One from the Bigfoot Bookshelf

Book review here today. Over the years I’ve collected fiction featuring sasquatch, yeti and other MAH. I’m always on the lookout for more. With the proliferation of small press and self-publishers there are more Bigfoot novels out there than ever.

Occasionally I’ll review one of the books in my collection. Eventually I’ll put all the reviews together on their own website. Because the world needs a Bigfoot novel review website. It must. I’ve been looking for one for years and I haven’t found one yet. And like so many others who have built websites dedicated to subject matter of limited interest I’ll build the Bigfoot Bookshelf because no one else has.

The Return

Bentley Little

© 2002

Published by Signet (New American Library, a division of Penguin Putnam)

The blurb says –

Springerville is famous for the legend of the Mogollon Monster. Of course nobody really believes it. It’s just a good campfire story, something to attract gullible tourist – until an excavation team unearths the figure of a screaming woman, the jawbone of a deformed animal and a child’s toy. How odd that they were buried together. Odd, too is the foul odor lingering in the air, the strange noises at night, and the man’s face found hanging from a tree. Now the locals are locking their doors. Because after sundown, campfire stories can seem very, very real.

Featured MAH –

Ancient Evil Demon Thing

Stephen King equated reading to telepathy. Read a book, read someone’s mind. Read everything someone has written and get someone’s worldview. Most authors revisit the same few subjects and themes throughout their writing life.

I figure that any review I read is a window into someone’s mind. A review is only partly about the book (painting, movie, restaurant, club, you-name-it) and mostly about the reviewer. It’s about the reviewer’s interests and prejudices and the style and flair that he/she/it expresses them. I rarely trust a reviewer’s opinion the first time around. The world is full of people whose interests and obsessions don’t overlap mine. People who happily express their opinions as if they mean something. People who don’t seem to stop and wonder where that opinion came from.

I’m cheerfully self involved. It’s the sort of self obsession that leads me to look at my thoughts and opinions and ask, “Where the hell did that come from?” This book is a great example. Somewhere around page 60 I found myself thinking, “This is silly.”

It’s not the genre. I do most of my reading in the Weird Fiction niche.

This isn’t the first Bentley Little novel I’ve read. That was The Revelation. That featured a Chinese vampire terrorizing a Southwestern town. I thought it was a fun read and I enjoyed Little’s style enough that I’ve been interested in seeing what else he’d written. I certainly don’t remember thinking, “This is silly” during the course of reading it. Little’s style is matter of fact, whether describing a museum visit or a demonic possession. Certainly ancient Anasazi-killing monsters are no sillier than Chinese vampires.

So what was it?

The Nutty Science.

Al Wittinghill, the anthropologist overseeing a dig of Anasazi remains, espouses Nutty Science. He has the theory that the Anasazi disappeared because some sort of creature made them go away. It’s not the theory that’s so ridiculous it’s that Al seems to have arrived at this theory completely without evidence. And I have an expectation that scientists should base their theories on some kind of verifiable fact. Grover Krantz believed in Sasquatch because the evidence told him that it was real. Von Daniken backs up his ancient astronaut theories with evidence. (I think Von Daniken is a crackpot and his evidence is shaky and misinterpreted but that beside the point here.) Never mind that Al turns out to be right and a demon/monster/god did wipe out the Anasazi and is now trying to wipe out the Southwestern United States. His belief comes before any fact. And that’s Nutty Science.

When I run into Nutty Science in a book I stop taking the book seriously. I take science and the scientific method seriously. If Al had been a shaman or a visionary or an amateur crackpot dabbling in archeology I’d have found it easier to tolerate him.

The Return gets sillier.

The plot? Ancient evil is awakened, death, destruction and hilarity ensue. More specifically – a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis signs up to work on an archeological dig and becomes caught up in a supernatural apocalypse. Ancient shards of pottery depict modern, recognizable people and places. Ancient artifacts come to live and kill people. Deformed skulls and hideous mummies exert an evil influence on the people around them driving the people to torture and murder their friends and neighbors. Those few people who seem to be immune to the Evil’s influence must band together to destroy the Evil.

I found The Return on the book racks at the QFC. It had That Feel about it. That Feel that says there’s a Bigfoot in this book. That Feeling is never wrong. The cover and the back cover blurb give it away. Trust me. Read enough of the novels I list here and you’ll start to have That Feeling too. The Bigfoot here is the Mogollon Monster. The creature is equated with Bigfoot despite the Arizona setting. In this story, though, Bigfoot is a red herring. Our monster, our villain, is some sort of immortal demon that has periodically awoken to destroy human civilizations.

Beyond the Nutty Science there are scenes that would be terrifying if they were to actually occur but are absurd to visualize. Anasazi artifacts waltz out of the museum in which they are being kept. (Just picture a bunch of arrow heads and pottery and stone tools banging themselves out of their glass cases and shuffling down the hall.) A man gets killed by a giant, animated mortar and pestle. Our monster has a big poofy orange afro. I’d definitely be scared if I saw inanimate objects come after me with murderous intent and I’d find an evil inhuman mummy creepy regardless of its hair style but these are “you had to be there” sorts of things. Reading about the event s in Little’s dry style had me laughing.

So am I recommending The Return?

I’ll cheerfully dodge that question. These reviews aren’t going to be about whether or not I think you should read a book. They’re to tell you about books that you might not know are out there and if they sound interesting you can give them a read yourself.