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WILLIAM MEIKLE

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Scottish

The Seton family

Regular readers of mine know that I like to seed Seton family Easter eggs in my books. They’re generally wee red-haired Scotsmen and women who either dabble in alchemy, know more than they’re telling, might or might not be immortal, or have sold their souls for a shiny sword and a way with the ladies — they crop up all over the place.

Recently a young member of the family (and another cousin of his too) has turned up in the Rowan Casey / Veil Knights series, an elder statesman is in Ramskull, Occult Detective Quarterly #1, and Sherlock Holmes: The Dreaming Man. Alexander, who was the first to make himself known to me, is in The Concordances of the Red Serpent, and his granddaughter turns up in a new Derek Adams story coming soon in Occult Detective Quarterly Presents.

Then there’s Augustus, still hacking his violent way through late 16th Century Scotland in a sequence of sword and sorcery stories — he’ll be back I’m sure.

They’re also tied to an ancient mystical book, THE TWELVE CONCORDANCES OF THE RED SERPENT, an alchemical tome written by an elder Seton at the time of Bannockburn. There’s a copy in Carnacki’s library in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, Sherlock Holmes has seen a copy too, as has Derek Adams, and one turned up in my recent novella, THE JOB.

The family, and the book are also in the process of being tied in to my Sigils and Totems mythos, so everything is all spinning around in one big happy dance of chaos.

It gives readers who read a lot of my books something to look out for, a wee wink and secret handshake between them and me as reward for their time spent in my worlds.

Plus, it’s fun.

Fun is good.

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I’m Willie, I’m a Scotsman, and I like horror fiction.

I’m Willie, I’m a Scotsman, and I like horror fiction.

A lot of my work, long and short form, has been set in Scotland, and a lot of it uses the history and folklore. There’s just something about the misty landscapes and old buildings that speaks straight to my soul. (Bloody Celts… we get all sentimental at the least wee thing).

Scottish history goes deep. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a castle or a historic monument or, from further back, a burial mound or standing stone. Five thousand years of living in mist and dampness, wind and snow, lashing rain and high seas leads to the telling of many tales of eldritch beings abroad in the dark nights. Add in the constant risk of invasion and war from Romans, Danes, Irishmen, Vikings and English and you can see that there’s plenty of fertile ground for both fact and fiction to merge into a rich and varied mythology.

I grew up in the West Coast of Scotland in an environment where the supernatural was almost commonplace. My grannie certainly had a touch of “the sight”, always knowing when someone in the family was in trouble. There are numerous stories told of family members meeting other, long dead, family in their dreams, and I myself have had more than a few encounters, with dead family, plus meetings with what I can only class as residents of faerie. I have had several precognitive dreams, one of which saved me from a potentially fatal car crash.

What with all of that, it was only natural that my taste in reading would take a turn towards the spooky.

I think my first close encounter of the Scottish kind must have been with Rabbie Burns. I’m from Ayrshire like Rabbie, and we share a birthday, so he was ever present in my early schooling. I remember learning a recital of the galloping frenzy of Tam o’ Shanter as drunken Tam escapes the witches Sabbath by the skin of his teeth. Walter Scott too wasn’t above slipping wraiths and fairies and fey folk into his romances, and he too was an early sight for me of some old Scots preoccupations with the darker side.

When I started reading seriously for myself, Treasure Island was one of my early favorites, and it led me directly to the man who would be a lifelong companion. Robert Louis Stevenson didn’t just anchor a whole sub-culture of horror with Doctor Jeckyll and his alter-ego — he also wrote some of the greatest adventure novels of all time, and some of the most beautifuly constructed short stories you ever did read. He also introduced me to Scottish history in a way that school books had never managed, and through him I was led to Victorian Edinburgh and London, and directly into the arms of another great Scotsman.

