RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Don Shearer’s “Bigfoot Bedtime Stories” is a very readable collection of 11 short stories, all dealing with the folkloric creature known as Sasquatch or Bigfoot.
According to the book’s end page, Shearer has had a lifelong interest in Sasquatch and keeps abreast of any sightings of the creature. In 2017, in collaboration with Brian Cundle, Shearer published the children’s book “From the Deep Forest,” in which two middle-schoolers encounter Bigfoot.
Although “Bigfoot Bedtime Stories” is not marketed as a children’s book, nearly all the stories feature a child, or children, as primary characters. In addition, Shearer limits, almost eliminates, the gore and intensity commonly seen in adult horror fiction.
No one is decapitated or disemboweled. Chase scenes are tame, and the tone is mild, almost tongue-in-cheek.
This tongue-in-cheek approach is most easily seen in Shearer’s titling of stories, such as “How Much is That Monster in the Window?” and “Some Dam Adventure.” These two titles made me laugh, as did “Tour of Terror,” an apparent reference to the Disneyland ride “Tower of Terror.”
I didn’t laugh only at the titling. The story “Messy at Midnight,” which deals with a group of school-aged campers, made me laugh out loud.
One of the characters, Barbie, has too many s’mores, and ends up with very unpleasant GI disturbances, which require three trips to the outhouse in the middle of a dark night. Each trip brings her closer to an encounter with Bigfoot.
At first, she hears only the growls and whoops; by her last trip, the creature attacks the outhouse, rocking it back and forth while Barbie’s stuck inside — a scene that reminded me of Stephen King’s “A Very Tight Place” but without the gore.
I enjoyed “Bigfoot Bedtime Stories.”
I’ve never read a book quite like this one. I’ve read collections of short stories by other authors; however, the other collections I’ve read do not focus on one topic, as Shearer does here.
In a way, “Bigfoot Bedtime Stories” is more of an anthology of Bigfoot stories than a collection of Shearer’s work, yet an anthology, by definition, includes multiple authors focusing on one topic or theme. So I’m at a bit of a loss to define this book’s genre, and who would most enjoy it.
Certainly, those who are fascinated with Bigfoot folklore would love these stories, especially young readers who like their spooky stories without gore or intensity. Adult readers, however, may long for the occasional truly frightening scene.
Because “Bigfoot Bedtime Stories” features the work of one author on one topic, there is a bit of a repetition: People go out into the wilderness. Bigfoot shows up. People are frightened. They return home.
However, the last story in the book, “A Place (Not) of His Own” foregoes that repetition and instead focuses on the emotional connection Bigfoot may be seeking from the humans he so often frightens. This final story was immensely satisfying and incredibly poignant, and will stay with me a long time.
This story alone is definitely worth buying “Bigfoot Bedtime Stories.”
(Maureen Cooke has been writing, editing and teaching others to write for the past 30 years. Currently, she’s working on a mystery novel and a memoir. She’s a member of the Corrales Writers’ Group.)