I hate to sound like an elitist snob but I find the majority of books written about paranormal or cryptozoological phenomenon to be rather sub-standard. While I am sure that the authors are well meaning and are trying to inform me about their particular area of interest, too often, the book is either an endless series of sightings/incidents which all begin to sound the same after a while or the author is shamelessly promoting his or her specific view about whatever he or she is ‘investigating’.
I use the term investigating with some trepidation since it is also very obvious that some of these so called sightings were pulled from internet sources that are questionable at best. Frankly, I don’t give a darn what the National Enquirer or other papers of that ilk have to say about anything unless the author is speaking about pop culture or making a point about the silliness that can ensue around our favorite ‘critters’.
Please note, I am not pointing fingers here. As I said, I am sure that the authors of whom I am speaking are doing their best to try to present information on their topic but shoddy research is shoddy research. Anyone with any academic background will look at sources before they even read a book, if they have the chance. Unfortunately, it is difficult to do that in this age of the Kindle so I have found myself ‘treated’ to some really awful books in my quest for information about my favorite topic.
Frankly, when Lyle Blackburn published his first book on the Beast of Boggy Creek back in 2012, I thought that the book might fall into the category above. I had only heard of the author peripherally and had no idea what his investigative credentials were. I was pleasantly surprised by that book and Mr. Blackburn is continuing this streak with Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster. The book is available in paper and on Kindle.
While I suspect that Anomalist Books needs a copy editor, the book is, overall, very well written. Mr. Blackburn has a talent for getting into an area, getting to know the locals, exploring newspaper archives and other sources (yes, including the internet) and producing a work that inserts the reader straight into the heart of the mystery. In this case, the author spent time in the Bishopville, SC area exploring the monster sightings that came to be known as the Lizard Man. Before he is done, Mr. Blackburn has given the reader a thorough grounding in the sightings that accompanied the case, introduced the reader to the important players and witnesses in the story, given us a feel for Scape Ore Swamp and provided the reader with some history of the region going back into stories from the local First Nation people.
Once Mr. Blackburn has acquainted us intimately with the story and its setting, he goes on to speculate about what this monster might be. As with the Boggy Creek book, this author does not lock onto a pet theory and espouse that idea to the exclusion of others. He is frankly willing to let a mystery be a mystery and covers theories about the Lizard Man ranging from animal misidentification to a moss overgrown Sasquatch to alien reptoids. Mr. Blackburn also acquaints the reader with other, similar cases although, given his space limitations he has to give admittedly short shrift to these sightings.
One of the factors that stands out in both of Mr. Blackburn’s books is his willingness to not only do the research but to visit the scene of the sightings and give the reader a glimpse into the atmosphere that underlies the sightings he is writing about. It is this atmospheric quality that really makes Mr. Blackburn’s books stand out. The reader knows that he has ‘been there’ and the sterile, “this sighting could have occurred anyplace on earth” feeling that one gets in some texts is totally lacking here.
Honestly, I was a little put off by the subject of the book since I had little to no acquaintance with this set of circumstances. I bought the book based solely on the author and my previous very positive experience of this work. I can say frankly that I am glad that I did. Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster is a fascinating read that will leave the reader with not only a thorough knowledge of the topic but also a real taste of the mystery surrounding the case. For anyone who has not read Lyle Blackburn’s work, I highly recommend both books as examples of good writing about the monsters and mysteries that make themselves apparent in our world.