I like to release book reviews in twos, for some reason. I think it’s because when I finish reading one really good book, it piques my appetite for another great read right away.
This time I’m pairing Ken Gerhard’s A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts and Barton Nunnelly’s Mysterious Kentucky, the Dark and Bloody Ground. These two gentlemen, and I mean that in the highest sense of that word for they are both truly gentlemen, have each written a book with the word “mysterious” in the title and a wide swath of unexplained beasts and phenomena cavorting through the interior pages. While Gerhard goes global, however, Nunnelly sticks to his home turf of Ol’ Kentuck. Together or one at a time, these books provide a rich harvest of unknown tidbits that will have readers gobbling every word Gerhard and Nunnelly have served up. To quote the immortal request of Charles Dickens’ urchin Oliver Twist, all I can say is, “Please, sir[s], I want some more.”
Most people probably wouldn’t consider a quiet cluster of children more frightening than, say, a modern day version of a werewolf – until they look in the children’s eyes and see only glistening black pools. At that point, for me, the Black-eyed Kids or BEK’s gain a few points on the mysterious creature horror scale. These and other creatures that are not your grandfather’s monsters are discussed alongside more traditional entities in Ken Gerhard’s “A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts.” Readers will find themselves contemplating the Polish Wilkolak, sort of a vampire/werewolf combo, for instance, or pondering whether a photo of an alleged Chupacabras is truly a depiction of the blood-sucking goat killer or something else that simply appears otherworldly but has a mundane explanation.
Mundane is not a word I’d use to describe any part of this book, however. Whether readers are newbies still wrapping their craniums around the vast array of beasties, or seasoned enthusiasts seeking to hone their knowledge of favorite cryptids or catch up on the latest reports, Gerhard’s ghoulish gathering provides an irresistible gateway to the unknown. It’s a volume I’ll be keeping close at hand.
This is it…the book I and many other fans of Mysterious Kentucky, Vol. 1 have been pining for Barton Nunnelly to finish and deliver. Well, he has at long last delivered, and how!!
Mysterious Kentucky, Vol. 2 covers more strangeness of each area of the huge state Native Americans considered cursed land, from historic lore to present day happenings. And joy of joys, the section on Kentucky Bigfoots alone comprises 118 pages of pure Sasquatch encounter bliss. It’s a hefty tome, packed chockablock from the first story which concerns, appropriately, Kentucky’s first people, to the last entry, Kentucky’s Chernobyl! The book must be seen and held to convey just how info-dense and well organized it is.
Nunnelly is also a gifted artist, and his illustrations enlighten the research and careful writing that take this book to the level of must-have permanent collection shelf of my personal library. The sense of immersion in the Blue Grass State is so complete, I almost looked around for a few blades of teal-colored grass as I sat and read. And as spooky as Nunnelly has revealed Kentucky to be, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find a few stems materialized on my bookshelf. After reading this book, I can guarantee stranger things have happened.