Cryptozoology is the starting point for many a budding Fortean. If one is British then by far and away the most well-known and written-about cryptid has to be the Loch Ness Monster. If one hails from the United States, it is probably Bigfoot and the news surrounding it that receives the most attention in the popular media, and therefore by default, almost certainly first catches the imagination. Strange beasts with distinctions from the usual fauna have been reported and noted ever since the human race has scratched upon cave walls. They have been with us throughout time, and are still appearing to us to this very day.
American Monsters is an overview of these unknown and unclassifiable creatures that have been reported as being seen in the USA. The lifeforms described are, on the whole, mainly animal-like in their outward appearance, although there are brief forays to examine humanoid beings that are strongly associated with UFOs and USOs as well. The volume’s chapters are divided up into three helpful main sections, Monsters by Air, Sea and Land. The monsters of the title are from all corners of the crypto-zoo, as it were. There certainly seem to be many, many sightings included herein. Things that fly, things that swim and, most distressingly, things that lurk in the lost and lonely places; all have been seen and noted by someone and the accounts have made it here to this tome.
Linda S Godfrey is no stranger to cryptids. She has amassed occurrences of odd yet apparently-living things from her native USA for our consideration. She cut her odd-creature teeth on the Beast of Bray Road (a creature with bear- or wolf-like and human attributes) whilst employed by a local newspaper. It corresponded to the popular folk-figure of the werewolf, except no sightings of it transforming from a human into the figure subsequently seen were reported. Since then she has specialised in unusual creatures and this is her sixteenth book.
The style of the work is quite approachable. There is an easy, almost chatty, style that attracts the reader. What with that and the clear-cut division, mentioned earlier, of land, air and sea early on, finding something of specific interest is simple from the outset. One does not have to have any previous knowledge of this field in order to read it. She does speculate now and then upon what may be behind the apparitions, but this theorising does not overwhelm the recording of the sightings which is, to my mind at least, the main strength of the text. A whole book’s worth of odd creature sightings in one place can be a convenient and a useful thing to have, even if one’s interests are not predominantly those of the appearances of odd lifeform sightings. Putting the USA's (and some bleeding over the borders) cryptid strangeness in one volume is handiness indeed.
This, then, is a book that is most certainly of use to the novice cryptozoologist, due to its approachable style and groupings, and it is probable that even some more experienced investigators will find something previously unknown to themselves here as well. It handily has notes and an index, therefore making it more useful to serious student of the unknown. -- Trevor Pyne