Sunday, July 6, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Howl of the Werewolf - The Hellhound Shuck

Some blog readers have been asking for more behind the scenes information on how I came to create certain characters and scenes for the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks I've written over the years. I've already posted about how I came up with the winter elemental Shiversprite, and today it's the turn of the Shuck.

The Shuck is a demonic hound that haunts the moors of Lupravia. The hero of Howl of the Werewolf encounters the beast whilst searching for the shrine of Saint Crucius and has to battle the demon dog before reaching the safety of the isolated chapel.

The origins of the Shuck should be pretty obvious to anyone from East Anglia or a fan of The Darkness. Black Shuck (or Old Shuck) is the name given to a ghostly black dog which is said to roam the Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex coast, and is similar to the Barghest of Yorkshire folklore.

The name Shuck either derives from the Anglo-Saxon for 'demon' (scucca) or from the local dialect word 'shucky' meaning 'shaggy' or 'hairy'. As well as inspiring the encounter in Howl of the Werewolf, the legend of Black Shuck may also have been the inspiration behind the famous Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Black Shuck is the title of a track from The Darkness's 2003 album Permission to Land, which recounts the legend in its lyrics. The description of the dog of doom mentioned in the song directly influenced the description of the beast in my book.

In a town in the east
The parishioners were visited upon
By a curious beast
And his eyes numbered but one and shone like the sun
And a glance beckoned the immediate loss
Of a cherished one
It was the coming of the
Black Shuck

The idea of demonic hounds haunting desolate moorlands is making a reappearance in my next novel Human Nature, to be published by Abaddon Books this December.

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