WASHINGTON — Gary Brandner, a novelist whose trilogy about ‘‘The Howling’’ gave werewolf enthusiasts much to salivate over and inspired the popular fright film series of the same name, died Sept. 22 at his home in Reno. He was 83.
The cause was esophageal cancer,
In the first installment of ‘‘The Howling,’’ published in 1977, a werewolf colony lives in a small California town, hiding its carnivore lifestyle among the human population. A reporter, recovering from a mental breakdown, stumbles onto the colony after she and her husband visit the town for a getaway. The husband is seduced by a female colony member and then turned into a werewolf.
‘‘Even with the flood of horror fiction that has been published in the last two decades, there are very few novels of lycanthropy that stand out,’’ according to the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers. ‘‘ ‘The Howling’ is one of these, partly because Brandner constructed a tight, suspenseful plot, partly because he hit upon a novel idea.’’
The book was made into a hit 1981 movie, directed by Joe Dante and with a script written by John Sayles and Terence Winkless.
New York Times film critic Vincent Canby described the movie as ‘‘a horror-hoot for people who think the height of eroticism is watching people in raccoon coats and bad tempers making love. The thing is that they really aren’t people, but werewolves, and the unique contribution of ‘The Howling’ to the lore of werewolfdom is that werewolves, like other animals, have sex.’’
Although the werewolf colony is destroyed at the end, some members survive. Mr. Brandner followed with two sequels while Hollywood conceived several spin-offs.
Mr. Brandner’s other books included ‘‘The Beezlebub Business’’ (1975), about a psychic investigating a satanic spy network; ‘‘Quintana Roo’’ (1984), a zombie story set in Mexico; and ‘‘Cameron’s Closet’’ (1987), in which a boy’s night fears create a real-life monster. The last was made into a film in 1988.
Gary Phil Brandner was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Mr. Brandner was a 1955 journalism graduate of the University of Washington in Seattle. While employed as a technical writer in the aerospace industry, he sold his first story to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1969. With the success of ‘‘The Howling,’’ he switched from mysteries to horror and became a full-time writer.
He leaves his wife of 25 years, Martine Wood of Reno.