The Midnight Eye Omnibus Volume 2

Low Res Scan: The Midnight Eye Omnibus Volume 2, William Meikle, 2019.midnighteyeomnibus

Derek Adams, the Glasgow private eye who is a magnet for the weird, is a character Meikle returns to again and again. He’s added to the series since I read this book though I have not read the newest installment.

This collection actually has an “Introduction” by J. Kent Holloway, an appreciation of the deep use of mythology in Meikle’s fantasy and horror stories. Holloway also talks about how Meikle was his entrance point to the works of H. P. Lovecraft.

And the influence of Lovecraft is certainly seen in “Eeny Meeny Miney Mi-Go” which, as you would expect from the title, is Meikle’s takeoff on H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness”. Adams is hired by an astronomer, Penderton, to find his son within 48 hours. Of course, it doesn’t turn out to be that simple, and Penderton has a lot of secrets. The story seems to be from early in Adams’ career. He’s already a private eye, but we hear about his friend Dave who shows up in the earliest Adams novels. Derek’s girlfriend Liz is probably the woman whose suicide, while Adams was in the next room, left him guilt ridden.

Call and Response” is not only a call-out to the Cthulhu Mythos as Adams is hired by an ex-New York City policeman to find an unknown professor but also to a bit of Scottish pride in the references to John Logie Baird. He was the inventor of the first tv technology and conducted the first transmission of color on tv. Throw in cosmic cycles, a certain being slumbering in the depths of the Pacific, and a nod to Charles Darwin, and you have a light-hearted story, one of the best in the Adams series. it’s also another case of Meikle attracted to the idea of dance and music – rhythm, in other words – as a way of communicating with the supernatural and extraordinary.

The book contains several other Adams’ tales, and you’ll find my reviews of each linked to their title: Rhythm and Booze, “The Weathered Stone“, “The Inuit Bone“, “A Slim Chance“, “Farside“, Deal or No Deal?, and “Home Is the Sailor“.

As long as Meikle keeps writing Adams, I’ll keep reading about Derek’s adventures in the mean, weird streets of Glasgow.

Carnacki: The Edinburgh Townhouse and Other Stories

This is the most recent collection of Carnacki of stories from Meikle, but a new one is scheduled to be released soon.

Review: Carnacki: The Edinburgh Townhouse and Other Stories, William Meikle, 2017.

Cover by Wayne Miller

This is another winning collection of Carnacki stories from Meikle.

Carnacki doesn’t always save those who seek his assistance, and “The Photographer’s Friend” is one such case. The case begins with strange apparitions showing up in the photographer’s pictures.

Fins in the Fog” is another team up between Carnacki and Captain Gault. Carnacki finds the Captain an amiable pirate. This one has Gault showing up at Carnacki’s house with spectral sharks pursuing him.

In “The Cheyne Walk Infestation”, Carnacki doesn’t have to go anywhere to investigate odd happenings. His own apartment is threatened by giant, vicious millipedes. Told via Carnacki’s journal this story is related to the earlier “The Shoreditch Worm”.

Investigating the murder of an old friend, Carnacki meets a Scotland Yard inspector who is resourceful and nonplussed at dealing with the sort of entities Carnacki encounters. It all starts with “An Unexpected Delivery”. Continue reading

Carnacki: The Watcher at the Gate and Other Stories

Low Res Scan: Carnacki: The Watcher at the Gate and Other Stories, William Meikle, 2016.

Watcher at the Gate
Cover by M. Wayne Miller

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I like Meikle’s Carnacki better than William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki.

There are two reasons for that.

First, Meikle will often work in odd bits of history or folklore into his stories, and Hodgson didn’t do that. (Of course, Hodgson presented his stories as contemporary. Their setting is now over a 100 years old.)

Second, Meikle’s Carnacki doesn’t go on at length about his photographic methods or how he checks a dwelling out. His Carnacki will simply say something like, “You all know my methods by now.”

Meikle’s Carnacki stories are presented roughly in chronological order. This is, currently, the second of Meikle’s Carnacki anthologies. Don’t worry, though, you won’t be lost if you jump around in the publication order of them.