Yes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was Scottish. No, he wasn’t an English gentleman. Now that’s out of the way… I fell in love with Doyle through Challenger more than Holmes at first, from a love of The Lost World that persists to this day. Holmes came along later, and when I started writing Holmes stories of my own, the supernatural kept creeping into them, which gets me castigated by Sherlockian purists, but I don’t care; as a Scotsman, like Doyle, steeped in the stories told in the mists and dark rooms in old buildings, it feels as natural to me as breathing. Doyle also wrote some top notch horror shorts that were a big favorite of mine in those early years.

Also writing at the same time was Margaret Oliphant, a prolific Scotswoman better known for romantic dramas than supernatural works, but in later years I discovered a ghost stories collection of hers and was delighted to discover that she too shared our kinfolk’s love for the things that live in the dark and foggy nights in the auld country.

My later reading in my early teens before I found Moorcock then Lovecraft then King was almost all sci-fi or thriller based, but there too I found Scots with a taste for the darkside, in John Buchan and especially Alistair MacLean, a man who would have made a great pulp horror writer in different circumstances.

Later still William McIllvaney and Ian Rankin, while ostensibly working in the crime field also showed me more than a few glimpses of their familiarity with the dark and the ways of things that creep in the shadows.

And then, in the Eighties, horror came back to Scotland in full measure, in Ian Banks’ The Wasp Factory, in Jonathan Aycliffe’s Edinburgh ghost story, The Matrix, and in the many works of Joe Donnelly, a much missed genre writer who gave us a whole range of Scottish spooks, spectres, bogey-men and monsters in his short horror career during the boom years.

Which brings us round to when I started writing for myself, in the early ’90s. I’ve tried over the years since then to explain in a variety of works what the rich history of Scottish supernatural writing has given me. In my new book, THE GHOST CLUB, I’ve gone right back to basics, and provided as part of it three tales as if told by Stevenson, Oliphant and Doyle, and a wee cameo by Rabbie Burns in another story for good measure. I hope I’ve done them justice.

I’m Willie, I’m a Scotsman, and I write horror fiction.

 

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The Midnight Eye Files

I read widely, both in the crime and horror genres, but my crime fiction in particular keeps returning to older, pulpier, bases.

My series character, Glasgow PI Derek Adams, is a Bogart and Chandler fan, and it is the movies and Americana of the ’40s that I find a lot of my inspiration for him, rather than in the modern procedural.

That, and the old city, are the two main drivers for the Midnight Eye stories.

When I was a lad, back in the early 1960s, we lived in a town 20 miles south of Glasgow, and it was an adventure to the big city when I went with my family on shopping trips. Back then the city was a Victorian giant going slowly to seed.

It is often said that the British Empire was built in Glasgow on the banks of the river Clyde. Back when I was young, the shipyards were still going strong, and the city centre itself still held on to some of its past glories.

It was a warren of tall sandstone buildings and narrow streets, with Edwardian trams still running through them. The big stores still had pneumatic delivery systems for billing, every man wore a hat, collar and tie, and steam trains ran into grand vaulted railway stations filled with smoke.

Also by the time I was a student, a lot of the tall sandstone buildings had been pulled down to make way for tower blocks. Back then they were the new shiny future, taking the people out of the Victorian ghettos and into the present day.

Fast forward to the present day and there are all new ghettos. The tower blocks are ruled by drug gangs and pimps. Meanwhile there have been many attempts to gentrify the city centre, with designer shops being built in old warehouses, with docklands developments building expensive apartments where sailors used to get services from hard faced girls, and with shiny, trendy bars full of glossy expensively dressed bankers.

And underneath it all, the old Glasgow still lies, slumbering, a dreaming god waiting for the stars to be right again.

Derek Adams, The Midnight Eye, knows the ways of the old city. And, if truth be told, he prefers them to the new.

There are antecedents – occult detectives who may seem to use the trappings of crime solvers, but get involved in the supernatural. William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel (the book that led to the movie Angel Heart) is a fine example, an expert blending of gumshoe and deviltry that is one of my favorite books. Likewise, in the movies, we have cops facing a demon in Denzel Washington’s Fallen that plays like a police procedural taken to a very dark place.

