The Hunter: by David Case

The Hunter is probably David Case's great story of record. In it he demonstrates how men make beasts of themselves: it is not that they are defying their nature; it is, perhaps, that they are giving way to it.

Beginning with a series of terrifying killings in a remote part of rural England, which leaves the local constabulary baffled, the story switches to a Gentlemen's Club in London, where a retired big game hunter laments the company he keeps. Weatherby is the sort of man for whom civilisation is a retirement, a well-earned rest. His quiet life is not at all jaded because his life has been unquiet. His past permits him the luxury of a drink and a pipe because it so often placed those pleasures in doubt; those around him have no such claim to make and so are jaded by lack of doubt, by lack of danger. He is unsurprised when the police seek his help in catching the murderer, whom they now believe to be a wild beast rather than a man. Weatherby accepts the charge, not in the spirit of a last hurrah, but as a favour to his past, which has given him a splendid retirement.

The case is not straight-forward. Weatherby's calculation of tracks suggests two beasts at work, or one beast that transforms into another while in pursuit of its prey. This leads to panic as the press speculate about a Werwolf. People withdraw to their homes as the police roam the area in an increasingly desperate cordon. A killing indoors suggests no-one is safe. Weatherby obsessively stalks the fields and lanes, convinced he is being watched and stalked in turn. He is painfully aware of a fact that the police seem unwilling to act upon - that at the centre of the killing zone stands the stately home of another hunter: Bryon. Weatherby and Byron have history. They have a past. And it is that past which now erupts into the gentle countryside of England, as Byron becomes a murder suspect in Weatherby's mind, and Byron baits Weatherby about his retirement, which he insists has not been earned as Weatherby is a man of all reasonable precaution. Hunt without harness, advises Byron, stalk with only one bullet and the beast will show itself to you... a sporting stalk.

The Hunter is in some ways an academic exercise - two old hunters, re-fighting past campaigns, pitting two different philosophies of gamesmanship against each other for old times' sake. But the games are played out by spending other people's lives; and it is here that the story is most affecting - because Case writes superbly about people. There are no incidental lives to be lost in The Hunter - a fact that is lost to Byron, but not to Weatherby. Their final duel pits a force of nature against a force of human nature.

The Hunter is contained, or to be found rather, in the Twelfth Pan Book of Horror Stories, where it accounts for 82 out of 190 pages.


  1. Do you know if the David Case mentioned above is the American author of the same name, whose first novel was Fengriffen? The English setting of the above would suggest not, but I've been unable to locate mentioned of a British writer with that name. Great website, by the way.

    1. Hi Eric. I had long thought Case a rather mysterious writer, but a couple of years ago Valancourt Books published in twin volumes: Fengriffen & Other Gothic Tales, and The Cell & Other Transmorphic Tales. The Hunter is featured in the latter. So I think it's safe to assume there is only one David Case. I think he still remains rather mysterious though.

      I'm assuming you're the author of one of my favourite books of recent years, The Kings of Eternity; which moved me so much that it's one of those books I buy for others so that they might get to know me. Thanks for that, and for dropping by.

  2. As you say there is only one David Case. Unfortunately the movie "And Now the Scream Starts" doesn't get justice to the novelette "The Hunter".
    And you should try his westerns too, beginning with "Plumb Drillin'" (aka Gold Fever) who was to become a movie starring Steve Mc Queen before the actor's untimely death in 1980.
    My best compliments for your great website.
    Tiziano Agnelli

  3. Hi Tiziano, thanks for dropping by; I will definitely keep an eye out for Case's western. He's such an inventive author that I'm sure he handles that genre as impeccably as he does horror. Take care.

  4. Terrific short story! Great ending; much better than the ending to the movie adaptation, Scream of the Wolf.