Genre Fiction

Book Review: THE JEWEL IN THE SKULL by Michael Moorcock

The Jewel in the Skull (History of the Runestaff, #1)The Jewel in the Skull by Michael Moorcock

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A young knight, having lost everyone and everything he holds dear, travels to a strange land, falls in with an older man and a beautiful woman in a battle against an evil empire, one that is ruled by a mystical ancient emperor and his most trusted evil, general, a vile battle-hardened brute who always wears a mask. There’s a mystical force controlling our hero’s destiny although he knows little about it at first, oh, and there’s also a trusted companion covered totally in long ginger hair.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before 🙂

Moorcock’s tale came a few years before Star Wars, but a fairy tale is a fairy tale, however it’s told, and this one follows the same great themes. It takes place in the far future on earth rather than in a galaxy long ago and far away, and being Moorcock, reality is never all that stable, but it’s another great romp.

Dorian Hawkmoon is the latest incarnation of the Eternal Champion in this one, book one of the four-book history of the Runestaff. And again there’s epic battles — even more of them than in previous volumes — some truly vicious bad guys, and heroic defenders standing against them.

The evil empire of the future Great Britain, with its beast-masks, vast military, flying machines, time palaces and crystal bridges is more of Moorcock’s early proto-steampunk, and comes alive wonderfully in the mind’s eye, as does the castle in the Camarg that stands against them.

As book 1 of 4 it’s a wonderful introduction to all the main players, and the big battle is a joyous romp of old-school sword and sorcery. These four books as a whole are among my favorites of all of Moorcock’s work, and I’m looking forward to spending most of the weekend lost in his world with them.

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THE GHOST CLUB on discount

AMAZON currently have THE GHOST CLUB on sale at 99c for KINDLE. Get in quick and snatch it while it’s cheap.

In Victorian London, a select group of writers, led by Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker and Henry James held an informal dining club, the price of entry to which was the telling of a story by each invited guest.

These are their stories, containing tales of revenant loved ones, lost cities, weird science, spectral appearances and mysteries in the fog of the old city, all told by some of the foremost writers of the day. In here you’ll find Verne and Wells, Tolstoy and Checkov, Stevenson and Oliphant, Kipling, Twain, Haggard, Wilde and Blavatsky alongside their hosts.

Come, join us for dinner and a story.

‘The Ghost Club is a massively ambitious anthology of stories ‘by’ classic authors as imagined by the extremely talented William Meikle. Massively entertaining, too.’Simon Clark, author of the award winning The Night of the Triffids

It’s where we come from. The Victorian era storytelling tradition was the launching point for horror, and also for crime fiction, for science fiction, for fantasy and for much of how we see the world today. It gave us Sherlock Holmes, Dr Jeckyll, Dracula, the Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, and all manner of ghosts, spooks and spectres that still fill our entertainment of choice today.

THE GHOST CLUB is my way of paying homage to that tradition. This is who I am.

Book Review: THE DRAGON IN THE SWORD by Michael Moorcock

The Dragon in the Sword (Erekosë, #3)The Dragon in the Sword by Michael Moorcock

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

THE DRAGON IN THE SWORD wraps up one part of Erekose’s place in the Eternal Champion cycle in fine style.

It’s another slightly later addition to the whole great dance, and brings on several well loved characters along the way as signposts to Erekose’s quest for the Dragon Sword, a McGuffin that drives this plot along.

There some of Moorcock’s proto-steampunkery in the great city-vessels that steam across the marshes, there’s much high weirdness travelling through space, time and melting reality and there’s even an appearance by my favorite undead warrior army in the climactic battle scene.

As ever, Erekose is a bit of a moody old bugger at times, but the supporting cast keep him honest, there’s some magnificent set pieces, and all in all, it’s another fine example of sword and sorcery from the master.

And now that the Lords of Chaos are introduced, and the swords are in play, we can get on to the really strange stuff. Next up for me, more marshes, and another doomed hero, as Dorian Hawkmoon pays a call at Castle Brass, and the history of the Runestaff unfolds.

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Book Review: PHOENIX IN OBSIDIAN by Michael Moorcock

Phoenix in Obsidian (Erekosë, #2)Phoenix in Obsidian by Michael Moorcock

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In PHOENIX IN OBSIDIAN (aka THE SILVER WARRIORS ), the Eternal Champion, Erekose in a new guise, is called to an icy world, and a new quest.

