It's time for my regular listing of the Top Ten Most Read of the previous year's Magonia reviews. As usual, the reviews which have been on the site for the longest tend to clock up the most hits, but this is not invariable, there are always some titles which race ahead of all the others, and this year is no exception.
Now to open the golden envelope which lists the ten winners of The Pelly, our much-coveted mascot statuette.
At number 10 is Children of Roswell, Thomas J Carey and Donald R Schmitt's account of the memories of members of the families of people who were involved, or allegedly involved, in the Roswell affair. Trevor Pyne found the book interesting but reminded us of the problems of faded memories which may have been influenced by the massive coverage that Roswell has received over the past three decades.
David Sivier's The Nature of the Catastrophe, number nine in our list, is not so much a book review as an essay, examining how one particular piece of SF literature, John Wyndham's short story 'Worlds to Barter' first published in 1931, prefigured, and may have influenced the subsequent development of the UFO narrative.
At number eight, Kevin Murphy's review of Lost Powers - Reclaiming our Inner Connection presents a summary of the limits of paranormal claims, and how they often seem to exist in a borderland between consensus reality and other realities, consciously or unconsciously created.
Kevin is also at number seven with his review of a guide to the Celtic deities of old Ireland. In reviewing this book he says “the more one reads about Irish mythology, the more confusing and complex it becomes” but concludes that “In Gods and Goddesses of Ireland Morgan Daimler provides a concise guide to the Irish deities that is approachable and accessible”
At number six Peter Rogerson's review of The Science of Near-Death Experiences, edited by John C. Hagan and published by the University of Missouri Press, called into question the editor's objectivity, and sparked off a number of critical comments after publication, which can be read at the end of the review.
Number five, When Satan Went Pop is a review of the pop-cultural influences on Satanic rumours and beliefs, and in turn the result of such ideas on pop culture. My review concluded that “and will be of interest not only to those interested in the development of this particular [Satanic panic] episode, but to those with an interest in the broader social history of moral panics”. I was particularly impressed by the selection of illustrations in the book.
At number four, Alan Price's review of Haunted Landscapes: Super-Nature and the Environment, is perhaps best summarised in its final paragraph: “When the significance of ghostly presence, supernatural or other, does come through, I was fascinated by this uneven, yet rewarding and original book. Its cluster of ideas still managed to haunt me, even when their analysis of texts often stumbled through a lack of clarity."
Coming up to the final stretch now. At number three is my review of The Veiled Veil, a collection of anecdotes, folklore, forteana, urban legends and historical curiosities from the Vale of the White Horse, an area now incorporated into Oxfordshire but historically part of Berkshire. Even though this is an area I know little about I found the book to be a fascinating compendium and a model for other titles of local interest.
Second on the list, and published later in the year is Steve Holland and Roger Perry's The Men Behind The Flying Saucer Review. Reviewed by Peter Rogerson, this title is probably one of the shortest books we have reviewed in a long time, but nevertheless is packed with fascinating data about the rise and fall of Flying Saucer Review, the men (yes, invariably men, with one exception) behind it, and reveals one or two dirty little secrets about the magazine's origins.
So what's at number one? I think no-one will be surprised by the interest shown in Christopher Josiffe's telling of the remarkable story of Gef! The Strange Tale of an Extra-special Talking Mongoose. Winner of the Katherine Briggs Folklore Book of the Year award for 2017, this was certainly my highlight of the year. Published by the irrepressible Strange Attractor Press, I just repeat my conclusion that this is a Magonian must-read.
Well, the presentations have been made, the tearful acceptance speeches are at last concluded, and the limousines await to carry our star-studded audience home to their or somebody else's beds, and we look forward to another fun-packed literary voyage in the year ahead. – John Rimmer