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This review is taken from PN Review 183, Volume 35 Number 1, September - October 2008.

WEREWOLVES OF LA TOBY BARLOW, Sharp Teeth (Harper Collins, New York).

Sharp Teeth was first published in the UK in 2007, in slightly different form.

The plot of Sharp Teeth concerns three packs of werewolves fighting for supremacy in present-day Los Angeles, a city often used now by artists to depict dystopic or fantastic scenes and stories. For science fiction or fantasy buffs this is not at all an unusual storyline. What is out of the ordinary is that the novel is written in free verse. In this, his debut, Toby Barlow uses verse to convey effectively the elemental thoughts and feelings of the beasts at the centre of this work. The verse telescopes the narration, making it a good fit for the animal sensibility of his creatures, but works less successfully for the lycanthropes' alter-ego human selves; more on that later. To understand Barlow's werewolves in LA, we must first forget all the Lon Chaney movies, Gypsy camps, and howling at the full moon. Instead, you might be better off looking more closely during the daytime at the ultra-analytical lawyer, Lark, obsessed with long-range planning - what Barlow calls the 'Ukan Path' - or bridge players who play the game aggressively and seem to have an uncanny or perhaps canine way of acting in tandem. These wolves/man/dogs are not the creatures of myth:

So get this straight
It's not the full moon.
That's as ancient and ignorant as any myth.
The blood just quickens with a ...

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