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The Field Guide to North American Monsters

W. Haden Blackman

Three Rivers Press/Random House

US Trade Paperback


249 pages; $15.00

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 1999



Monsters are a primary part of the horror genre. Many of the best characters in horror novels and stories are well conceived and executed monsters. What more then, could the horror reader (or writer) ask for then but a "field guides" to the identification of monsters? 'The Field Guide to North American Monsters' purports to be a book for the beginning "monster hunter". Blackman gives a brief description of the field of "monsterology" (as opposed to cryptozoology), and his work covers a vast range of monsters from the possibly (hopefully) real, like Bigfoot, to the frankly folkloric, like the Serpent Woman, or the totally fictional (zombies, from 'Night of the Living Dead'). This then, is no serious guide to creatures that might or might not exist. But it is an entertaining coffee-table book for the horror reader.

This strangely sized paperback contains lots of illustrations, and "statistics" for each monster. In the case of the frankly fictional monsters, these statistics are useless, but it adds to the fun. When he's talking about monsters that may have some basis in fact, like Bigfoot or Cadborosaurus, Blackman occasionally misses the facts. This is not a book to base your college thesis on. Many of the descriptions of -- shall we use the word possible? -- creatures he describes are lifted wholesale from better sources, such as Jerome Clark's 'Unexplained'.

The value of this book lies mostly in the fictional and folkloric entities that Blackman describes. These entries often come off like miniature horror stories, though even within the stories there will be entirely conflicting statements, such as a creature that is 'cannibalistic' but 'eats human flesh'. But if you're looking for ideas for monsters to populate your latest work of fiction, they are here in spades. 'A Field Guide to North American Monsters' is not much for accuracy, but it is perfect for a few laughs when set upon the unsuspecting coffee table.