Don't believe in monsters? In the southern portion of the State of New Jersey lies the desolate forest region known as the Pine Barrens. Dense woods, dark, stagnant pools of brown cedar water, oozing with leeches, and mossy ground fill an area forgotten from the rest of the world. Something horrible and evil exists in this place. That something, the half man - half beast, cast to the devil at its birth, was what the native Lenni Lenape Indians called Amangamek. It is known today as the Jersey Devil. If you think the legend of the Jersey Devil is is just another campfire story, then do this. Drive down Jimmy Leeds road in Galloway Township on a dark moonless night to its birthplace in Leeds Point. Park in that desolate corner of the Barrens and let the dust settle. Acclimate your eyes to the pitch black and listen. All at once you know that you are not alone. Your skin will crawl from the misty chill that hangs in the air like a spider's web across your face. The sickening presence of evil blankets your being. You’ll feel as if something is watching you from inside the cloister of the dark understory of the woods. It is.
Your heart pounds as unexplained sounds and heavy footsteps circle your position. You catch brief glimpses of its blazing red eyes that poke through the small holes in the forest as it moshes through the woods. The rotten smell of death hangs about you in the air like a thick smog. Suddenly, its ear-numbing shriek breaks the dead silence of the night. It crashes through the trees. It is too late to run.
Surprisingly enough Devil Leeds is the first book I have read that was about the “Jersey Devil.” My family is from New Jersey, and I remember hearing about the Jersey Devil when I was growing up, but I don’t remember anyone ever actually telling me what it was. In my mind, it looked like the Tasmanian Devil from the Loony Tunes cartoons. I was soooo wrong about that!
Macom is a new to me author and I came across his book purely by coincidence. He was nice enough to give me a review copy in exchange for my honest review with the understanding that there was no guarantee of a positive review.
Luckily, I really enjoyed his book. I’m a huge fan of history, and this book is full of it. Macom takes the reader back to his version of the beginning of this urban legend. He does a great job of making the reader understand who, what, when, where, and why this legend exists. He doesn’t keep us in the past though. There is present day action as well. It is told from the perspective of several different characters. There isn’t really a main central character, but several character groups and their experiences that are all tied together in some way. This makes it hard, but not impossible to become emotionally invested in any one character, but it works for this book.
If I had to complain about anything in this book it would be that I had a hard time keeping track of who was who when it came to the politicians and military personnel. It could have been the number of characters for those two groups, or just my own lack of concentration. I wasn’t super interested in what the politicians had going on, but I figured it was important to the story.
One thing that is a theme in this book is the greed of humans. My impression is that the Devil wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the greed of a certain character, but while it only took one act to bring the Devil into existence, it will take much more than that to get rid of him since the corrupt are everywhere for him to feed off. I could be way off base with this, but that’s just my thought on the matter.
Devil Leeds was a very interesting read if you like urban legends and a different, but not too far from legend, origin story. Where the stories come from is sometimes as important as the stories themselves. Macom’s writing is easy to follow and he keeps the story moving at a fast pace (but not too fast). He keeps things interesting and has a good amount of action. In some ways, this is a scary story, and I can see it scaring the pants off some readers.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a historically interesting, fast paced, scary story that will keep your attention to the very end.