The book I actually read last September on the plane to Glasgow was Flower of Scotland; Forty Flash Fictions, but Miekle seems to have withdrawn that from the market and chopped the contents up into four of his 99 cent chapbooks, so it’s the latter I’ll be reviewing. They collect work of his from the 1990s to 2014.
Review: Flower of Scotland Volume 1, William Meikle, 2020.
As Meikle’s followers on Twitter know, he likes his Twitter and knows how to use it. In “Twitterspace”, we follow Dave as he learns the truth behind the Twitter handles @weegreenmen and @saucerzus. We see, via Twitter, the world descending into chaos meteorological and economic. Given the green snow, it’s possible this story is linked to Meikle’s The Invasion which I haven’t read yet. On the other hand, Meikle does like to do variations on an image or idea.
In “Supply and Demand”, a psychiatrist talks to a patient who has the notion that, starting about thirty years, staring, blank-eyed children starting being born. And now their in charge of things. This is a nice, disturbing story about generational change and moral decay.
The vacation reading of a schoolteacher “At the Beach” is disturbed by an old man who wants to talk about his life and deliver some unsolicited advice: “save up your memories … because ye never ken when ye might need them”. You might see the ending coming, but you probably won’t see all of the ending coming. This is a moving story with a new twist on an old idea.
The “Flower of Scotland” is a song about Robert the Bruce (not an old song either, it was composed in the 1960s) and the unofficial anthem of Scotland. Well, the story is about Robert the Bruce’s heart too since it ended up buried separately – very separately – from his body. One Scottish noblemen has spent four years finding the relic and what he wants to do with it is the tale. The tone and flavor is very much like Meikle’s Watcher trilogy which I also like.
“Habit” strongly reminded me of one of Meikle’s Derek Adams stories though nobody in it is a detective. This isn’t a crime story either. But there is a chain smoking character, and the suicide attempt of the narrator’s girlfriend sounds a lot like how Adams’ girlfriend died. This is a conservation-of-suffering story.
A schoolboy tries to impress some bullies with magic tricks he learned from his dad in “Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral”. But dad’s tricks don’t work as planned. Then again, there is strangeness in how those plans were even made.
I didn’t really care for “The Last Day of Summer”. A boy, after complaining to his dad that he’s not allowed to do certain things, wanders off into the woods. There he meets an old man who is going about killing the vegetation.
“The Strange Case of Dr. McIntyre” is Meikle’s somewhat underdeveloped homage to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. We’re told how the narrator, 50 years back, went with a friend to find the grave of the friend’s great-grandfather. What they find in the grave, of course, is the story.
“Can You Hear Them?” is a mildly interesting horror tale about a divorced man driven mad by voices in his head – the same voices his father mentioned once.
And we close out with another Twitter tale, “#dreaming”. It’s a clever modern media take on the Cthulhu Mythos.
Even if you have to pay more than 99 cents, this collection is a good value and evidence that Meikle can successfully write a lot of different kinds of stories.