The Banshee” does allude to some of the menaces Carnacki has faced in the past and how be vanquished them. Here an old friend in Scotland has heard the banshee’s cry which means, according to family lore, he will die if he hears it seven times. So, naturally,  Carnacki sets out to help him. Unusually, Carnacki tells most of the story to his friend – and series regular – Dodgson by letter. Continue reading

Green Door

While this blog spent about a year mostly talking about the works of William Hope Hodgson, that was just a side trip initiated by my trip to Scotland and William Meikle’s Carnacki stories.

Before I visited the country, I wanted to read some fantastic fiction set in Scotland and Meikle, a favorite of this blog, was a good place to start with what was then the most recent Derek Adams story.

Review: Green DoorGreen Door, William Meikle, 2019.Green Door

This is story is sort of a sequel to the earlier Derek Adams story “Farside” in that Adams returns, to get some information, to the sigils and totems house he visited in that story. Those houses open on to alternate dimensions where the dead still live and can be accessed by their living loved ones.

This time, though, it’s not solace in the past Adams is seeking. He’s working.
A man hires him to find a green door, all that remains of a former “special house” in Glasgow from the early 1900s. Special, in this case, means one of those sigil and totem houses.

All the usual regulars from the Derek Adams stories are here: George, criminal and pub owner, and the two pub regulars, Jock and Andy.

A new character is tattooed old hippy, Bella.

Assisted by some tips from the concierge of the sigils and totems house he spent time in, Adams finds himself on the track of the now gone house and researching corruption in the Glasgow of a century in the past.

Another enjoyable Adams story, especially for Bella and the historical Glasgow bits and recommended for those who have enjoyed previous Adams stories.

Sargasso #1

Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies was an unfortunately short lived, project by Hodgson scholar Sam Gafford. Only three issues were produced.

Sam Gafford’s “Introduction” lays out his intention that this journal address the lack of a specific outlet for exploration, in nonfiction and fiction, of the themes and concepts in Hodgson’s work.

Review: Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies #1, ed. Sam Gafford, 2013.

Cover by Robert H. Knox

Shadow Out of Hodgson” by John D. Haefele lays out a case, even though S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz do not mention in Hodgson in their annotated version of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out of Time, for the influence of Hodgson’s The Night Land on that work. First, Lovecraft mentioned Hodgson’s novel in several letters when the story was being written between November 10, 1934 and February 22, 1935. Second, there are several similarities in the narratives. First, like humanity in the Last Redoubt, the Great Race is under siege. Second, the consciousness of both narrators is projected into the future. Both stories feature libraries of metal bound books that the narrators access. Less convincing is Haefele seeing similarities between X descending the gorge on his way to the Lesser Redoubt and the narrator of The Shadow Out of Time, in contemporary times, descending into the uncovered structures of the Great Race.

Phillip A. Ellis’ “A Reassessment of William Hope Hodgson’s Poetry”, Phillip A. Ellis looks at almost all of Hodgson’s poetry and finds Hodgson’s poetry full of vivid physical tales as well as a preoccupation with, as Hodgson scholar Jane Frank noted, “strange visions, supernatural phenomena, hallucinatory events”. Poetry seems to have been a lifelong literary outlet for Hodgson. He took it up earlier than fiction writing and wrote most of his poems between 1899 and 1906. He even wrote poetry when he was in the army and Ellis thinks that, if would have had the chance to develop his facility more, he might have been a noted war poet. Ellis thinks most of the weaknesses in Hodgson’s poetry came from him being a self-educated poet lacking the necessary technical training. I’ve read a lot, but by no means all, of Hodgson’s poetry. Frankly, little stuck in my brain (but, then, most poetry doesn’t) apart from the prose poem “Grey Seas Are Dreaming of My Death”. I do agree with Ellis that Hodgson is best when he takes inspiration and metaphors from the sea. Continue reading

World War One in Fantastic Fiction: “The Lusitania”

Cover by Wayne Miller

It’s been too long since I’ve done one of these, and I want to get back to the series.

