Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Fort The Lore

A couple of years ago, my good mate and self-elected Prime-Minister of the Center for Fortean Zoology, Jon Downes, was inspired by Patrick Huyghe's Swamp Gas Times book to publish a series of compilations of the writings of various players in the Fortean field.

The first (from Jon's CFZ Press) was Andy Roberts' Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal, which was published in 2010. And my very own Space Girl Dead On Spaghetti Junction followed earlier this year. And, now, we're up to No.3: Paul Screeton's wonderfully-titled I Fort The Lore (I have yet to ask Paul if the lore won...).

As anyone and everyone familiar with the writings of Paul (truly, a punning linguist) will know, his style is equal-parts witty, informative, intriguing, and entertaining. Which, when you're dealing with issues of a Fortean nature, is pretty much essential! After all, there's nothing worse than reading some deathly-dull waffle on how many bodies were found at Roswell, the square-mileage of Area 51, or the shagging habits of Nessie. And, thankfully, you get none of that with Paul.

What you do get with I Fort..., is an excellent collection of hard-to-find (in some cases, very hard-to-find) articles from Paul that date from the 1960s to pretty much the present day, and that cover a wide and varied range of what passes for "weird shit."

Whereas my Space Girl... chaotically and wildly jumped from articles on UFOs to Hollywood scandal, music to monsters, and Foot-and-Mouth Disease to the Cardiff Giant, Paul (obviously a far more organized person than me!) elected to split his title into specific, clearly-delineated sections. Ye Gads!

So, we are treated to a fine selection of Paul's writings on such issues as Cryptozoology, UFOs, rock music, urban myths and the media (if you're interested in this issue, you must read Paul's hilarious Mars Bar And Mushy Peas - reviewed here), British folklore (for which, it's abundantly clear, Paul has a deep passion and knowledge) and much more.

Certainly - for me, at least - one of the biggest treats was getting to read (for the first time since I was a teenager) Paul's article for the old British newsstand publication, The Unexplained, on the infamous werewolf-themed saga of the Hexham Heads. It has been years since I even opened my bound-volumes of the old mag, and so to see the article once again - and for a new audience, too - was very good news. For devotees of all-things of a full-moon and monstrous nature, this piece alone is arguably worth the price of the book.

Then, there's Paul's notable - and certain Fortean in the absolute extreme - account of his very own encounter of the "Black Panther" variety as published in The Shaman in 1997. If big-cats are your thing (so to speak) this article should not be ignored.

Want something on UFOs? Well, you have it! Ley-lines, the notorious Van Tassel, and rock'n'roll & aliens abound.

For me, however, the most entertaining parts of the book are those articles that deal with Paul's time spent in the mainstream media - albeit often with respect to matters profoundly mysterious. Paul writes with affection on the years he spent earning a crust in the exciting (well, sometimes exciting) realm of journalism, the tabloids, and the multifaceted band of curious characters that it attracts. Gyrating totty, ever-flowing beer, deep scandal, outrageous entertainment and high-jinks, in other words. And who can resist all that? Not me! And, hopefully, not you!

And where I Fort The Lore really scores is in its definitive "Englishness." Us Brits are a quirky, odd bunch (but in a good way!), and the British Isles are rum indeed. And Paul's book underscores this, as he gads around the nation writing articles on whatever, or whoever, crosses his path, such as Peter McMahon - whose poignant story of true English eccentricity mixed with a dose of deep tragedy and Forteana is a true highlight.

But, you most certainly don't have to be a Brit to appreciate IFTL. Nope! As long as you have a love of high-strangeness, can appreciate the absurdities of the subject-matter at hand and embrace them, and enjoy digging deep into the sometimes-scarce works of Fortean players such as Paul Screeton, then I Fort The Lore will keep you entertained for many an hour.

You know what that means: buy the bloody thing and read it!

If you're in Blighty, here's where I Fort The Lore can be found, and if like me you reside in Obama-Land, click right here.

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