Review: Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology by Loren Coleman

Tom Slick was a Texas oilman who took an interest in anomalous creatures from a young age. He was fortunate enough to have the wealth necessary to sponsor expeditions around the globe, and today he is most well remembered in cryptozoology circles for his pursuit of the Himalayan Yeti, or Abominable Snowman. Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology is a biography of Slick’s life, with a specific focus on his contributions to the early days of cryptozoology.

Loren Coleman is the author of numerous books in this field, and is currently the curator of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME. His credentials make him a logical candidate to produce this sort of biography, and it’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into researching the private and somewhat enigmatic individual that was Tom Slick. Having died suddenly and unexpectedly in a plane crash, Tom did not leave behind a formal record of his activities, making it necessary to piece together his story from family members, colleagues, and correspondence.

The text begins with a relatively straight biographical introduction to Tom Slick, addressing his parents, family atmosphere, and general upbringing. This serves as background as we progress toward the main event, which will constitute the remainder of the book: Tom’s contributions to cryptozoology. These early chapters, on up through Slick’s involvement in the Himalayan expeditions, are informative and satisfying, and really shed a great light on his character.

After covering the Yeti years, the content starts to get off track and begins to ramble. Chapter 10, supposedly on the Orang Pendek, somehow manages to discuss neither Tom Slick, nor the Orang Pendek in any real quantity. The following chapter (“Other Cryptozoological Side-Trips”) again makes only glancing mention of Slick, instead choosing to address a couple other cryptids at length. It felt as though Coleman couldn’t quite help himself in turning at least a few chapters of this otherwise-biography into another book of creature tales, justified only by making the vaguest of connections with Tom Slick in the process.

A few appendices follow the main body of the text, the first of which is purportedly an exploration of Tom Slick and potential connections the CIA. Why this would be in an appendix rather than a chapter is not immediately clear, as it is at least a full chapter in length. Sadly, the content is a mess of mostly random facts and coincidences, few of which seem to involve Slick at all. The conclusion seems to be that no, Slick probably wasn’t involved much in covert government operations, and if he was, the book fails completely at providing coherent evidence of the claim. In my opinion the entire section should have just been dropped for lack of relevance.

Finally, as a more material complaint, the editing in much of the text was horrible. It was really surprising to see a book by a seasoned author be released with so many blatant typographical errors. Simple words were misspelled, punctuation wandered, and names changed spelling from one sentence to the next. (I also found the parenthetical reference format less than ideal, but it’s better to be distractingly referenced than not referenced at all.)

It’s nice to see a book paying homage to Tom Slick’s personal, and largely private, quest for the unknown. His role in early cryptozoology deserves to be recognized and appreciated, and Loren Coleman’s research does justice to his ambitions. It’s just unfortunate that poor editing and a lack of focus manage to hinder the enjoyability of the final product.

Rating: 3/5

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