Entertaining and engaging on multiple levels, Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter is a fast-paced global journey through four years of exploration and investigation of creature sightings. It stands as a companion piece to the popular SyFy Channel (USA) series of the same name, and provides insight into the character of narrator and leader Josh Gates. It’s a little bit Lewis and Clark, Stanley and Livingstone, with an added bit of Indiana Jones.
Gates describes himself as “a professional vagabond, international monster hunter, and paranormal Hardy Boy”. He recounts his first four years of research for the television show in a casual style, as if the reader were hearing it tableside while sharing a drink with the author. Gates intersperses his commentary with amusing asides and observations that should win over most readers.
The book opens with a harrowing account of a dangerous flight aboard a rental biplane whose cockpit roof suddenly tears off, forcing a plummeting landing indicative of the hazards, risks and dangers faced by the show’s cast and crew on a regular basis.
In addition to learning of the difficulties and uncertainties that surround a reality show of this nature, the book also serves as a mini-manual on how to pitch a series idea to a television network. Destination Truth: Memoirs Of a Monster Hunter will also delight those with an interest in cryptozoology and animal folklore from remote areas of the planet.
A natural born traveler, Gates is a member of the Explorers Club and holds degrees in archaeology and drama. He was recruited by a Hollywood producer (and good friend) who was searching for the right host and was aware of Gate’s penchant for travel.
After a very entertaining and lengthy introduction, Gates gets down to the business of retelling the first four years of research for the Destination Truth show. Each of the following chapters is categorized into eight case files. It’s ironic that almost every episode of the show fails to turn up any demonstrative evidence of a monstrous creature find or supernatural sighting. Yet it remains one of the most popular shows on the channel, primarily because the story of the journey is so captivating regardless of the mission results. As the search team explores the globe in order to validate reported sightings of Bigfoot, living dinosaurs, phantom felines, flying fiends, mini-monsters and jungle demons, super serpents and marine monsters (actual case files), the evidence is never conclusive. The closest the team has come to a real find is a footprint in the Himalayas that may belong to the Abominable Snowman. (They took a casting, which was later donated to the Disneyworld museum.) A very frightening exploration of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster produces disturbing peripheral ghostly images seen by many team members, but none are captured on film.
The book also has a stylish presentation that makes it stand out on a bookshelf. The cover looks like a tattered road journal with bent back edges, and the bottom part is made to look as if it was torn off. The interior pages also exhibit a faux look, as if they have been worn down from repeated readings, water and other damage.
Gates aptly sums up his experience in the closing chapter, touching on how he’s learned to become a better traveler, learned how to react quickly while looking danger in the eye, and shares his theory on how folklore develops and becomes a reality to so many people.
MICHAEL J CLARKE
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