But I think it’s the people that influence me most. Everybody in Scotland’s got stories to tell, and once you get them going, you can’t stop them. I love chatting to people, (usually in pubs) and finding out the -weird- shit they’ve experienced. Derek is mainly based on a bloke I met years ago in a bar in Partick, and quite a few of the characters that turn up and talk too much in my books can be found in real life in bars in Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews.

He’s turned up in three novels so far, THE AMULET, THE SIRENS and THE SKIN GAME, all out now in ebook at all the usual online stores and in shiny new paperback and audiobook editions from Gryphonwood Press.

THE AMULET is also out in a Portuguese language edition from Retropunk Publicadoes (with the other 2 to follow) and there’s a German language edition of THE AMULET from Blitz Verlag.

There’s also an ever growing list of Midnight Eye short stories, a novella, DEAL OR NO DEAL from Gryphonwood Press, and a new novella, FARSIDE coming in OCCULT DETECTIVE QUARTERLY PRESENTS.

Derek has developed a life of his own, and I’m along for the ride.

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THE EXILED is back

When people ask me what’s my favorite of the books I’ve written, this one often comes to mind. There’s a lot of me in this one; it’s Scottish, it’s set in Edinburgh and rural Scotland, and there’s a particularly Scottish flavor to the people and the dialogue. It’s one of those books where I said what I meant to say, and was happy with the end result, which doesn’t always happen.

Its origins are in a nightmare, in my childhood, and in the bars and alleyways of Edinburgh itself. Even the castle makes an appearance.

It’s available again now in ebook at Crossroad Press having originally been published by DarkFuse, and there’s an audiobook, masterfully done by fellow Scotsman Chris Barnes, who got the accents and banter exactly right.

AMAZON     SMASHWORDS

The nightmare? I’ve been having it off and on since I was a boy. It’s of a bird – a huge, black, swan. The stuff that dreams are made of.

In the nightmare I’m on the edge of a high sea cliff. I feel the wind on my face, taste salt spray, smell cut grass and flowers. I feel like if I could just give myself to the wind I could fly. Then it comes, from blue, snow covered mountains way to the north, a black speck at first, getting bigger fast. Before I know it it is on me, enfolding me in feathers. It lowers its head, almost like a dragon, and puts its beak near my ear. It whispers.

I had the dream many times, and always woke up at this point.

Then, in 1991, I heard what it said.

“Will we talk about the black bird?”

The next morning, for the first time, I wrote a story. It wasn’t a very good story, but something had been woken up, and the day after that I wrote another, a wee ghost story. It didn’t have a black bird in it, but it did have some jazz, and a sultry broad, a murder and some dancing. When that one made me 100 pounds in a ghost story competition, I was on my way.

The bird comes back and whispers to me every couple of years – I’ve come to think of it as my spirit guide. Although it terrifies me, it also reassures me in a weird kind of way. As long as it’s around, I’ll still be a writer and not just a drunk with weird ideas he can’t express.

The bird came to me a few years back, and the next morning I had an idea forming, a murder mystery that led to a place of legend and horror, a myth. THE EXILED is a way of making sense of that dream – I think I got close to the heart of it.

Will we talk about the black bird?

When several young girls are abducted from various locations in Edinburgh, Detective John Grainger and his brother Alan, a reporter, investigate the cases from different directions. The abductor is cunning, always one step ahead, and the only clue he leaves behind at each scene are the brutalized corpses of black swans. When the brothers’ investigations finally converge at a farmhouse in Central Scotland, they catch a glimpse of where the girls have been taken, a place both far away yet close enough to touch. A land known throughout Scottish history with many names: Faerie, Elfheim, the Astral Plane – Brigadoon. It is a place of legend and horror, a myth. But the brothers soon discover it is real, and, to catch the abductor, they will have to cross over themselves. 

You’ve just given your wee posh company car away to a known villain in exchange for an old banger and two bacon rolls, you’re on the run accused of murder, and your only alibi is that you were away in Fairyland with a big black bird. It’s hardly any wonder something smells of shite.

