There are countless science fiction, mystery, and horror writers in the world, each of whom takes pleasure in coming up with their own versions of the classic demons and monsters that stalk the realm of myth and legend. There are probably just as many nonfiction writers and researchers who make it their life's work to track and document these strange beasts. Burbank author Brian C. Anderson seeks to combine the best of both worlds in his new book, "Cryptic Creatures."
Anderson, author of 2005's "Man-Made Monster," is a self-proclaimed horror addict. In "Cryptic Creatures" he puts this addiction to good use, delivering a strong combination of classical myth and folklore with five of his own original scary stories.
Each story is preceded by a short history lesson wherein Anderson discusses the evolution of specific monsters. As informative as these nonfiction portions are, their real power comes from their ability to build the reader's anticipation toward the stories that follow. Anderson touches on well-known creatures, like Bigfoot and the Jersey Devil, but also mentions more esoteric monsters like Mr. Happy, a strange clown/insect abomination out of Vienna, Va.
The stories themselves, featuring a variety of horrors that range from cannibalistic pig-men to giant flesh-eating birds to radioactive bugs, are actually pretty scary. Anderson might not be winning the Nobel Prize in Literature any time soon, but he's an excellent storyteller. Most of the book's shortcomings could easily be fixed with a strong editor. Honestly, though, his style and casual voice create the impression that he's sitting right next to you, telling these stories around a spooky campfire out in the woods somewhere.
"Cryptic Creatures" is one of those rare self-published books that, with a little editing, could easily be seen on bookshelves in Barnes & Noble or Borders under a larger press' banner. If you're looking to support a local writer, or are simply interested in the macabre, Anderson's book is the perfect place to start.
BRIAN MCGACKIN is an alumnus of USC's graduate creative writing program, where he focused on poetry and literary critical analysis.
Who: Brian C. Anderson
What: "Cryptic Creatures," 294 pages, Strategic Book Publishing