Sherlock Holmes: The Dreaming Man

Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Dreaming Man, William Meikle, 2017.

sherlock holmes the dreaming man
Cover by Wayne Miller

I don’t seek out Sherlock Holmes pastiches, but, every few years, I end up reading one. The occasion to read this was because one of Meikle’s Seton clan plays a very important part in it. (No, I have not sat down and constructed a family tree or made notes about the relationships between all the Seton characters I’ve come across.)

I’m glad I did. It pulled me through quickly to the end and did some interesting things with key elements of the Holmes’ stories.

Does Meikle imitate Arthur Conan Doyle well? Since it’s been many decades since I’ve actually read the Holmes stories, the version of them lodged in my head comes from repeated watchings of Jeremy Brett and David Burke as Holmes and Watson in the 1980s Granada Television adaptations. Meikle didn’t clash with my memories of the characters at all.

However, this being Meikle, this is an outré, a weird Holmes story, so if you don’t like the rationality of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories being violated with the seemingly supernatural, this isn’t for you. For that matter, Holmes and Watson, at story’s end, aren’t very keen on what they’ve seen either. Continue reading “Sherlock Holmes: The Dreaming Man”

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Augustus Seton Collected Chronicles

Review: Augustus Seton Collected Chronicles, William Meikle, 2015.augustus seton collected chronicles

I didn’t have high hopes for this one given the rather bad cover art and that it’s not even listed as a book on the author’s website.

Still, it is Meikle fiction set in Scotland, and it does have one of the Seton clan who show up in so many Meikle stories.

I was actually pleasantly surprised.

I’m not going to cover every story in detail. One reason is that, like Joel Jenkins’ Lone Crow series, that would give a sense of repetition you don’t feel when reading it. The second reason is that I also don’t want to spoil any surprises. We’ll get to the third reason.

There are vampires, werewolves, water gods, warlocks, the Reaper, beasts in the mountains and more here. In essence, these are sword-and-sorcery stories set in late 16th century Scotland. Continue reading “Augustus Seton Collected Chronicles”

“The Goddess of Death”

This week’s weird fiction selection – kind of.

Review: “The Goddess of Death”, William Hope Hodgson, 1904.godess of death

This story strikes me as a bridge between gothic horror and Hodgson’s later weird fiction. But that’s just a hunch not being an expert in gothic horror or Hodgson and not having read that much of either.

The supernatural element is rationalized, explained away like something out of a Ann Radcliffe novel. There is a great deal of physicality which I associate with Hodgson. His narrator spends a great deal of time outdoors and running about.

That narrator, Herton, arrives in a small English village that’s in tumult because a dozen people have been killed there. Some claim a walking marble statue is doing the killing. Continue reading ““The Goddess of Death””

The House on the Moor

Review: The House on the Moor, William Meikle, 2015.

thehouseonthemoor
Cover by M. Wayne Miller

The subtitle says “A Haunted House Book”. True enough, but this very enjoyable story has elements I don’t associate with haunted house stories: sweetness, sorrow, loneliness, friendship, and love.

John Fraser is a writer eager to make his mark, and he thinks he has the project to do it: a biography of his famous grandfather, Hugh Fraser. So he drags his wife Carole to a manor house isolated on the Scottish moors for a long weekend interviewing the man who knew his grandfather best, David Blacklaw.

In their heyday, in the 1950s and 1960s, Fraser and Blacklaw were worldwide celebrities, travelers, explorers, and champion wenchers. That all ended with Fraser’s death in 1968.

From the beginning of the story, Carole and John are rubbing each other wrong. Carole senses something in her bedroom. There are noises in the house’s library. Some strange man is walking about the foggy moor. A servant has his own story to tell. The enfeebled Blacklaw can’t or won’t reveal all he knows about Fraser’s life. The details of Hugh Fraser’s death don’t at all match the public records. And unknown records exist of that death. Continue reading “The House on the Moor”

Dark Melodies

Review: Dark Melodies, William Meikle, 2012.

darkmelodies
Cover by Wayne Miller

Dance and music and chants show up in a lot of Meikle’s stories, and he’s built an entertaining collection around the theme. There’s a Derek Adams story here, a bit of the Cthulhu Mythos and a bit of the Meikle mythos, some coal mining, and some folk singing.

