Sunday, 18 December 2016

Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Suffolk - an update

The Hay Wain with Melanistic Leopard - with apologies to John Constable. Many of Suffolk's big cat reports come from the area of South Suffolk known as Constable Country along the Suffolk bank of the River Stour, on the border with Essex. Constable's original Hay Wain depicts Flatford Mill on the Suffolk bank of the Stour, seen from the Essex bank, not far from his birthplace at East Bergholt. Illustration from the forthcoming Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Suffolk

There's already a front cover. It shows a 15th-century panther gargoyle from St Peter's Church, Theberton

Oops! Better make that 2017! Sorry! "Author biography" from the current Fortean Times issue FT348, which includes my article on the Cutty Wren from Middleton, Suffolk

I've been asked for a progress report on my forthcoming and long-awaited book Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Suffolk.

Why has it taken so bloody long? Recent - now resolved - health issues aside, the flow of regular, paid-at-the-end of the-month work I can't turn down has rather got in the way. Also, when I started on the book at the end of 2014, I foolishly imagined big cats weren't really a big thing, and that a short section of big cats in the book might turn out to be a bit disappointing. Well over 170 reported or recorded Suffolk big cat sightings later, going back to 1974, this has turned out not to be the case!

My map of Suffolk showing nearly all the locations in the book, I'm about to add the big cat sightings!

I've been laying out the book myself, and I have the following still to do: one more illustration, some maps (a completed one is below, it needs some tweaks as it was bit faint on a test-print), bibliography, adding page numbers to the index and contents pages, finding some space to squeeze in some last-minute big cat reports if possible, moving around some pages in the layout, back cover illustration and then all done. At that point, hopefully soon, I will have some proofs to go to the proofreaders, and to Fortean Times co-editor Paul Sieveking, who is writing a short foreword. (He was born and bred in Snape, it turns out.)

There will be a book launch when the book's out, in Ipswich. To get on the "guesty" (guest list), email mysteryanimalsof There are other Suffolk events around Mystery Animals planned, Moyse's Hall Museum, Bury (Bury St Edmunds) and Dunwich Reading Room are already interested.

Meanwhile, announcements are on the Twitter account at @MysteryAnimals

A tongue-in-cheek take on the fate of the Beccles Lynx, shot in Great Witchingham in 1991, found in a freezer in Beccles by Defra and Norfolk Police, and rumoured to be on display in a stately home somewhere in the Beccles area (there are lots of them!). Illustration form the forthcoming Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Suffolk

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