February 15th, 2009

The Greatest Book Ever

Yesterday this book showed up in our store:



I don't mind confessing that this was one of my two or three favorite books when I was a kid. I think I must have been about 12 when I picked it up (and I think I bought it at a school book fair, something that CERTAINLY wouldn't happen these days!). I may even still have my copy somewhere around here (if not, I'll buy this one, even with the ten-buck price tag we slapped on it).

First off, look at that mofoing cover. That's Frazetta, man! Even at 12 I already knew Frazetta (I had the entire line of Lancer Conan titles with Frazetta covers), and this is Frazetta painting monsters - I mean, cripes, art doesn't get any better than that!

Oh wait, yes it does - because in front of all the monsters is a tiny little guy in a safari suit holding up a warning hand. Now, imagine being a 12-year old skeptic who loves monsters but is already precociously cynical about their existence in real life. This cover becomes a thing of true beauty.

And then there's what's under that cover - a catalog of supposedly real creepy stories featuring everything from Mothman to "The Grinning Man", from sea serpents to freaky dogs, all told in the compelling style of a good journalist. And Keel ties it all together with his "windows" theory, suggesting that portals to other dimensions are invisibly dotted around the world and allowing all these nasties to pay us occasional visits. I don't believe it now and I didn't believe it then, but it sure inspires plenty of ideas for horror fiction.

Screw Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or War and Peace, baby - this just might be the greatest book ever!