Childhood loves are hard to give up on; they are the very fabric of the dreams that we subsist and thrive on. They can be sweet and bold, having successfully navigated with us our own life journeys over the years, becoming only better with each subsequent revisiting. Or they can wither and die without us even taking note until the last moment when, furtively, we attempt to pluck from the vine of the Nostalgia Tree that special something that endeared a time, a place or a particular and valued treasure closely to our hearts.
For me as a young teenager coming of age in a small and rural Southern town one of my big passions was a television show from a struggling “fourth network” called FOX that, in 1987 when I discovered my particular televised predilection, was just struggling to get noticed with such shows as The Tracey Ullman Show, Herman’s Head and The New Adventures of Beans Baxter. Not very memorable stuff for most fans, and I’d like to say that the supernaturally inclined show that was about to become one of my all-time viewing favorites broke the mold and has since gone on to become a beloved household favorite. But it didn’t in 1987. And it hasn’t even now over thirty years later in 2019. Instead, the oddball trifle Werewolf has become what is commonly referred to as a cult classic, a title usually reserved for films, television, literature and music that didn’t initially find its intended audience upon original release (think My So-Called Life or Carnival of Souls) but, with the benefit of hindsight, have gone on to a rich and receptive audience and a new understanding of all of the things that earlier audiences just didn’t get.
Such has slowly and tortuously been the fate for my beloved Werewolf, a twenty nine episode series which followed the quest of a young man named Eric Cord (John J. York) to rid himself of the werewolf curse by tracking down and killing the evil granddaddy of all lycanthropes, Janos Skorzeny (brilliantly and eerily portrayed by the legendary Chuck Connors). Think of the series as a hairier and more high-stakes version of CBS’s The Incredible Hulk or ABC’s The Fugitive with the tried and true formula of our protagonist wandering from town to town across the country in search of his deadly adversary.
After the series was unceremoniously cancelled by FOX, Eric Cord was doomed to an eternity of television purgatory knocking around with the likes of Parker Lewis and Brian Krakow with seemingly no conclusion in sight to lift the werewolf curse. The years marched on, with fewer people ever even recalling the show’s brief existence. Because of its rather short tenure on the nation’s boob tubes and sans any immediate syndication deal to at least keep the reruns in the public consciousness, Werewolf became the very definition of a fringe cult show. Not helping matters was the tricky and problematic licensing of some of the music used for the show, which to this day has prevented a legal DVD or Blu-Ray release.
But things were not all gloom and doom. To wit, the small but loyal fan base that Werewolf inspired refused to let Cord, Skorzeny or bounty hunter “Alamo” Joe Rogan (Lance LeGault in an amazing turn) go gently into that good night. This author recalls fondly and vividly being so discouraged by FOX’s cancellation of one of my favorite shows that, in protest, I personally finished the saga of poor Eric’s quest by handwriting in ballpoint pen in school tablets a grand total of seventy one further episodes of the Werewolf story, rounding out the final episode tally to a sweeter sounding one hundred. While other kids my age were scamming on how to get dates with the school cheerleader or how best to effectively sneak out to the high school kegger, I was busy toiling away enough storylines for this cancelled show to make a werewolf hack up a hairball.
One fan took my simple arithmetic and turned it into quantum physics by going me one better: This gentleman actually wrote two novels that continued the Werewolf storyline and married it to another cult television show, Forever Knight. This man’s name is Daniel Haynes and he’s the best friend Eric Cord has had since springing forth from the imagination of Werewolf creator Frank Lupo back in the halycon days of the late 1980s. His two novel series – Brothers of the Bite and Brothers of the Bite 2 – which breathes new life into the Werewolf property is horror and dark fantasy fiction of the highest order and well worth seeking out for any and all discriminating fans of bloody palm pentagrams and silver bullets.
It was with real pleasure that I recently carved out some time to speak with Daniel about his novels and the continuation of the Werewolf storyline while also getting him to wax nostalgic about what the original series meant to him.
Vents: When did you first discover the world of the FOX network’s Werewolf?
Daniel Haynes: I was in the Army, age 26 (my first enlistment) and stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas. I had no television or VHS player, however, my unit would permit its soldiers to hold part-time civilian jobs at night and I happened to have one that also provided a small color television and VHS players for my use. My mother and sister (back in Kentucky) would take turns taping each episode of Werewolf and mail them to me. I was in heaven!
Vents: What was the ultimate appeal of the show for you?
DH: Werewolves have always been my favorite of the cinema monsters and when I had learned that a network was actually going to invest in a weekly series on the subject, I was thrilled beyond belief and very excited to discover how they (FOX Television Network) would envision such a topic on a weekly basis.
Vents: Do you have a favorite episode out of the twenty nine?
