AMERICAN MONSTERS PART 1, Ed Margret Helgdotir. Book review

AMERICAN MONSTERS PART 1, Edited by Margret Helgadotir, Fox Spirit Books, p/b, www.foxspirit.co.uk

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

For many years, people have enjoyed reading stories of monsters from around the world; the werewolf, vampire, zombie have all captured our imaginations, and none more so than in this compilation from Fox Spirit Books. Unlike other anthologies, American Monsters Part 1 is a coffee table book of several original and impressive stories. Each of the stories is set in some part of the U.S., and according to Margret are better stories of monsters as the vast majority of stories in this genre were more about “watered down monsters,” from Western popular culture. American Monsters Part 1 is a kind of a renaissance where these stories, 15 in all are designed to have these monsters show their claws, teeth and true personalities as we are meant to see them, undiluted and larger than life. I expected this when reading The Eyes of A Wolf by Mariela Pappas, a well-known author of LGBT literature who injects her own originality into the werewolf myth.

As these are different from the mainstream monster stories, Margret had the need to show monsters as they should be, not as they had been portrayed before. She wanted to show their strengths even though we know each individual monster has its own weaknesses; stakes and silver crosses for vampires, silver bullets for werewolves. As well as being multi-genre, it is also multi-cultural and this volume is part of a series of volumes that spans the years of 2014 to 2020 and such a project seems to have been a success so far. 

This time around there are stories from all around America told from the perspectives of the Central and South American as well, but Margret encountered problems with the scripts being in a language she had difficulty translating until Fabio Fernandez and Mercedes Guilloux helped them out in translating some of the most fascinating stories about purely American monsters such as the Uruguayan myths of the Ucumar, Capiango, Colo Colo and Supay, which are mentioned in The Pearl by Ramiro Sanchiz. There are 5 translated stories in all, and the compilation is made more richer by having them in it as I had never heard of half these imps such as the Jarjachas who are made up of the body of a human and the facial features and hairy appearance of a llama and are the product of incest and feature in Jaar,Jaar, Jaar by David Salvo. The Entangler is the story of a goblin that tangles objects together with wool or hair to cause trouble, and this is one of the more bizarre stories, but also the one that caught my attention right at the start.

Two stories that caught my eye have been adapted into short graphic novel snippets which make this compilation more original than most; Cerro Bravo by Cesar Alcazar and Eduardo Monteiro and La Perla del Plaza by Andrade. American Monsters Part 1 was a revelation to me and encouraged me to look around for the folk tales of other areas of the world rather than sticking to our own European ones as there are more interesting stories to be found that evoke a sense of fear and trepidation.