This is the one where the Black Sword on which so much of his fate rests is introduced, a soul-sucking blade as dangerous to friend as it is to foe. And it is put to good use here, in some stirring set-piece battles and serving as a plot device to bring us all up to speed with the raising of stakes for our champion.

Once again Moorcock’s eye for a visual is striking, not least right at the beginning, with our fur and mail clad hero riding a chariot drawn by polar bears — an image that Frazetta fans, or owners of the Dell edition called THE SILVER WARRIORS in the USA, will recognize immediately.

There’s a doomed race in a world under a dying sun, huge beasts engineered eons passed for strange purposes, decadent peoples, plucky salt of the earth types and, along with the sword, an early appearance of what will become a well-known and well-loved companion for our champion.

It’s a short, fast, read that I blew through in a couple of hours. Again it’s all blood-stirring stuff, even if Erekose is a bit of a moper between the epic battles, and it rolls along at breakneck pace for the most part, to an ending that gives Erekose a glimpse of the sort of powers he’ll be dealing with in the books to follow.

Like our champion, I’m now hooked into the multiverse, and won’t be able to let go until we reach Tanelorn and the conjunction of the spheres. It will be a while yet before that, but I intend to enjoy the ride.

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Book Review: THE ETERNAL CHAMPION by Michael Moorcock

The Eternal Champion (Erekosë, #1)The Eternal Champion by Michael Moorcock

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s getting on for 50 years now since my first read of THE ETERNAL CHAMPION, but I enjoyed it as much this time through as I did back then.

It’s the pulpiest of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion cycle, and the story that really kicks the whole thing off, with John Daker called from a life on Earth to be Erekose, champion of humanity, once and future hero, and wielder of a bloody huge sword of power.

It’s all a bit Arthurian, with similar motifs of betrayal and doom, but Moorcock’s energy carries the whole thing along at a rollicking speed. There’s a wonderful set piece sea battle, we get glimpses of the Eternal Champion’s inner conflict that will drive the whole series, and there are battles and mass slaughter aplenty.

Moorcock’s sense of a striking visual is much in evidence, even in the somewhat pulpy prose on show here, but it’s a great starter for the epic adventures in the multiverse to come, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it with the same passion I used to have while waiting impatiently for him to write the next installment way back in the day.

At least all I have to do now is walk to the bookcase to take the next book down.

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Book Review: THE CITY IN THE AUTUMN STARS by Michael Moorcock

The City In The Autumn StarsThe City In The Autumn Stars by Michael Moorcock

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

More of the Von Bek family adventures in THE CITY IN THE AUTUMN STARS, which isn’t as rollicking an adventure as THE WARHOUND AND THE WORLD’S PAIN (although there is a glorious set piece battle in an otherworldly tavern as warring factions attempt to seize the Grail ), but more an examination of one man’s journey from disillusioned French revolutionary to alchemical perfection.

Of course, being Moorcock, the path to perfection is a rocky one, and the end of the journey is rarely the destination that was in mind at the beginning. But it’s well worth going along for the wild ride again, as Von Bek escapes Paris, heads for Switzerland, and gets involved in schemes with an early balloonist to swindle a fortune while searching for an elusive Countess that has stolen his heart.

The Countess proves to be after much more than that, and soon we are off into another part of Moorcock’s multiverse, where the quest for the Grail is taken up in one of Moorcock’s trademark baroque cities displaced in time and space. There’s also a Concordance, a great meeting of the spheres that regular Moorcock readers will recognise as a motif holding everything together ( and blasting everything apart.)

There’s great characters, typical Moorcockian musings on the nature of humanity, some glorious alchemical symbolism shot through it, and a lovely bittersweet ending.

Another winner from the great man, and a fitting later addition to the Eternal Champion cycle, which has been broadened by these additions weaving later European history into the rich tapestry.

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Book Review: THE WARHOUND AND THE WORLD’S PAIN by Michael Moorcock

The War Hound and the World's Pain (Von Bek, #1)The War Hound and the World’s Pain by Michael Moorcock

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE WARHOUND AND THE WORLD’S PAIN wasn’t part of the Eternal Champion cycle when I first read them back in the ’70s, not coming along until 1981, but Von Bek is most definitely a manifestation in the same ranks as Erekose,Elric, Corum and Hawkmoon despite being rooted in a historical rather than fantasy context, at least to begin with.