DH: Aside from the pilot episode, episode two; Nightwatch because I felt it was going to set the tone of the series. It also guest starred one of my favorite character actors, Denny Miller, as Captain Mueller who squared off with Captain Skorzeny. Two large men, both hard-assed sea captains, both with foreboding East European accents…I wish they’d had more time to have expanded on their confrontation. I also enjoyed that it was the only episode where Skorzeny and bounty hunter “Alamo” Joe Rogan interacted. I love imaging that between takes, Connors (of old western television series The Rifleman fame) would borrow LeGault’s Winchester rifle prop and demonstrate his legendary skills at rapid-fire (dry) shooting. Those two gentlemen, with so much film and television history between them, surely had some fascinating discussions. Another favorite episode of mine was the next to last in the series. Episode 28; Gray Wolf! Starring the recently departed Morgan Sheppard, who passed away in February of this year. It provided the key background information to my fan fiction series in regards to the Werewolf storyline. Gray Wolf’s accounting of the various werewolf packs and his own history was a timeline goldmine, which I drew heavily on throughout my series.
Vents: Chuck Connors was such an important part of Werewolf early on. Do you think a mistake was made by FOX executives not to negotiate with Connors and keep him on the show?
DH: Oh, absolutely! I believe you would be hard-pressed to find a devout Werewolf fan who would dispute that logic. Consensus at the time from the countless Werewolf TV series fan pages and comments I’ve read through the years was that the Captain Janos Skorzeny character gave the show the bite (some pun intended) that held the viewers enthralled in its intensity. That said, we don’t really know all of the details that led to the unfortunate dissolution of Connors’ collaboration with the series’ Powers-That-Be. Very sad; very unfortunate. (AUTHOR’S NOTE: For a full accounting of what actually went down between FOX and Chuck Connors, be sure to check out my upcoming full length book on the making of the Werewolf television show. End shameless plug.)
Vents: What influenced you to carry on with Werewolf in your writings after the show had been long ago given up for dead?
DH: Like hundreds, if not thousands, of other fans of both Werewolf and Forever Knight, I simply did not want them to end. I felt that there was more storylines yet to be discovered. Your own passion for the series bares that out.
Vents: What led you to incorporate the two shows into such a powerful mashup in your two novels?
DH: I had been envisioning such a crossover since I first discovered the Forever Knight television series in 1992. Both shows had engrossing characters with amazing actors who breathed life and emotion into those characters. I was drawn by the parallels between Eric Cord and Nick Knight and envisioned the possibilities of interaction between various characters of each series. For me, a huge fan of both series, it provided euphoric potential and I am greatly pleased with my ongoing vision; still much more to come, much more. Of course, the old werewolf versus vampire mythos fit perfectly into my vision, as well.
Vents: Your two novels read seamlessly and it’s easy for this longtime fan to picture John J. York and crew back from television limbo when reading your wonderfully crafted words. How much research of the two shows went into crafting your novels? You really captured speech patterns and character tics that I had thought no one else other than me had noticed.
DH: You are too kind, sir. I’m humbled by your praise. The real credit, however, goes to the original writing staff of both series and, most importantly, the actors who breathed life and personality into each of their characters. Mannerisms, characteristic responses to various situations and dialogue exchange, facial expressions, etc. made it extremely easy for this hardcore fan to craft the various scenes as if they had actually been already filmed and were playing out before me on a television screen in my head (laughter). When a rough draft of the first novel was posted online, a fellow member of a Forever Knight fan site inquired if I had actually been on that series writing staff. I was extremely humbled and proud. Another friend of mine, who is an EMS first responder in Chicago, informed me that she had read the first novel in one sitting and pushed hard for an immediate sequel (laughter). That took four years to complete. Again, I was overwhelmed. Then, when non-fiction author, Tim Broussard, contacted me with his praise and encouraging words, I knew that I had accomplished a worthy tribute to two series that I absolutely loved.
Vents: Has anyone from Werewolf or Forever Knight contacted you regarding your novels?
DH: Yes! A major cast member from Forever Knight expressed interest in reading it…He expressed his pleasure with my work (after reading the novel).
Vents: After three-plus decades, Werewolf still has a very loyal and devout following. To what do you credit that longevity of fascination for this short-lived show?
DH: I believe that it is basically the love for werewolf storylines that was rekindled with the introduction of the Underworld film franchise. Of course, it doesn’t hurt the female fan base that the lead character is portrayed by the handsome John J. York (laughter). Otherwise, I believe we all can identify, to some degree, with the unfair and cruel fate that life all too often deals us. We like to envision ourselves in the tragic role of Eric Cord and imagine how we might deal with such oppression. Lon Chaney Jr. (my idol since childhood) set the standard in his recurring role as The Wolf Man as one suffering through such a nightmarish affliction. Mr. York brought it into modern day Greek Tragedy format.
Vents: Any chance we might see your Werewolf-Forever Knight sage turned into a trilogy?
DH: Absolutely… (In the meantime) I’ve also written a complete background origins story on Gray Wolf and a standalone tale about the characters of Zora and Daniel that pulls “Alamo” Joe into their venture. All dovetail into my main series.