Over the course of almost a decade, Anomalist Books have published numerous, excellent, new titles, such as Lyle Blackburn’s The Beast of Boggy Creek and Mac Tonnies’ The Cryptoterrestrials. And they have done something else too: republished a number of high-quality books from years long gone. The list includes John Keel’s Jadoo, Jacques Vallee’s Dimensions, and Brad Steiger’s Strange Guests.
Well, there is now another book to add to the growing number of older titles that Anomalist Books are bringing to new audiences – and to “veteran” audiences that might need to replace their well-worn originals! The book in question is Peter Costello’s In Search of Lake Monsters. It’s important to note that the resurfacing of Costello’s book is not an exercise in nostalgia. Anomalist Books are very careful and discerning when it comes to the issue of what should be republished and what should stay firmly forgotten. Costello’s work definitely falls into the first category.
There’s an extremely good reason why I’m excited that In Search of Lake Monsters is with us again: it was one of the very first cryptozoology-themed books I ever read. I was still in my pre-teen years (so we would be talking, approximately, about 1976/1977) and it immediately caught my attention. I can still recall feverishly reading it – and, just for good measure, re-reading it. So, when Anomalist Books’ Patrick Huyghe told me a while back they were going to put out a new edition of Costello’s book, it was (and still is!) great news. And, I’m very pleased to say, a great job has been done to ensure that the new edition is a high-quality product.
When I was five or six, my parents took me on a week-long holiday to Scotland, and we spent a day at Loch Ness. I still have a few fragmentary memories of that day, as my dad told me the story of Nessie. No doubt, I was wide-eyed and open-mouthed as I stared, for the first of now several times, across that vast, mysterious expanse of water.
It was, therefore, pretty much inevitable that I was going to get a copy of Costello’s book. To this day, it remains one of my cryptozoological favorites. And if you haven’t yet read In Search of Lake Monsters, and you decide to indulge in a copy of the new edition from Anomalist Books, it may well become a favorite of yours, too. Before I get to Costello’s text, it’s well worth me noting something else.
The new edition contains a couple of excellent, new items that, even if you have the original, will make you want to go out and get a copy: (A) There is a new Introduction from Loren Coleman, which includes a Q&A with Costello that was done in 2013; and (B) There is a fascinating (and also new), 5-page Afterword from Costello himself, who provides new insight on a variety of aspects of lake-monster lore, history and research. Now, onto the book.
Approximately the first 120 pages or so are devoted to what is, without doubt, the world’s most famous lake monster, the aforementioned Nessie. But, don’t think for one minute that this is just another Nessie book, as it’s not. Costello’s book is a lengthy one, running at almost 360 pages. In that sense, there is plenty of scope for a discussion of all things lake monster-based that take us far away from the dark waters of Scotland.
What I particularly enjoy about Costello’s writing style, on the matter of the Loch Ness Monster, is that he doesn’t simply relate the facts in bland, encyclopedic fashion. No. Instead, he writes in an entertaining style and demonstrates the high-drama, media hysteria, and public fascination with Nessie, and shows how the Nessie phenomenon caught the attention of just about everyone from 1933 onwards. None of this is at the expense of the witness reports, however: indeed, we are treated to a good, solid study of Nessie and the theories for what the creatures might be (Costello has his own ideas, but I will let you find out what they are for yourself).
It’s good, too, that Costello notes the important fact that Loch Ness is not the only Scottish loch in which monstrous beasts dwell. Much space is given (and rightly so) to Morag of Loch Morar. The story of Morag – and the eerie, atmospheric body of water in which it lurks – is one that has also long fascinated me, and Costello provides us with an excellent 7-page study of the creature.
As would be expected of a man born in Dublin, Costello carefully describes and dissects accounts of what could be termed “Irish Nessies.” And there are more than a few of them. Add to that, the unknown water-beasts of Scandinavia, Canada, the United States, South America, and elsewhere, and what you have is a fine, personal study of lake monsters, the theories for what they may be, the history and lore of such things, and a balanced look at the witnesses and their encounters. And let’s not forget the multitude of photos and artwork that the author treats us to.
If you have never read Peter Costello’s In Search of Lake Monsters, you really should. And if you have, well, as I said, the new material makes buying the new edition well worthwhile. This is a book that is important, entertaining, revealing, and thought-provoking. Buy it, or risk getting dragged down into the murky depths by some long-necked abomination.