My Reviews of The World’s Weirdest Places & American Vampires
There’s something I have to keep reminding myself of when reviewing books — I am not necessarily the target audience for these things. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Fact is, at one time I was. Take the following two new releases sent to me by publisher New Page Books: American Vampires by Dr. Bob Curran and The World’s Weirdest Places by Nick Redfern. Both are competent reads, from seasoned authors who are both respected in the fields. And when I was twelve years old these are exactly the kind of books I would have devoured hungrily. Now, that is not me being dismissive of either work. In fact, it is far more telling about me than it is about them. I am getting a tad bit long in the tooth and as such I’ve sort of been around the metaphysical block a few times. These books are for someone less journeyed and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.
Nick Redfern’s The World’s Weirdest Places, uninspired title not withstanding, is an interesting read, being a collection of the author’s twenty-five favorite paranormal sites around the world. The list is a good one, made up of predominately well-known and researched locales, but the stand-out location for me was his chapter on Devil’s Gate Dam, stomping grounds of one of my personal obsessions, Jack Parsons.
If you’re not familiar with the famed Mr. Parsons he was the proverbial rocket scientist and principle founder of both the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Aerojet Corp. He was also a magician and disciple of the even more notorious Aleister Crowley.
Redfern covers Parsons adequately enough, with enough sensationalism to lull innocent readers into his web of sinister intrigue. That is the purpose of these books, after all, and Redfern’s got it down to a science, as they say.
I’ve no qualms recommending the book. It’s well written, if a bit over the top, and really does a more than admirable job of introducing one to some seriously interesting destinations for the more than mildly curious.
Less appealing to me was American Vampires: Their True Bloody History from New York to California by Dr. Bob Curran. Oh, there was a time when this was just my sort of late night, under the covers read. And with that in mind, I must profess that Curran knows how to muddy the waters.
He comes at you like a seasoned pro, littering the book with extensive research and numerous first hand accounts. The only thing missing is the salt shaker, because you’re going to need more than a single grain to stomach much of this work. I’ve got no bone to pick with Curran. He’s carved out a nice little niche for himself, but he’s far from what I would call a reliable narrator.
What he is is a teller of tall tales, and a fairly decent one at that, but he’s more suited for campfire yarn spinning than for serious research.
If you approach American Vampires with that mindset you can have a good time with the book, documented sources be damned. And hey, there’s some pretty pictures throughout.
Not a book I’d recommend to serious students of forgotten lore, but for a bedtime story on a dark and mournful autumn night, it’s up to the task.