A few months back, it was the weekend of my birthday.
I’d just finished David Hambling’s Alien Stars, and I wanted another book of a mystery, private-eye, Lovecraftian sort.
It was my birthday, and I didn’t feel like reading anything on my review list. So, after spending some minutes looking at my kindle titles, I latched on to William Meikle’s The Amulet which I had gotten free somehow.
I liked it so well, I bought this omnibus and finished the rest of it the same weekend. (You see, authors, sometimes giving away the free sample does work.)
I first came across Meikle’s work in High Seas Cthulhu, and I’ve liked most of his stories I’ve come across in various anthologies.
Low Res Scan: The Midnight Eye Files, William Meikle, 2013, 2016.
The mean, low-rent streets of Glasgow, Scotland and the hero, Derek Adams, are the strong points here.
Adams is a one-time microbiology student turned wise-cracking reporter turned wise-cracking private eye. He smokes too much, drinks too much, earns too little, and can’t get over the guilt from the suicide of his girlfriend 20 years ago. He’s a self-consciously Philip Marlowe type.
Meikle, a Scot transplanted to Newfoundland, lived and worked a number of years in Glasgow, so depicts the town he knew then though the setting is now an “idealised one“. We see the highs and lows of Glasgow, the pubs and thrift shops, and slums as well as the country and towns nearby.
The usual private eye plots are in place. Meandering questioning of people, some who won’t survive the story, gradual revelations here that involving the occult. Meikle has some continuity in character relationships from novel to novel which is welcome instead of hitting the reset button after each story.
Adams has a friend, traumatized in the first adventure, who does the internet research
The Amulet is the best story, Adam’s first exposure to real magic. It’s Chandler meets a Hammer Film in a story of an archaeological expedition to Ur decades in the past, a theft of one of its relics, a mysterious Arab, a lot of dead bodies, and a climax in a castle. And Adams has a sexy woman for a client though he’s not too sure about the unsavory reputation around her husband. There’s enough references to the Cthulhu Mythos to consider it a Lovecraftian story in theme if not style or plot. There’s even excerpts from the journal of that archaeological expedition.
Adams is hired to bring a son back to the funeral of his father in Govan, a village of strange going ons in The Sirens. There is a bit of a feel of Lovecraft’s Innsmouth and a whole lot more from Norse myth.
The Skin Game involves werewolves, World War II, the French and Indian War, and some Glaswegian thugs.
I didn’t like the short stories as much probably because they didn’t get as much room to show Adams’ character and the Scottish settings.
“The Fourth Protocol” involves a hunt for sunken treasure. “A Slim Chance”, however, was an entertaining mixture of magic and fatal weight loss.
I’m sure Meikle’s plotting was up to the aesthetics of paradox and casualties inherent in the time travel story which is what “One, Two, Go!”, but I was tired and eager to finish the book, so my attention flagged a bit on that one.
Meikle has written other Derek Adams short works which I am going to look up, and he’s announced his intention to return to this, his favorite character.