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Quercus/Hachette, Rowman & Littlefield USA


HB Illus




384pp Hardback Illustrated Quercus

WESTERN MAIL [AUTHOR’S NOTES] September 11th 2011

Fuller article is available:

Terry Breverton is used to writing about Wales, even managing to reference the country in a book about mythical animals and legends… ‘After a varied career across the world as a management consultant, marketing director and academic, I became a full-time writer in 2007 and relocated from Cowbridge to Maesycrugiau near Lampeter. But my new book Breverton’s Phantasmagoria: A Compendium of Monsters, Myths and Legends is a departure from my books on Wales. Firstly, it is impossible to earn a living, writing books concentrated solely on Wales – the reasons are many and too complicated to discuss here, but my other writing now supports my writing on Wales. However, I always get a substantial portion of information about Wales in every book I write.

In Immortal Words and Immortal Last Words, I featured Gildas, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, Black Bart Roberts, Idris Davies, David Lloyd George, Dylan Thomas, Sir Richard Steele, David Owen, Bertrand Russell, Gareth Jones, Thomas Jefferson and Dr. David Kelly among others, making sure that Wales is publicised. Besides, in the past three years I still wrote books upon Henry Morgan (The Illustrated Pirate Diaries), Wales – A Historical Companion, Owain Glyndŵr – the Last Prince of Wales and Wales’ 1000 Best Heritage Sites, so I’m not doing too badly.

Why this particular book? Well, it’s a strange genesis. From my books on Welsh pirates, Henry Morgan and Black Bart Roberts I learnt a lot about the sea. And as my dad was in the Merchant Navy for some time – his first ship sank, and all six ships he served on were destroyed in the war - I developed an interest. From this I wrote Welsh Sailors of the Second World War and The Pirate Handbook, including nautical terms, sea monsters and superstitions. I became so enchanted with the mystery and mythology of the oceans that I expanded it into Breverton’s Nautical Curiosities: A Book of the Sea in 2010.

This spurred me into looking at other mysteries on land and in the air, which became my Phantasmagoria. I’ve developed a style of writing which is dip-in/dip-out, as I know people are now less likely to read a book from cover to cover. We like ‘bits’ of information these days, and books have to be entertaining as well as informative. People seem to think that I’m a compulsive writer, but with every year I find out new stuff, and just have to write it down. It’s pointless slowing down when you enjoy what you do. I was 65 in June and there’s still so much to discover and learn. Myself, my mother and my father (who are 87 and 90 respectively, so I hope there’s a lot more writing in me) have all had strange experiences which cannot be rationally explained, which are mentioned in the book.

I include the origins of dragons, wyverns, vampires, werewolves, gremlins, pixies and fairies, and myths and fables. There are more than 250 mythical animals, and beings such as the Minotaur and Medusa from Greek legend, and Biblical beasts such as Behemoth and Leviathan. There are giant serpents of Central America, the lethal Mongolian death worm, the Ennedi tiger in Africa, and evidence for sightings of Bigfoot and the elusive Yeti.

As usual, I’ve tried to promote Wales in the book, so we have Adam of Usk writing about Pope Joan and the ‘defecation chair’ for cardinals to inspect the sex of any prospective Pope. Gerald of Wales tells us of the badgers on the River Teifi biting off their testicles to escape hunters who wanted their sexual glands as aphrodisiacs. He also informs us that Barnacle Geese come from barnacles, not understanding their migration.

In 1492, we learned that there were humans in South America not accounted for in the Bible, so one of the theories was that they were a ‘lost tribe of Israel’, a status also claimed by the Welsh at one time. The term ‘bogeyman’ seems to come from the Welsh ‘bwg’ (spirit) and the word ‘bug’ was applied to insects because of the belief that insects were souls in search of rebirth. Vaynol Welsh wild cattle are being used for ‘back-breeding’, to try and recreate the monster Aurochs. And of course we have Nanteos Mansion and the Holy Grail. Bardsey was said to be Afallon (Avalon), the Isle of Apples, and the world’s rarest tree, the sole Bardsey Apple survivor has been found there.

Of course, by EU definition Bardsey is not an island, as an island has to be more than two miles from the mainland and have a population of more than 50 people. You have to shake your head sometimes, at these morons who define our laws and language. Arthur and the Grail, John Dee, Prince Madoc and Saint Gwenfrewi are in there as well.

Being published in the next three months are I Have a Dream – Inspiring Words and Thoughts from the World’s Leaders, and Breverton’s Complete Herbal. And I’m writing an guide to Cardiff and Breverton’s Encyclopaedia of Inventions. Also in the pipeline are books on Welsh battles and King Arthur. Breverton’s Phantasmagoria is published by Quercus History.

Review: Breverton’s Phantasmagoria: A Compendium of Monsters Myths and Legends

‘When I first looked at the cover of this remarkable book I was instantly reminded of an old TV show called ‘The Good Old Days’, which ran from 1953 until (amazingly) 1983 and was presented in the style of Edwardian/Victorian music hall entertainment. The show was introduced by an evening suited, white gloved, host cum compere cum interlocutor who presented each act to the suitably dressed audience with a great flourish and in a typically florid manner, saying something like, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, for your edification, enjoyment and delectation may I present a truly perspicacious prestidigitator of legerdemain and flirtatious flummery’. And whatever the act was (in that case a conjuror) duly appeared and did their stuff.

That was my first impression of this absolute gem of a book, and what’s more it does exactly what it says on the cover. It is a work stuffed full of facts that the reader can browse and dip into at random and be guaranteed to unearth some absolutely fascinating nugget of information about one of the many and unlikely subjects it covers. It is laid out alphabetically in eight discrete and lengthy chapters as a dictionary of the bizarre and unexplained. In fact some of the subjects are so far ‘out there’ that it is unlikely that being alphabetical would be of any help since they are probably unknown to the reader in the first place, and this is what makes it doubly fascinating. This is a treasury of the strange, the mystical and the anomalous, it is something that Charles Fort himself would have both admired and desired.

In these pages are everything from Adam and Eve through Wolves and Werewolves to the lost city of ‘Z’ with everything you can think of, and much you probably cannot, in between. We find deathworms, mythical monsters, ghosts, mythical lands, strange and anomalous artefacts, fabled lost treasures, alien abductions, UFO’s (yes, them too), minotaurs, magic, boogymen, fairies, dragons and flying carpets. There is also information about some of the truly scary beasts that emerge from Far East legends and there is even an entry about the genuinely enigmatic icon and electric genius that is Nikola Tesla.

One item in particular that caught my eye was a truly fascinating piece about honeybees. The author has unearthed some astonishing information suggesting that bees can actually ‘see’ more in than one dimension. He presents evidence that the ‘waggle dance’ performed by returning worker bees laden with pollen to give directions to their hive mates demonstrates this. According to the author, a mathematician called Barbara Shipman has developed a theory about a six dimensional mathematical concept called a ‘flag manifold’, (no, me neither), and when these objects are presented in two dimensions they are identical to the patterns formed by the ‘waggle dance’. I would have bought the book for that alone and never mind all the amazing rest of it.

I have no hesitation in recommending this work to anyone who has any interest at all in the strange and the bizarre, the forgotten and the fabulous, it’s all here in one scintillating volume: go and buy it NOW!

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