To catch a killer, John and Alan Grainger will have to battle the Cobbe, a strange and enigmatic creature that guards the realm, a creature of horrific power that demands a heavy price for entry into its world. The fate of both realms hangs in the balance… and time is running out…

Shall we talk about the Black Bird? 

Totally gripping, The Exiled delivers a killer story that will appeal to fans of both crime fiction and dark fantasy. – The Ginger Nuts of Horror

This book will appeal to people in the overlapping section of a Venn diagram showing Grimm Tales readers, Stephen King fans and crime fiction lovers. – This is Horror

A must-read for any fan of horror or truly dark fantasy. Highest possible recommendation. – Horror After Dark

 

 

OPERATION: ANTARCTICA

NEW BOOK DAY!

A creature feature novel from Severed Press.

OPERATION: ANTARCTICA follows the survivors of the Scottish Special Forces squad from INFESTATION, to the opposite pole this time, and an investigation of a derelict NAZI base.

In this one you’ll find more sweary Scotsman, lots of bullets, Nazis, occult rituals, an electric pentacle, Winston Churchill, lots of ice, more bullets, and more swearing.

I’m having great fun with this group of my countrymen.

They’ll be back.

What’s left of them.

GET IT HERE

New Book Day – RAMSKULL

RAMSKULL is new today.

In this one you’ll find a remote Scottish island, some baffled cops, bloody mayhem, a bar, an ancient Ram’s skull, dank caves, some whisky, another bar, Oban, some mad monks, a lighthouse, and more whisky.

It’s a return home for me after a few years writing Newfoundland based stories, and it’s a back-to-my-roots thing that runs in my head like a Hammer Horror, with blood so red it almost glows, screams so high they tear the top of your head off, and stoic rural workers doing what needs to be done against a terrible peril rearing up out of the past.

Another one I think should be a movie. But then I would, wouldn’t I?

 

http://www.williammeikle.com/aboutramsskull.html

Latest book sales and what’s up next

 

I’ve got three big bits of news to report on the recent sales front, a novel and two collections.

1/ I’ve sold a novel, RAMSKULL to DarkFuse, the first of my most recent three book deal with them.

This one’s a return to Scotland, and this time I’m in Hammer horror territory again, on a small island with a pair of cops investigating the strange disappearance of the locals. There’s a cave, old bones, an ancient skull, some mad monks, a lighthouse, a bar and a lot of blood spatter. My roots are showing.

2/ I’ve sold a new Carnacki collection, THE EDINBURGH TOWNHOUSE, to Mike Davis’ Lovecraft ezine fiction imprint.

Ten all new stories, featuring a couple of Captain Gault crossovers, more meetings with Winston Churchill, the story of how a pentacle came to be left in an Edinburgh Townhouse, high jinks with Arkwright on the cricket field, and more.

This is my third, and possibly last Carnacki collection, although I still have a few stories uncollected as yet so I’m not saying never.

3/ I’ve sold a Victorian supernatural story collection to Crystal Lake Publishing.

This is a bit of a pet project for me. The premise is that they are stories told by members of an exclusive dining club in London in the late 19th Century. Storytellers include Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and more. I had a lot of fun with this one and I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction it gets.

 

Before all that, next up will be THE JOB novella from DarkFuse. It’s running as a serial in their magazine in March for subscribers, then will be later available in ebook and pocket sized limited hardcover.

Again, this one is set in Scotland, and features my ongoing sigil and totem mythology in a tale of a burglar in the wrong house, at the wrong time. The cover has just been released, a nice representation of one of the aforesaid sigils. Groovy.

Onward, to infinity and beyond.

The Watchers trilogy is back

watchersomnibuskindleMy Scottish historic vampire fantasy is back!

These new editions come from Gryphonwood Press, with shiny new covers by the great Wayne Miller

In my Watchers series I am dealing with a retelling of the Bonnie Prince Charlie story, where romantic myths have already subsumed the harsh reality of a coup gone badly wrong. I needed to strip all the romance out of the Highlanders and build them up from the bottom. Making them a shambling army of vamps and mindless drones seemed an obvious place to start. The Watchers series is a swashbuckler, but there is little lace and finery. What I do have is blood and thunder, death and glory in big scale battles and small scale heartbreak. I love it..


