A few days ago I announced the publication of Neil Arnold's long-awaited book, The A to Z of Zooform Phenomena.
Well, I have now digested its packed 382 pages and I can state firmly that this is one title that should not be missed by anyone who has a deep interest in cryptozoology.
A handful or so books have been published throughout the last few years that detail - in A to Z format - the many and varied cryptozoological "things" that are said to inhabit the darker corners of our planet. And so, you might well reasonably ask, what does Neil's book bring to the table that the other books don't?
Well, fortunately, the answer is: a great deal indeed.
Whereas the rest of the A to Z type titles cover pretty much every aspect of cryptozoology, Neil's is devoted solely to those more Fortean-based critters that inhabit the subject. Or as Jon Downes of the Center for Fortean Zoology coined them: "Zooform Phenomena." Those things that appear to be animals - but almost certainly aren't.
As Neil himself states: "In my opinion, Bigfoot 'Nessie', the Yeti, sea leviathans, and lake dwellers, are quite likely to be real creatures, despite the mythical aura that surrounds them. Some may be discovered in the not too distant future, whereas others may be on the verge of extinction, or already a faded enigma."
Neil continues: "But there are some animal forms which can never be explained, let alone caught on film, or in the nets of fishermen. They are the zooforms. Some are mere ghosts...should you believe in such things, whilst others take the form of animals, but, quite simply, are something else entirely, whether ethereal, supernatural, or part of tribal lore."
And so, it is within the pages of Monster! that you will find much to ponder on concerning those creatures that inhabit the darker fringes of cryptozoology - such as Mothman of Point Pleasant, the Owlman of Cornwall, England, the Jersey Devil, the Chupacabras, and the Goat-Man.
But Neil's book is not just a study of those famous zooforms that have become renowned in monster-hunting circles.
No. Monster! provides the reader with literally hundreds of entries on creatures that seem to fall into the specific zooform - rather than the purely physical - category, such as the Griffin of Elizabeth Lake; the Henrico County Werewolf; Jenny Greenteeth (who - before anyone asks - is not a member of the CFZ, to the best of my knowledge!); Oregon's Kangaroo Man; the Manticore of Indonesia; the winged woman of Pavoldar; the Pelham Unicorns; Skinwalkers; the macabre Toronto Tunnel Monster; the Watford Winged Thing; the Bat Monster of West Drayton Church; the shape-shifters of Argentina; and much more.
Of course, a book like this - and one that runs to almost 400 pages - could easily become monumentally tedious in the extreme, if placed into the wrong hands. Fortunately, however, Neil is a fluent, entertaining writer who holds the reader's attention throughout.
And each entry is represented by a 'Zooform Rating System" that provides the reader with Neil's own assessment of the level of weirdness attached to it.
This is Neil's third book - following on from Odd-Bodies: An Investigation Into A Selection Of Monsters Triggered By The Cosmic Mechanism; and Clandestine Creatures: Animals, Manimals and Monsters Of The Mind.
Even if your main area of interest is with respect to those cryptozoological creatures that seem far more flesh-and-blood in nature than those phantom entities that appear in Neil's Monster!, I most definitely recommend that you invest in this title.
An essential and definitive piece of work for those who are interested in the wild creatures of the outer edge.
I'll be doing an in-depth interview with Neil next week, and which will be posted here. In the meantime, check out Neil's blogs, Beasts of London; Kent Big Cat Research; and Kent Monsters.