Spilt blood whets the appetite of a ravine at the heart of Haddington Springs, a bedroom community with a closet full of bones.
It's 1997, and Robin and his two best friends, Steph and Dylan, are ready to dive into their first summer as teenagers. But when Catherine, a classmate's younger sister, disappears, Robin finds his carefree life of mall arcades, soccer, and slasher movies swapped out for one of paranoia, guilt, and confusion. While parents form search parties and police chase vaporous leads, Robin becomes convinced that there is a darker element at play, one that he might have accidentally set loose. All the while, he is trying to figure out his changing relationships, growing closer to Steph as his friendship with Dylan is increasingly marred by mercurial moods and secrets. Delving into the most awkward and bewildering time of adolescence, Niall Howell's There Are Wolves Here Too blends coming of age with noir and horror elements as we move with Robin through the difficulties of learning who to trust and when to trust yourself.
About the author
Niall Howell was born and raised in Calgary, where he still resides. His short fiction has been published in The Feathertale Review and FreeFall and he holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mount Royal University, and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Calgary. He enjoys playing bass, and obsessively collects records and comics. Only Pretty Damned is a part of the Nunatak First Fiction Series.
Excerpt: There Are Wolves Here Too (by (author) Niall Howell)
Glasses were broken and blood was spilt. Both mine, that day.
Steph lined her soccer ball up.
"Stay still," she said.
I straightened and put my hands behind my back. "I'm expecting a call from the Governor."
Steph knelt down, closed one eye and examined the angle between her ball and my head. She made a minute adjustment before nodding and standing back up.
"The Governor call is a death row thing. This is a firing squad."
"Then shouldn't I be kicking a ball too?" Dylan, leaning against a tree on the clearing's edge, asked. "I thought with a firing squad you weren't supposed to know who made the kill."
Steph gave him a look like you've-gotta-be-kidding-me. "Your aim sucks. If you kicked, you'd actually hit him," she said from behind a cupped hand, as if I weren't supposed to hear it.
Dylan shrugged. "Fine by me. I just thought you did things by the book."
"If it were by the book, Robin would be blindfolded. And I think we'd have to give him a cigarette."
I picked a small twig up from the ground and popped it in my mouth. "One last puff," I pleaded, trying to contain my laughter. It crunched when I bit down and the taste that leaked from it gave my tastebuds a bitter sting, so I spat it out right away, hamming up the nastiness. My friends found this hilarious.
My reason for having to face the firing squad that day was an unforgiveable offense: inviting Steph's kid brother Jeremy join her, Dylan, and I at the ravine so we could play two-on-two for once instead of triple-threat. Jeremy drove Steph nuts, and she took any opportunity available to get away from him. I didn't think he was that bad. Maybe a bit of a pest, but he was nine--older than any of the other siblings available to us--so I figured we could at least make do with him. I was wrong.
The invitation wasn't appreciated by Steph. When we left her house, Jeremy was standing at the door in tears, his loud cries following us nearly to the corner, where they were finally drowned by distance and the sounds of passing cars. Steph wasted no time making clear to me that it wasn't up to me to invite her brother along to anything.
Having the luxury of being entertained by the situation, Dylan snickered and told me I was "so dead," while Steph quickened her pace and walked ahead of us the rest of the way to the ravine. But not too far ahead. None of us liked to be in the ravine alone, even for a minute.
Steph took her place behind the ball. "Any last words?" she asked me.
I thought about it for a second. When nothing original came to me, I replied, "Whatever the guy in Braveheart said."
Dylan snickered and gave me a slow clap. Steph shook her head.
"Your last words are the same as the last words of the character in Braveheart? Or your last words are literally, 'Whatever the guy in Braveheart said?'"
"Both," I told her.
Before she wound up her kick, I leaned forward and give a big toothy smile and said, "Pepsi," because a school photographer had us say that instead of cheese back when we were getting our pictures taken in the sixth grade. We thought that was really lame, so since then, whenever the opportunity presented itself, we'd smile and say Pepsi in the most obnoxious, nasally voice we could pull off.
"May God have mercy on your wretched soul." Steph took a few steps so she could approach the ball from an angle, the way she would if it were a penalty kick, which, I supposed, in a way it was, and then she went for it. Three steps, the swing of the leg, the strike. It looked like her usual perfect execution. But instead of whizzing by my head like it always did when either Dylan or I were in this position, her grass-stained, Union-Jack-adorned ball smashed right into my face, shattering both of my lenses and giving me a gusher of a nosebleed. I crumpled, blood flowing from my face, painting the grass of the ravine, trickling onto thirsty soil that soaked up the crimson pools quicker than seemed possible.
Steph was beyond apologetic. My parents, I knew, would be beyond pissed.
At the time, I had no idea what had been set in motion.
Praise for There Are Wolves Here Too:
"There Are Wolves Here Too delivers a powerful story about small towns and dark secrets. Howell is a writer to watch."
--Sam Wiebe, award-winning author of Hell and Gone
"With his follow up to his stellar debut novel, Only Pretty Damned, Niall Howell not only serves up yet another dazzling showcase of riveting drama told underneath a lingering cloud of criminality, but he also distinguishes himself as one of the finest fiction writers currently working in Canada. There Are Wolves Here Too is a mesmerizing coming-of-age masterpiece."
--A.J. Devlin, award-winning author of the "Hammerhead" Jed mystery-comedy series
"Niall Howell gets everything right in this swift, riveting coming-of-age noir: the complications of nostalgia with all its beauty and regret, the intense, romantic disorientation of adolescence. There Are Wolves Here Too draws us into its vividly realized suburban world before extracting its darkness with masterfully restrained technique. The characters live and breathe. The plot is meticulously rhythmed. The dialogue is fresh and real. Filled with haunting sadness, sharp humour, and somber wisdom, this novel is a stunning achievement."
--Mike Thorn, author of Shelter for the Damned and Darkest Hours
"Niall Howell is fast becoming one of noir's masters of subversive voice. Robin, the narrator of this lean and bleak bildungsroman, is as complex and morally compromised a character as you'll find in crime fiction. But he's a kid. And that's what makes this novel so unique. All the signatures of Teen Comedy are here--the hot mom, the class bully, the tested friendship, the budding romance--but put in service of something much richer, and deeper, and darker: a Young Adult novel that is definitely not for young adults."
--Randy Nikkel Schroeder, author of Arctic Smoke