Sunday 30 June 2013

Some Old and New Nessie Books

If you're a Nessie Bibliophile, then it's time again for one of our occasional excursions into the world of books on the Loch Ness Monster. At the last count on our list of Nessie books, the number of titles exclusively or partly devoted to our monstrous subject was fifty seven.

Today, that number swells to a round sixty and we start off with a new title which will not actually be published until the 4th of July. It is called "The Loch Ness Monster: And Other Unexplained Mysteries" by J. F. Derry.

I like the way this book starts with the title "unexplained mysteries". In other words, don't take any dissing of the subject from those who put it all down to over-excited tourists seeing driftwood or bow waves. However, the picture on the cover is most likely no mystery as it was taken by that crafty cockney, Frank Searle in 1974. But I will reserve final judgement on Frank until I have read Paul Harrison's forthcoming book on the subject.

The book is actually a compilation of stories and photographs taken from the well known British newspaper, the Daily Mirror. As the book's abstract at Amazon says:

It's 80 years after the first modern-day sighting of the Loch Ness Monster and yet despite frequent eye witness accounts since then, sonar images and even video footage, still no one knows for sure whether there really is a serpent-like prehistoric behemoth inhabiting the famous Scottish lake.

More amazing is that Nessie is only one of countless extraordinary terrestrial and extraterrestrial life-forms that have been reported worldwide over the course of the last century or so: the Yeti and Bigfoot; British big cats such as The Beasts of Bodmin and Stroud; paranormal manifestations in the form of ghosts, banshees and poltergeists; and visitors from other worlds, aliens and their UFOs.

The list is astonishing and extensive, but the remarkable Daily Mirror archive has accumulated a wealth of articles and pictures from sightings, visitations, apparitions and alien abductions, many of which are now collected together in this otherworldly monster of a book, "Loch Ness Monster and Other Unexplained Mysteries".

Well, I have ordered my copy and will give it a fuller review in due course.

The second title is one already mentioned on this blog and it is the album called "Alex Harvey presents The Loch Ness Monster" published in 1976 as a vinyl record. This is a compilation of sightings from that time and I wrote previously on this item in this article. However, a CD version of the album was published in 2009 which I bought. To my surprise, the item actually arrived as an 18 page booklet with the CD in the inside back cover.

So inside we are treated to various photographs of eyewitnesses and snippets of their stories all framed in the manner of a travelogue by Alex Harvey. You will even see a picture of a young Dick Raynor with a kipper tie and long hair who, according to Alex, agreed to an interview but then changed his mind. I don't know if that knock-back annoyed Alex Harvey because he cheekily refers to Dick Raynor as "Dick Rayner" and "Nick Raynor" in the booklet.

It's a nice little booklet with some good photographs and you can generally pick it up on eBay for a good price. The same cannot be really said for the final item which is entitled "Loch Ness Monster Handbook" by Jim M. MacRae which was published in 1974. 

The front cover promises amazing facts and offers to improve sighting chances and all this against the backdrop of a grinning Loch Ness Monster. I paid over the odds to get this 15 page booklet but such is the life of a Nessie memorabilia collector. This is what I call a "boilerplate" book which is essentially a book which adds nothing to the store of knowledge or thinking about the subject and pretty much has the look and feel of an item aimed at the tourist trade.

I don't know anything about Jim MacRae who appears to have been a local man but the material he uses is pretty standard stuff for the 1970s. We have the plesiosaur theory dominating and the photographs by Lachlan Stuart, Kenneth Wilson and Frank Searle interlaced with some well known sightings such as that by Greta Finlay.

In fact, it is the same Searle photo as the one at the top of this article. One should not underestimate the influence Frank Searle had on Loch Ness Monster publicity in the early 1970s. After the Dinsdale and O' Connor pictures of 1960, there is a gap of over a decade with nothing of a sensational quality. That was ended by Searle's pictures and the Rines flipper picture.

It has always been a bit of mystery to me why despite the heightened publicity of the 1960s with the high profile searches no one thought of continuing the so called line of faked pictures. You had the alleged litany of deception from Lachlan Stuart, Peter MacNab and Peter O' Connor over 9 years but the next 12 produced zilch. I would actually expect more fakes since increased publicity attracts more attention seekers. But it was not the case, which make one wonder how many claimed fakes are actually fakes.

These last two books exemplify the volume of Nessie literature in the 1970s. Though that decade occupied one eighth of the Nessie era, it produced one third of the known titles. It was a crazy decade, no doubt looked back upon with mixed memories by many. But the record now stands at sixty titles and I hope you enjoyed our little trip into the Nessie bookshelf.


  1. Come on then, show us the page about me, and the photo with the kipper tie!

    1. Thought you knew, Dick. Okay I'll add it.

  2. "When they did say no we felt it was because of the legend..." Nope, it wasn't like that.

    I was aware of the photo which I believe was part of the album cover art. I was originally approached by Mr Harvey's father regarding an interview, but when Alex himself turned up he was staggering drunk, so I declined, and he ambushed me later to get the photo as I was carrying a box into the Great Glen Exhibition.

    PS That's not a kipper tie :-)