Trade Paper, 70 pages, $16.95
Review by Sheila Merritt
The adage that “revenge is a dish best served cold” does not apply in Paul Kane’s Red. In this novella, revenge is best savored warm; warm as the blood of a werewolf’s victims. In this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf and his intended prey of centuries ago cross paths again in present day. To say the wolf bears a grudge is an understatement. He has never forgotten or forgiven that he was interrupted and injured while mauling his intended meal. It becomes apparent that he is literally out for blood, and that Rachael, the modern day manifestation of “the one that got away,” is in terrible trouble.
Red is a gleefully gruesome tale that moves at an excellent pace. Its length is a joy, reminiscent of a line from another fairy tale: “Not too big, not too small, just right.” In this interpretation of the Grimm story, the wolf possesses the ability to assume the guise and vocal qualities of humans who are known by his potential victims. It results in frightening and often funny interactions. On one occasion, for example, the carnal collides with the carnivorous when lusty lovemaking turns into a lycanthropic ravenous ravaging. A passionate cry out for more of a specific act leads to a literal response, which is simultaneously hellish and hilarious.
The wolf’s true identity is revealed in mirrors and other reflective surfaces. He is so quick at assuming another’s appearance and adept at killing, however, that a glimpse of him in his real form doesn’t yield much in the way of safety. Rachael, though, is tough and smart which makes the adversarial relationship between the two of them intriguing and entertaining.
Paul Kane does a rip roaring rendition of the Red Riding Hood story. He has the gift of summing up a situation in a sentence, as when he describes the disintegration of a marriage: “It was almost as though their marriage was some fragile culture grown in a lab, which at any moment might break down and vanish, and the scientists could do nothing but stand by and watch.” Red is wonderfully written; it is easy to sink one’s teeth into it and devour it with relish.