World War One in Fantastic Fiction: “The Lusitania”, William Meikle, 2011. 

The purpose of this series is to look at how fantastic fiction uses the reality of World War One. Are the details cited accurate? How does the author use those details?

Remember, this series is about literal, not metaphorical, uses of the Great War experience. It will not cover alternate histories though some works I’ll be examining were written before the war ended.

I’ve reviewed Meikle’s tale already. This will concentrate on one particular aspect of the tale. Continue reading

Walking the Night Land: “The Dark Island”

The series on William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land and its literary descendants continues.

Essay: Carnacki: Heaven and Hell, William Meikle, 2011.

Cover by Wayne Miller

John C. Wright”s “The Last of All Suns” and Avalon Brantley’s The House of Silence merged elements of Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland and The Night Land, William Meikle’s “The Dark Island” did it and threw in Hodgson’s Carnacki too. (Carnacki gets a brief mention in “The Last of All Suns” too.)

I was a ways into “The Dark Island” before I realized that this is the back story referenced in Meikle’s Pentacle, but, at the time I read that story, I had read little Hodgson and none of his novels. Since that story is also part of Carnacki’s Sigils and Totems series, this story stands as a nexus with several works.

In this story, Carnacki’s help is sought by one James Doig whose friend, Sir John, seems under threat of a curse. Said curse was placed on the male heirs of his line after an ancestor, Richard de Bourcy, tangled with a necromancer on an island in the loch by Sir John’s castle. Michael Scott decreed that no male member of the family would live past his 50th birthday, and, by that measure, Sir John has two weeks to live.

The whole business of the curse seems a bit of nonsense to Sir John. But Doig comes across it cataloging his friend’s extensive library of occult and historical works. Sir John, to prove the whole curse thing is nonsense, takes Doig to the island. There something comes out of the burial mound on the island, frightens Sir John who flees, falling and hitting his head. Continue reading

Captain Gault

Looking over the descriptions of William Meikle’s Carnacki pastiches, I see he also uses another character from William Hope Hodgson: Captain Gault.

Review: Captain Gault, Being the Exceedingly Private Log of a Sea-Captain, William Hodgson, The Complete Works of William Hope Hodgson, 2015 and The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” and Other Nautical Adventures, ed. Jeremy Lassen, 2003.

There’s not a whiff of the supernatural or weird about the Captain Gault stories.

Hodgson scholar Sam Gafford suggests the arc of Hodgson’s literary career went from highly original works and then to more commercial products that were popular in the magazines of the time. That included the Captain Gault series.

I’m not sure when they were all written but most were published in London Magazine between 1914 to 1916 and collected into the book Captain Gault, Being the Exceedingly Private Log of a Sea-Captain which was published in 1917 and that is included in The Complete Works of William Hodgson from Delphi Classics. Copyright issues, because of their latter publication, meant two tales in the series were omitted. Lassen’s anthology collects them all.

Gault is a smuggler, and these are crime stories.

Jewel smuggling is Gault’s specialty, and the customs officials of American and the United Kingdom are on to him, and many of the stories feature his evasion of them whether it’s undercover agents trying to entrap him or ferret out his hiding places. But Gault always gets his contraband through, and the stories usually end with the Captain telling the officials, either through a note or a conversation about how a hypothetical “friend” of his would have done it, how he accomplished that. Since he never repeats a scheme, he’s putting himself in no danger. Sometimes, he even sues the government for false accusations or destroying his property during searches.

Jewels aren’t the only contraband. There’s gun smuggling and cigar smuggling and saccharine smuggling too. There’s human smuggling too, once to get a man sought by a Chinese secret society in “The Case of the Chinese Curio Dealer” and once picking a German spy up off the coast of France in “The German Spy”.

The two latest tales, “Trading with the Enemy” and “The Plans of the Reefing Bi-Plane”, are set during World War One. The first has Gault blackmailed into providing fuel for German U-boats. The second involves German agents trying to stop the delivery of plans for a revolutionary plane from being sent from America to England. It has the most action with the Captain blasting away with Colts in his pocket (presumably revolvers and not semi-automatics) against a gang of German agents who have booked passage on his ship.