It is 1745, and the long awaited night has come.

The BloodKing calls his army to battle and will bring them South to claim his birthright; the throne of Britain.

Only the young Watchers on the old wall stand in his way.

It is time for them to face their destinies – to whatever end that might lead them.

AMAZON | AMAZON UK | AMAZON CA

The Watchers have failed…but they may yet have a chance at redemption. Can Martin be a leader to his people in their time of need?

And can Sean fulfill his oath without losing his soul?

Neither have much time to consider, for the Boy King is on the rampage…and his heir is waiting to be born in the Blood Chapel of Ross-Lynn.

AMAZON | AMAZON UK | AMAZON CA

A great victory has been won, but the war is far from over.

The Boy-King now needs his bride…and his heir.

The dead are rising. A new darkness is fast approaching. Victory is close…but will the hands of Martin and Sean be too bloodied for them to grasp it?

The conclusion of the critically-acclaimed Watchers series!

AMAZON | AMAZON UK | AMAZON CA

Bonnie Prince Charlie, and all his highland army, are Vampires and are heading south to claim the British throne. The “Watchers” of the title are the guards of the old Roman wall built by Hadrian, now reinforced to keep the vamps out. It is constantly patrolled by officers of the Watch, two of whom become the main protagonists of the series.

I got the idea on a walk along what is left of the wall, and by the time I’d had finished my walk and had a few beers the first part of the trilogy was fully formed in my head. Think “ZULU” or “Last of the Mohicans” with vamps and you’ll get a feel of what I was trying to do.

…superb story. Thoroughly enjoyable from the first word to the last. William Meikle has a wonderfully unique style…” – The Eternal Night Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

“Breathtaking, Scary and Original. A must read. An impressive blend of horror, history and imagination.” – Dave Dreher, Horror News Network

“I was captivated from the very first scene…Very well written.” – Patricia Altner, author of Vampire Readings

“I’m always impressed when anyone can add a new twist to the venerable vampire canon. Hugely enjoyable fun to read.” – Joe Gordon, The Alien Online

“…descriptions so vivid you can almost hear the clash of the swords and smell the blood.” – Murder and Mayhem Bookclub

“William Meikle does it again! The past comes alive, especially the undead! …the perfect follow-up to his fine debut novel.” – Nancy Kilpatrick, author of The Power of the Blood series, editor of Graven Images

“…a confident and breathless romp through an alternative Jacobean history. Aims for entertainment, and hits the mark.” – Simon Morden, Vector, the magazine of the British SF Association

“The author is relentless; just when you catch your breath, something new and exciting happens, sending you spinning into another part of the adventure, and keeping you flipping pages to see what’s next.” – David Wilbanks, Horrorworld

“Anyone who’s fond of a good story and a good piece of writing will enjoy Meikle’s clever conceits, interesting and earthy characters, and well turned prose.” – Dread Central

“Meikle has taken on a much abused genre and re-invented it to present us with a refreshingly different and sinister tale.” – Counterculture

“The book is very well-written. The language is rich, and… I found myself carrying the book everywhere, and taking slightly longer over lunch than I should have, as I just had to know what was happening!” – The Dracula Society

Why I wrote THE EXILED

My novel THE EXILED is a fusion of several different life threads.

Firstly there’s Edinburgh.

A lot of my work, long and short form, has been set in Scotland, and much of it uses the history and folklore. There’s just something about the misty landscapes and old buildings that speaks straight to my soul. Bloody Celts… we get all sentimental at the least wee thing.

I grew up on the West Coast of Scotland in an environment where the supernatural was almost commonplace.

My grannie certainly had a touch of ‘the sight’, always knowing when someone in the family was in trouble. There are numerous stories told of family members meeting other, long dead, family in their dreams, and I myself have had more than a few encounters with dead family, plus meetings with what I can only class as residents of faerie. I have had several precognitive dreams, one of which saved me from a potentially fatal car crash.

