable label than mercenaries) may not be werewolves, their lust for criminal activity has been documented. Another thread woven into Wolf’s Edge: Wolfpaw’s corporate leadership employs despicable methods to deflect a congressional probe and hearings. Besides this, Nick Lupo faces the death of his mother, and the steady crumbling of his relationship with Jessie Hawkins.

I call my books about Nick Lupo and his condition “North Woods Noirs,” trying to please both a horror audience with a fair amount of sex and violence, while attempting to be true to the thriller writers who attracted me as a young writer: Ian Fleming, Desmond Bagley, Alistair MacLean, Duncan Kyle, F. Paul Wilson, David Morrell, and a host of others. Only my readers will be able to judge whether Wolf’s Edge succeeds in doing so.

*****

W.D. Gagliani is the author of the novels WOLF’S TRAP, WOLF’S GAMBIT, WOLF’S BLUFF, and WOLF’S EDGE (Samhain Publishing, 2011). WOLF’S TRAP was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award in 2004. He is also the author of the thriller SAVAGE NIGHTS, the novella “The Great Belzoni and the Gait of Anubis,” the collection SHADOWPLAYS, and the mini-collection MYSTERIES & MAYHEM, co-written with David Benton. With David Benton he writes middle grade adventures as A.G. Kent. He has had nonfiction published in ON WRITING HORROR (Mort Castle, ed; WD Books), THRILLERS: THE 100 MUST READS (Morrell & Wagner, eds; Oceanview), and in the October 2011 issue of THE WRITER magazine, among others.

To learn more about W.D. Gagliani, please visit his website.

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