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BOOK REVIEW: "Destination: Carcosa" by Walter Bosley

Corvos Books
This is the latest book in Walter Bosley's "Secret Missions" series.
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BOOK REVIEW: Destination: Carcosa (Ambrose Bierce and The Empire of the Wheel) by Walter Bosley (Corvos Books) 2017

Back in late 2015, while on a trip to New Orleans, my brother took me on a side trip down Highway 90 going east out of the Crescent City, out to a spooky, swampy old place called Fort Macomb.

It was here, in the marshlands of the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge where key scenes of the first season of True Detective were filmed.

Fort Macomb served as the sinister Louisiana location of the elusive “Carcosa” which was being sought by detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) in hopes of solving a dark mystery.

And I can see why the creators of True Detective chose this location. It's a spooky and dank ruin. One does feel like they are stepping into the past in a place like Fort Macomb.

In my 2015 post “Kings,” I note that “in the labyrinth of “Carcosa,” Cohle is trying to find the villain and suddenly sees – rather briefly and inexplicably - what looks like a black hole in space. Or is it a portal or wormhole? The jury is out on what it is that Cohle sees while in Carcosa near the altar of The Yellow King.

And now we see, in Twin Peaks: The Return, another “Cole” (FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole, played by Twin Peaks co-creator and director David Lynch) coming face-to-face with a Carcosa-like “portal” in the sky in rural South Dakota while investigating high strangeness related to a “Blue Rose” case that involved people crossing from our world to another one –far darker than our own.

That elusive place, Carcosa, has some history in literature and it is related to writer Walter Bosley, a California-based independent researcher with quite a remarkable biography who has a deep interest in “lost civilizations,” “ancient technology” and unearthing information about the supernatural, paranormal and esoteric past, in hopes of better understanding our present and where we may be headed.

Having reviewed Bosley’s Secret Missions 2 book The Lost Expedition of Sir Richard Francis Burton in 2015, Bosley took an admittedly speculative approach to Burton’s 19th century explorations in the deepest and most mysterious parts of South America’s interior. What was Burton really looking for? And was he working for someone or some group, beyond just his own, personal interest in the unknown?

Well, with Bosley’s recently-released Secret Missions 3 installment, Destination: Carcosa, subtitled Ambrose Bierce and the Empire of the Wheel, we learn more about Ambrose Bierce, the famous American writer (An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, The Devil’s Dictionary, etc.) who served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was a brilliant satirist with a keen interest in the unknown.

And that is the side of Bierce that really interests Bosley. After all, Bierce famously disappeared in late 1913, writing a final letter, which closed with his writing: “As to me, I leave here tomorrow for an unknown destination.

Being already in his seventies by that time, the common belief is that Bierce was interested in a revolution in Mexico and the revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. This would be his last "hurrah!" as it were.

Whether or not that is actually true or not has never been fully explained. As a result theories and speculation (Bierce was executed by firing squad or he vanished while passing through the notorious Zona del Silencio, a curious area of desert in northern Mexico, where the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango meet - south of Texas' Big Bend country - and where strange things are said to happen) have flourished in the century since he vanished.

Bosley, meanwhile, goes a bit deeper and suggests that Bierce went much further south, on a mysterious mission involving ancient ruins and sites (Tiahuanaco, Puma Punka, for instance) in a manner not so different from that of the aforementioned Sir Richard Francis Burton and Col. Percy H. Fawcett, a decade or so later, who was looking for the Lost City of ‘Z.’

In over 280 pages, the author ties together various threads, tying Bierce to his possible links to secretive groups and early American “black projects” that coincided with his role as a US Treasury agent and intelligence officer, having risen in rank during his time serving in the Civil War.

And one of the more interesting bits of speculation offered up by Bosley is the idea that Bierce “had something to do with the conception and writing of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the Mexico-sent adventure novel written by the mysterious “B. Traven,” often said to be of German origin and linking him to secretive groups from Germany and possibly Kaiser Wilhelm II. That's where th eso-called NYMZA group is repeatedly mentioned, often in vague terms, leaving the reader - at times - a bit confused.

NYMZA – secretive German (or Prussian nationalist) organization that oversees what Sonora Aero Club (an “airship mystery club” of sorts, one that led to “The Great Airship Mystery of 1896-97,” which began in California and resulted in numerous sightings and newspaper coverage) does, and other secretive groups – is known just as that. The NYMZA acronym is never explained, mainly because Bosley and others never learned its true meaning.

Those airships may have been appearing with the knowledge of newspaper titan William Randolph Hearst. Bosley notes that while Bierce liked "weird fiction" and tales of the fantastic, for some odd reason, while working as a reporter at a San Francisco newspaper owned by Hearst, Bierce opted not to pursue the compelling airship mystery story. Why? Perhaps Bierce was warned off of it by those in the know.

But Bierce did coin the name "Carcosa," often attributed to both horror writers H.P. Lovecraft and Robert W. Chambers - it was Bierce's 1891 short story, An Inhabitant of Carcosa, which inspired the idea of this mysterious place, the one that inspired Chambers' The King in Yellow and Lovecraft's own Cthulhu Mythos

"I wonder if 'Carcosa' is a real place in the geography of secret or revealed knowledge?" notes Bosley. "If so, what in the life of Ambrose Bierce provided him with the keys to its invisible doors?"

Invisible doors? Gates? Portals? Have you all been noticing a trend of late in this regard? Bosley is definitely tapping into something here, something I imagine he'll continue to research and investigate. It seems as though Bierce actually found that place between light and shadow, a place familiar to those of us who have watched The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and the aforementioned True Detective and Twin Peaks. Bierce helped inspire that interest in the unknown and the occult forces that surround it.

And just to be clear, Bosley is not trying to make the reader believe or accept all of the information he presents. Rather, he seems to want the reader to simply take in the information and make up their own mind.

And while Bosley has a very informal and readable style, it’s clear that he has done plenty of research on Bierce and his background. As a reader, though, I would suggest that Bosley take his book through a sharper editing process so to avoid repetition, which happens in the case of Destination: Carcosa. It could have been trimmed down a few pages, although I appreciate his inclusion of historic photographs of Bierce and others, along with a bibliography.

Nevertheless, looking past the book's editing issues, Bosley has taken on some important research.

Synchromystically speaking, right before I had heard about this new book I had been thinking about Ambrose Bierce and what really happened to him. 

I guess Destination: Carcosa found me in short order.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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