Wednesday, November 7, 2007

True Crime: Forces From Beyond

(Brian Lane, Avon Books, 1997)
A book that has more than enough flaws, the most obvious one being that Lane often writes as if he was being paid by the word, but which nonetheless holds its own amongst the numerous “crime encyclopedias” available. Forces From Beyond concentrates on true murders connected in some way with supernatural forces, however distant. One of the first cases presented, that of Thomas Henry Allaway, is distantly connected indeed: no psychic was ever actually involved in solving the case, and Lane includes it only because a privately published title makes reference to some psychic who “saw/felt” something that never influenced the outcome in the first place. Luckily, Lane tends to be a bit more on the mark with most of the other cases selected, and even includes a few real doozies that deserve much more recognition than they presently have, such as that of Domingo Ponessa, who killed a transsexual that had convinced him that due to magical powers Domingo became a real woman every time he dressed up as one. Of less interest are the entries dealing with witch trials of centuries ago, which are often simply padded by full excerpts from publications of the day. Likewise, the story of “The Restless Ghost” seems less a legend similar to Sawny Bean than simply a retelling of some early unexciting gothic horror story. In general, the book is at its best when concentrating on the various inane, grisly and often unbelievable murders done by Satanists, witches, weirdoes and misfits. Like most such encyclopedias, the biggest flaw to found is the brevity of the entries, especially those less renowned. A geographical index makes for easy review of one’s homeland events.

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