They stare down at us from the roofs and towers of our mediaeval churches: grotesque, monstrous and utterly mesmerising. The gargoyles grimacing and leering at us down the centuries, taking the form of anything from a centaur to a cretinous imp, were put there in the Middle Ages to ward off the evil that lies beyond the holy ground. But even in our modern era, our newspapers filled with tales of abduction and disaster, these magnificent works of sculpture and carving murmur to us of nightmares and nasty thoughts and intimations of our mortality. Mike Harding's travels have taken him not only from Cumbria to Somerset, but also to France, Italy and even northern India in search of the most memorable and malevolent gargoyles, celebrated here in his superb photographs and erudite, quirky text. Here, then, are mouth-pullers and monster musicians, poking tongues and priapic giants, heads sprouting water or silently howling with toothache -not to mention the gargantuan cats glaring at us in Gloucester Cathedral.
Mike Harding is the author of A Guide to Tying North Country Flies and eight Little Books for Aurum, including the perennially successful books on the Green Man and Gargoyles. He is also a high-profile radio presenter with his weekly folk music show on BBC Radio 2, and hosts the annual BBC Folk Awards. He lives in West Yorkshire.