What you need to know about George R.R. Martin’s “The Skin Trade”

A. Quinton — Jul. 25th 2013

As the San Diego Comic Con dust finally settles, there’s been some chatter about The Skin Trade, the 1988 werewolf novella by hat & beardsman (and bestselling Game of Thrones author) George R.R. Martin. Here’s what you need to know about the activity surrounding the award-winning werewolf story.

First, the official synopsis:

When a string of grotesque killings begins to strike her small city, private detective Randi Wade becomes suspicious. A serial killer is taking the skin of its victims and the grisly murders remind her all too much of her own father’s death almost twenty years ago. As the police hit a dead end, Randi goes on a search for answers of her own… But when a close friend suddenly becomes a target, he is forced to reveal a startling secret about himself and Randi is quickly pulled into a dark underworld where monsters exist and prey on the living.

The story was originally published in Night Visions 5, a 1988 horror anthology that featured stories by Martin, Stephen King and Dan Simmons. The same anthology has also been published under the titles Dark Visions, Dark Love and The Skin Trade. The story won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella in 1989, and has generally been hailed as the American Werewolf In London of short fiction. To the best of my knowledge, the only way you can read The Skin Trade today is to buy one of these anthologies from a used book seller (unless you’re fluent in French) Correction! Pennington Beast points out that The Skin Trade is included in Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, which is currently available for purchase on Amazon. But don’t despair! Don’t freak out. As mentioned by Martin himself, Avatar Press has just published the first issue of the official Skin Trade comic.

Skin Trade 01 Wrap cover

The story was adapted (to Martin’s great satisfaction, apparently) by Daniel Abraham and illustrated with gritty, gruesome aplomb by Mike Wolfer (hold the puns, please). There are a variety of covers, including a Limited SDCC version, a gory version and a wrap-around version. This issue is in stores now, and the second issue comes out next month. It’s not clear how many more issues will follow after that, but I’m hoping for a total of six at the least. This first issue was good but exposition-heavy, and it didn’t blow the lid off the werewolf “mystery” – but give it time, baby bird, give it time. This is a horror novella they’re adapting, not a children’s fairy tale, and if you’re at all familiar with Martin’s writing, you know that a slow burn always pays off.

The Skin Trade - movie posterIf you like comics but prefer your adaptations to take the form of light, sound and moving images, I have more good news for you: a film version is in the works. The movie rights to The Skin Trade are resting with Mike The Pike Productions, who have the screen adaptation tagged as “in development”. Details on just what that means are scarce – the latest news I can find is from this 2011 post on Shock Till You Drop – but there are recent signs of life: the film’s web site got a recent facelift, and during last week’s Skin Trade SDCC panel (see Collider’s great recap) Martin briefly discussed his ideal casting for the “asthmatic, hypochondriac and not very formidable werewolf” character, saying that Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy or Steve Buscemi would all be great choices. You can follow the film’s development progress on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

And that’s the extent of my knowledge regarding The Skin Trade, in any format. I have a copy of Night Visions 5 coming to me in the mail, thanks to a packrat friend, and I’m looking forward to reading what all the fuss is about. If you’ve read the story, tell me and your fellow Werewolf News readers what you thought of it in the comments!

  • Mike Roukas

    The plot outline sounds generic, but that certainly won’t stop me from checking it out. That wolf among the autumn leaves illustration is an awesome eye-catcher for sure!

  • Lew

    It was a pretty good little novella, although it’s been a while since I read it so take my estimation with a grain of salt. Got very “magic-y” and a little confusing at the end. Martin has written an excellent short story about werewolves in a more fantasy setting, too – “In the Lost Lands”.

  • John Newbauer

    It was a great read and I’m not really a werewolf fan usually but the way Martin tells the story is rather captivating. Looking forward to the film version.

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