Von Bek is a typical tortured Moorcock hero, but less tortured than some, a battle hardened veteran, having come to terms with his base nature. After being shown the Hell that awaits his soul, he makes a deal with Lucifer to take on a quest, not in search of enlightenment, but to heal the pain of the World

Ostensibly this is the story of a grail quest, but it’s classic Moorcock, so things are never simple. All of his trademark flourishes are in evidence here, with wild rides through shifting reality, musings on the nature of humanity and its place in the many facetted universe, and simpler matters, like the nature of comradeship, and the power of a man to make his own reality through force of will.

Reading this I was transported again to my first Moorcock readings in the very early ’70s, and felt the same sense of awe and wonder at the force of his vision that I did back then.

This is sword and sorcery at its finest, and, by Arioch, I love it.

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May newsletter

Sigils and Totems news, general writing news and a new giveaway, all in the newsletter this month.

THE BOATHOUSE, the next in my interlinked Sigils and Totems series, is currently in production at Crossroad Press.(Series details at the link under the book cover.) If you want to catch up, one place to start is with the other novel in the series.

SONGS OF DREAMING GODS is the story of a house. In this one you will find creepy china dolls, a haunted lavatory, some hippies, some large, nasty ratty things, a chess board, a reaper, some cops, the great beyond, the other great beyond, and a lot of singing.

It’s an exploration of my growing Sigils and Totems idea. It’s a simple enough concept.

There are houses like this all over the world. Most people only know of them from whispered stories over campfires; tall tales told to scare the unwary. But some, those who suffer, some know better. They are drawn to the places where what ails them can be eased.

If you have the will, the fortitude, you can peer into another life, where the dead are not gone, where you can see that they thrive and go on, in the dreams that stuff is made of.

There it is in a nutshell. There are houses where people can go to get in touch with their dead loved ones.

But this gives me lots of things to play with. To even get inside a room, you need a sigil; a tattoo or carving on your skin, and a totem, a memento of your loved one. Then there is the fact that your loved one might be a parallel universe version rather than the one you actually know.

And where do these houses come from? What is behind the walls? How do they work? Why do they work? And who chooses the concierges who run them? Or fixes them when they go wrong?

SONGS OF DREAMING GODS is an exploration as to what is behind the curtain.


In April I finished the third of my S-Squad books for Severed Press, OPERATION: SIBERIA. It should be along in a few weeks time. Now I’m at a crossroads, trying to decide what to write next. I’ve got one outstanding anthology invitation to do, and a fourth S-Squad book contracted, but Carnacki has been shouting at me with some new stories to tell, so I might go back to him for a couple of months. Newfoundland’s short summer is just around the corner, and there are walks to take and whales to see, so I don’t intend to push too hard.

I made a decision to do more reading now that I’m officially a pensioner. The fruits of that can be seen on my blog, where I’ve been posting reviews; I’ve been rereading a lot of favorites, and reviewing them. If you’re interested in what I like to read, head on over and have a look at my blog


Win up to 10+ Horror eBooks!

(2) Grand Prize “Gift Baskets” of ALL eBooks!

(10+) Winners of Individual eBooks (randomly selected titles)

Feel free to share any of the links from this newsletter to your social media or to anyone you think might be interested. The more the merrier.

After all, many a meikle maks a muckle.


A Book a Day for April – the full list

Those paying attention will know I’ve been posting a book a day for April on Facebook. I started each morning posting the first book that came into my head, so this is a snapshot of books that I like a lot, that occurred to me before coffee, in no particular order apart from the order I thought about them.

That said, it turned out to be a pretty good top 30 🙂

I’ll be keeping going, on my FB page, Twitter and G+ if anybody wants to keep watching, or maybe even start using the #abookaday hashtag for yourselves. I’d love to see your lists.

Here’s the full list for April

THE BROKEN SWORD – Poul Anderson
THE PLAGUE – Albert Camus
THE CLUB DUMAS – Arturo PĂ©rez-Reverte
LAST CALL – Tim Powers
DOCTOR RAT – William Kotzwinkle
THE MALTESE FALCON – Dashiell Hammett
THE TOTEM – David Morrell
BURY HIM DARKLY – John Blackburn
MYTHAGO WOOD – Robert Holdstock
LANARK – Alasdair Gray
ELIDOR – Alan Garner
FALLING ANGEL – William Hjortsberg
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN – Patricia Highsmith
FEVRE DREAM – George R R Martin
GHOST STORY – Peter Straub
THE TERROR – Dan Simmons
NOVA – Samuel R Delaney
WHO FEARS THE DEVIL – Manly Wade Wellman
STORMBRINGER – Michael Moorcock

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