Gault is a man of honor. He always makes sure the owner of whatever ship he’s commanding doesn’t end up suffering for his schemes. He always delivers the goods at the stated price. He’ll provide a cut for trustworthy crewmen who aide him. He’s also frequently disappointed, but never surprised, at human cupidity and treachery. His notes of explanation are often condemnatory towards officials who won’t stayed bribe and, on two occasions, women he encounters. The latter includes a woman who tried to smuggle jewels on her own after deciding not to pay his fee, a percentage of the tax she’s evading. On another occasion, he falls in love, briefly, with a woman who turns out to be an undercover agent for the U.S. Treasury.

Besides supplementing his pay with smuggling, Gault seems a man of many interests. Besides a knowledge of jewels, he’s a member of some unnamed secret society and seems to have some knowledge of the occult and is an amateur painter of some skill. But we only see these things in passing or only their relevance to the caper at hand, capers accomplished through misdirection, sleight of hand, theatrical cons, or clever technical means. His motto is “Never use two heads to keep a secret.”

Gault seems to be British though he says he’s American in one story. Even while smuggling spies and running fuel to German U-boats, he finds a way to fulfill his commission yet not endanger England.

All in all, the Gault stories are entertaining trifles with Hodgson, by this point in his career, very comfortable and accomplished at creating puzzles and solving them more successfully than in his first tale, “The Goddess of Death” or some of his non-supernatural Carnacki tales. (The Carnacki tale “The Find” exhibits the sort of misdirection that shows up in many of these stories.) And, of course, Hodgson’s days at seas help lend an air of easy verisimilitude to the whole thing even when dealing with stereotypes like Scottish ship’s engineers and rowdy Irish sailors.


The Casebook of Carnacki — the Ghost-Finder

Before reading any more of William Meikle’s Carnacki pastiches, I decided I should actually read the original Carnacki tales by William Hope Hodgson since, before this book, the only one I’d read was “The Hog”.

Review: The Casebook of Carnacki – the Ghost-Finder, ed. David Stuart Davies, 2006.th0CG7RAKT

It’s easy to mock the Carnacki tales.

They are not the first occult detective series. Hodgson seems to have created the character to cash in on the potential of a series character. The large number of magazines in 1910, when the first story was published, meant, unlike today, short fiction was usually better paying than writing novels. Carnacki was inspired by the success of Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence stories, another occult detective series.

Carnacki’s tools seem somewhat ludicrous, even for the time. There’s a heavy patina of pseudoscience what with the occult significance of various colors and Carnacki’s famous Electric Pentacle, essentially a string of colored lights for magical defense.

The otherworldy is often signified by strings of repeated vowels: Carnacki’s go-to reference the Sigsand Manuscript and its Saaamaaa Ritual, the Incantation of Raaaeee, and the Aeiirii “forms of materialization”.

Yet the stories work. Continue reading

The Auld Mither

I read this one a while ago but didn’t review it because its Smashwords edition was pulled by Meikle.

However, it will be re-released by Unneveritheauldmitherng on February 20, 2019.

Review: The Auld Mither, William Meikle, 2017.

Let’s get some things out of the way right away.

Meikle’s S Squad isn’t going to show up and save anybody from the bloodbath in this novella. None of the Seton clan swoops in to explain what’s going on. There’s not a Meikle’s Sigils and Totems house where the dead can be seen again.

This is a compelling horror story of the old school blending folklore, family drama, and a police procedural.

The story opens with George Duncan making a desperate pitch at a board meeting, trying to make the “country hicks” of “this small town on the edge of the Highlands” realize that the future of their community lies in modernizing his slaughterhouse that processes deer from a farm. Things get heated with George swearing at the board to shock them out of their complacency.

Then things get really bad when someone shows up and kills everybody at the meeting, dismembering their bodies into butcher cuts. There’s a grim bit of humor at the end of the scene with blood running down a screen showing a slide saying “ABBATOIR: PROPOSED ENLARGEMENT”. Continue reading