I have a deep love of old places, in particular menhirs and stone circles, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time travelling the UK and Europe just to visit archaeological remains. I also love what is widely known as ‘weird shit’. I’ve spent far too much time surfing and reading Fortean, paranormal and cryptozoological websites. The cryptozoological stuff especially fascinates me, and provides a direct stimulus for a lot of my fiction.

I’ve also been influenced by many Scottish writers. Robert Louis Stevenson in particular is a big influence. He is a master of plotting, and of putting innocents into situations far out of their usual comfort zones while still maintaining a grounding in their previous, calmer, reality. His way with a loveable rogue in Treasure Island and Kidnapped in particular is also a big influence. Other Scottish writers who have influenced me include John Buchan, Iain Banks and, more in my youth than now, Alistair MacLean and Nigel Tranter. From them I learned how to use the scope of both the Scottish landscape and its history while still keeping the characters alive.

But I think it’s the people that influence me most. Everybody in Scotland’s got stories to tell, and once you get them going, you can’t stop them. I love chatting to people, usually in pubs, and finding out the weird shit they’ve experienced.

Which brings me back to Edinburgh. Those of us brought up in the West of Scotland have a love / hate relationship with our country’s capital. We can appreciate the castle, the architecture and the history, but the people have always felt slightly aloof, suffering from a superiority complex that our side of Scotland feels is unwarranted – ‘all fur coat and no knickers.’

The pubs are great though, full of history, atmosphere and characters. It was while working in the city and working my way round a selection of bars that I first got the idea of the killer that is at the heart of the book, but I could never find the right hook to hang the story on, one that would also allow me to investigate what the old city means to me.

Then I remembered my black bird.

The black bird has been with me in a recurring dream for a long time – more than 50 years now. I tried to tie down what it has meant to me in a previous novella, BROKEN SIGIL. That approached the dream from one angle – THE EXILED has a look at it from a different viewpoint, placing our protagonists bang in the middle of the dream.

In the nightmare I’m on the edge of a high sea cliff. I feel the wind on my face, taste salt spray, smell cut grass and flowers. I feel like if I could just give myself to the wind I could fly. Then it comes, from blue, snow covered mountains way to the north, a black speck at first, getting bigger fast. Before I know it it is on me, enfolding me in feathers. It lowers its head, almost like a dragon, and puts its beak near my ear. It whispers.

I had the dream many times, and always woke up at this point.

Then, in 1991, I heard what it said.

“Will we talk about the black bird?”

The next morning, for the first time since 1976, I wrote a story. It wasn’t a very good story, but something had been woken up, and the day after that I wrote another, a wee ghost story. It didn’t have a black bird in it, but it did have some jazz, and a sultry broad, a murder and some dancing. When that one made me 100 pounds in a ghost story competition, I was on my way.

The bird comes back and whispers to me every couple of years – I’ve come to think of it as my spirit guide. Although it terrifies me, it also reassures me in a weird kind of way. As long as it’s around, I’ll still be a writer and not just a drunk with weird ideas he can’t express.

The bird’s most recent appearance was a couple of years back now, and the next morning I had the idea that fused my country, my hopes and my nightmares into one coherent ( I hope) whole.

THE EXILED was a labor of love, and the birth was a difficult one, but now that it’s out into the world, I can only wish it well.

Will we talk about the black bird?

DarkFuse | AMAZON | AMAZON (UK) | AUDIBLE

To catch a killer, John and Alan Granger will have to battle the Cobbe, a strange and enigmatic creature that guards the realm, a creature of horrific power that demands a heavy price for entry into its world. The fate of both realms hangs in the balance… and time is running out…

You’ve just given your wee posh company car away to a known villain in exchange for an old banger and two bacon rolls, you’re on the run accused of murder, and your only alibi is that you were away in Fairyland with a big black bird. It’s hardly any wonder something smells of shite.

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