Haynes usually publish motor repair manuals with exciting titles like Lexus RX300 00 to 06 5-door 3 litre, or Skoda Fabia 2000 to 2006 (W to 06 reg) Petrol & Diesel; but if you're looking for instructions on how to repair an anti-gravity drive or fit a three-sphere landing gear on an Adamski Scout Ship (Model MJ-12A-Fusion Drive), you'll be disappointed. Such a book might, of course, be useful to crashed saucer enthusiasts.
Although the book bills itself an as 'investigations manual' this does not mean that it is exclusively a guide to the on-the-spot investigations of individual cases, complete with UFO detectors, Geiger counters and all the other pieces of kit that some other manuals describe. There are a couple of pages at the end briefly describing the sort of equipment you'd need to do such an investigation, but the real purpose of the book is to tell the investigator what they need to know even before they download the official BUFORA sighting report form.
In his Introduction Nigel Watson emphasises the important point, forgotten by too many investigators, that 'UFO' is a temporary label. The ufologist's job is not to prove that something is a UFO, but to find the stimulus behind the UFO report. If you cannot do that, it remains a 'UFO', and that does not tell you anything useful about what it may actually be.
The book continues with a survey of the rarely development of the UFO phenomenon from the 1892 Airship wave to the 1946 Swedish 'ghost rockets', carefully separating rumour, hoax, and possible genuine sighting. The Airship phenomenon might be considered the author's specialist subject, and he takes care to emphasis the global nature of the 'scares', linking them to the social, political and strategic concerns of the period, from German expansionism to Russian Cold War threats.
There is an outline of the various official and semi-official investigation projects which have been launched over the years, starting with the cursory US Army investigation of the Maury Island affair, which ended in the death of the two officers involved. The various US Government projects like Sign, Grudge, and Blue Book are described. Condon gets a fair description, with Majestic 12 and even the ludicrous 'Serpo' get an outing - and an objective analysis - as well as a brief outline of the UK's Condign Report.
Another chapter takes a look at what might be called the 'mechanics' of ufology - "waves, flaps, hot spots, polls and patterns" with a good summary of the Warminster phenomenon, a look at the way ufologists have tried to plot UFO activity statistically and the way in which certain locations seem to attract UFOs - or ufologists!
The chapter on classifying and identifying UFOs runs over the Vallée and Hynek classification systems and a system developed by GEPAN. This chapter is also delightfully reproduces a 1950s artist's impression of a UFO group at work, showing lots of clean-cut Americans pointing eagerly at maps, filling in forms and busily filing reports - and is also illustrated with the two most boring MUFOB front covers that I ever produced, both consisting largely of blank paper!
The bulk of the book from this point is a step-by-step examination of various types of UFO reports, from 'Lights in the Sky', through physical traces, to military involvement and the abduction experience and contactees. In all of these Nigel gives a concise summary of the various phenomena, explaining how they perceived and what could be the stimuli for them. This is done in an unpolemical way, and all explanations are given a fair hearing, and the problems with each of them carefully pointed out. This analysis is greatly assisted by an exceptionally well-chosen selection of illustrations. Indeed, the quality and choice of illustrations throughout the book is excellent.
An important section describes the wide variety of natural phenomena and man-made objects which are often discovered to be the origin of UFO reports, illustrating and describing them and noting the circumstances underwhich they become to be reported as UFOs.
I suppose I should declare an interest, in that the author is not only a personal friend and contributor to Magonia, but that throughout this book he often quotes approvingly from my own writings, and those of all the Magonia team of contributors. But I think I am not being swayed by that when I say that this is probably as good and comprehensive analysis of the UFO phenomenon as one is likely to find in such a compact format. Nigel Watson knows ufology from the grass-roots; he's done the investigatory leg-work and could never be described as an 'armchair ufologist'.
The only comparable book to this is Allan Hendry's UFO Handbook, also written by someone with direct hands-on experience of UFO investigation, but this is now out of print and hard to come by, and has an American emphasis. The UFO Investigations Manual should be in the library of anyone seriously interested in the subject. - John Rimmer.