Six of the eight stories are original. One of the reprints, “The Tenants of Ladywell Manor”, is a highlight of the book, but I reviewed that in Meikle’s Home from the Sea. The other reprint is “The Unfinished Basement” which, as a title alone, is enough to send chills down the spine of some of us homeowners. Dave Collins, house flipper, buys a house unseen with an unfinished basement and a piano. The piano is nice, nice enough that Thorpe, a re-seller of pianos, starts playing it on first sight. The basement is not so nice what with its stinking pool of water and plant roots hanging off the ceiling. Thorpe ultimately sees a connection between basement and piano and tells Collins he’s not going to being making his money back on this deal. It ends memorably.

There is a nested story in “The Unfinished Basement” that is quite similar to one in Meikle’s “The Larkhill Barrow” and another story in the collection, the Derek Adams story “Rhythm and Booze” which I’ve already reviewed. I’ll just repeat that it’s a satisfying Adams story. Continue reading “Dark Melodies”

“Amour Dure”

This week’s weird fiction is a welcome return by Vernon Lee. Her “Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady” proved, surprisingly, one of my most popular posts.

I suspect MarzAat, the weirdly named blog, is supplying material for school papers the world over.

You’re welcome.

Review: “Amour Dure”, Vernon Lee, 1890.

This is a clever ghost story told in the form of diary entries from a Polish historian named Spiridion Trepka.

The story takes place from August 20, 1885 to Christmas 1885.

Trepka goes to Urbania in Italy to write a history of the area. He’s mostly bored there, especially by the Director of Archives.

However, in the week of September 9, 1885, he comes across the story of one Medea da Carpi. She reminds Trepka of Bianca Cappello and Lucrezia Borgia. Murder and violence trail in her wake.

Born in 1556, she is engaged at age 12. A year later, the marriage is cancelled because the other family has become poorer. At 14, she is married by proxy to Giovanfrancesco Pico. However, Pierluigi Orsini the Duke of Stimigliano gets the marriage annulled on some pretext. Pico isn’t allowed to plead his case before the Pope,  so he abducts Medea with whom he is madly in love (he finds her very lovely, cheerful, and amiable). However, Medea escapes and Pico, only 18, is found stabbed by Medea. Continue reading ““Amour Dure””

Occult Detective Quarterly Presents

Longtime readers of the blog may wonder what I have against occult detective stories since this is the second anthology of such stories I haven’t done a complete review of.

Nothing really. I’m contemplating restricting the focus of this blog. In any case, I’m not looking to expand the type of books I cover. While I occasionally like to read occult detective tales, I’m not a big fan of them. Usually, I don’t really consider them science fiction or weird fiction, so I won’t be covering them.

Low Res Scan: Occult Detective Quarterly Presents, eds. John Linwood Grant & David Brzeski, 2018.

occult detective quarterly presents
Cover by Sebastian Cabrol

The only reason I bought this story was for William Meikle’s “Farside”. And a good decision that was.

This story combines his Derek Adams occult detective series with his Sigil and Totems series.

And one of the Seton clan shows up, one Alex Seton, the granddaughter of the protagonist of Meikle’s The Concordances of the Red Serpent. She’s being stalked – by Andrews, an old classmate of hers – in mirrors. Everywhere there are mirrors, Andrews watches her. He thinks, being a Seton, she has the secret to immortality. But Adams finds out the stalker is in fact dead by his own hand in a Sigil House. It’s a trail that will take Adams into the mysteries of the Sigil Houses and their unexpected uses and the choices offered by the “rainbow eggs” that are a feature of the Meikle Mythos, and hear talk of the Sleeping God. He’ll also find himself growing close to Alex. Surprisingly, given Adams’ origin story involving screwing around in his apartment for ten minutes while his despondent girlfriend bleeds to death in the bathtub from slit wrists, he won’t take advantage of the Sigil Houses ability to reconnect with the dead.

Also of note in this issue is Mike Ashley’s very informative essay on the history of occult detectives, “Fighters of Fear”. Editor Dave Brzeski adds some notes to Ashley’s article since it was last updated in 1994. Ashley starts his history in 1830 and, amongst other things, talks about the two great types of occult detective stories: “predominately detective stories with a supernatural background” and “supernatural stories involving detection” Ashley casts his net wide to include some authors I’d never heard of.

Each story in this anthology gets an original black-and-white illustration near its end (to prevent spoilers).

 

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.