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 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”

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.

Eldren — The Book of the Dark

Review: Eldren – The Book of the Dark, William Meikle, 2007, 2017.eldren

This is a pretty good story with a horrible title that sounds like a tie-in to a media property. The book’s cover does little to dispel that notion either.

There is The Book of the Dark, and it is an integral part of the story, a bizarre vampire bible which echoes Genesis and the story of Christ in parts. Vampires, you see, were made by God before man. They sinned against God, but some still hope to be eventually redeemed.

But Meikle doesn’t dive into this mythology straightaway.

We start with Jim Kerr, just a man taking a vacation with his pregnant wife on the shore of Jura in Scotland. Too bad that strange mound near the vacation house has a vampire in it, a vampire that gets lose and kills his wife and their unborn child.

When we next hear of Kerr years later, in the main part of the story, it’s just in the background, just in news stories mentioning an escaped psycho killer. Continue reading “Eldren — The Book of the Dark”

Island Life

Review: Island Life, William Meikle, 2013.islandlife

A Meikle tale about an ancient horror stalking a Scottish island, its inhabitants fending off cannibals with the few weapons at hand … didn’t I just review that?

Yes, I did. But while Ramskull from 2017 has a similar set up, a similar structure (contemporary chapters alternating with historical ones), and, if you squint your eyes just right and ignore a lot of detail, a similar theme and end, Island Life is not the same story. Like Ramskull, it’s not boring or predictable. Originally published in 2001 (though this edition has a copyright of 2013), this is Meikle’s first novel and not inferior to his latest work.

Meikle is fairly casual about introducing his many viewpoint characters. There’s Duncan McKenzie, a biologist doing research on declining fishing in the area. There’s Anne and Jim McTaggart, a couple of hippies who came to the island decades ago and who live with their daughter Meg. There’s Dick, a young assistant lighthouse keeper. There’s the obstreperous and abusive John Jefferies, local sheep rancher. Even his dog Sam gets some chapters. Continue reading “Island Life”