So I received an email a few weeks back from author Sean Ellis (The Adventures of Dodge Dalton in the Shadow of Falcon’s Wings). Sean knows I’m a huge fan of Jim Butcher and his Dresden Files series and he wanted to let me know about an author from Scotland that appeared to write very similar stories in a series entitled “The Midnight Eye Files”. The author’s name was William Meikle and I set out to find out all I could on him right away. Well, the more I researched, the more I realized his private eye only resembled Harry Dresden in that he was, in fact, a P.I. and in the fact that he dealt with the supernatural elements. But besides that, I could see very little similarities in the two paranormal detectives.
Fortunately, I discovered something else thanks to Sean Ellis. I discovered that I absolutely LOVED pulp style fiction. I’d loved it my entire life and had never known what to call it. Even more fortunate, William Meikle’s paranormal gumshoe was right up the pulp fiction alley. I downloaded the first book in the series and have been hooked ever since.
Let me be honest…many of the authors I feature here, I’ve never read first hand (though they’re all definitely on my “to-be-read” list! So I don’t say what I’m about to say often…but this guy’s good. His stories are rich and adventurous. His humor is sharp. His monsters and mysteries spine-tingling. He cuts his stories from the same cloth of the maestros such as Raymond Chandler and H.P. Lovecraft. Creates a perfect cocktail of hardboiled noir fiction with that of horror.
But the great news is…Meikle isn’t just about the supernatural gumshoe! He has other series as well. And writes books near and dear to my own heart…books on cryptids! As you know, my own series of novels features a wisecracking cryptozoologist traveling the world in search of monsters. I guess I should send Jack to Meikle’s library because it seems he’s collected them all for one book or another from his vast catalog. If you love monsters or detectives or both…you owe it to yourself to check out William Meikle.
Here’s the back of the book copy for (Book I) The Midnight Eye Files: The Amulet…
Derek Adams is a Glasgow PI with plenty of time on his hands.
Until the Bogart Case walks in.
A priceless family heirloom has been stolen and everyone in town is looking for it. The stars are right once more, and an ancient evil has been awakened from its dreaming sleep.
It was supposed to be an easy case, fast money. But pretty soon Derek is up to his armpits in bodies, femme fatales and tentacles.
The city’s dark side has him.
And it doesn’t want to let the Midnight Eye go!
Praise for William Meikle:
“Raymond Chandler meets H. P. Lovecraft meets Willie Meikle–a darkly magical mix.” — Randy Chandler, author of BAD JUJU
“Meikle’s short novel is a loving romp in and out of both the Lovecraft Mythos and the noir detective novel, predictable in its own way but unapologetically so, and ultimately fulfilling.” –Bill Gagliani for Chizine.
“Mr. Meikle’s ability to tell a story that intertwines different traditions and yet does not seem derivative at all is very impressive . 4 out of 5 and a hearty “Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!” for a job well done.” –Floyd Brigdon for She Never Slept.
Recently, I had a chance to chat with Willie about his books, writing, and everything in between. Here’s what he had to say:
1) So far, I’m in the middle of reading your first Midnight Eye story. In it, you’ve blended the key elements of a classic hard-boiled noir story with a supernatural element. I’m curious…where did the inspiration for this story come from? What was the process like in developing it?
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.
As for the supernatural element — it’s all about the struggle of the dark against the light. The time and place, and the way it plays out is in some ways secondary to that. And when you’re dealing with archetypes, there’s only so many to go around, and it’s not surprising that the same concepts of death and betrayal, love and loss, turn up wherever, and whenever, the story is placed.
Plus, there are antecedents for the supernatural edge – 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.
And even further back, in the “gentleman detective” era, we have seekers of truth in occult cases in John Silence and Carnacki. Even Holmes himself came close to supernatural conclusions at times.
I love exploring this sub-genre for myself, in the Midnight Eye Files stories, in a series of Carnacki stories, and I even got a chance to have Holmes fight a Necromancer in Edinburgh in an anthology appearance in Gaslight Grotesque. It seems there is quite a market for this kind of merging of crime and supernatural, and I intend to write a lot more of it.
Derek’s 3rd adventure THE SKIN GAME is coming in time for Xmas this years, and there’s a few short stories featuring him coming up in anthologies as well.
2) You’ve recently released a new book entitled “Berserker” which features a story line involving viking warriors battling it out with yetis (abominable snowmen for those uncertain of what a yeti is). Tell us a little bit about this book. Where did this idea originate? What are some of its influences?
Vikings vs Yeti. What more do you need to know? 🙂 Actually they’re ALMA. Same beasts, different name.
For Tor and Skald this is their first viking raid, their minds are full of thoughts of honor and glory. What awaits them are beasts – huge, hairy and fanged, the Alma will not suffer intruders in their domain. When the Vikings slaughter a female Alma they soon find themselves in the middle of a bloody revenge. Now they must stand and be counted, for their destinies await in the mountains, where the hairy ones dance.
Big beasties fascinate me.
Some of that fascination stems from early film viewing. I remember being taken to the cinema to see The Blob. I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight, and it scared the crap out of me. The original incarnation of Kong has been with me since around the same time. Similarly, I remember the BBC showing re-runs of classic creature features late on Friday nights, and THEM! in particular left a mark on my psyche. I’ve also got a Biological Sciences degree, and even while watching said movies, I’m usually trying to figure out how the creature would actually work in nature — what would it eat? How would it procreate? What effect would it have on the environment around it?
On top of that, I have an interest in cryptozoology, of creatures that live just out of sight of humankind, and of the myriad possibilities that nature, and man’s dabbling with it, can throw up.
Back at the movies again, another early influence was the Kirk Douglas / Tony Curtis movie THE VIKINGS. There’s that, and when I was very young I would be taken ten miles over the hill to the shore at Largs on the Ayrshire coast. There’s a memorial there to “The Battle of Largs” where Scots fought off Vikings. The story was told to me so often it sunk into my soul, and as kids we spent many a day in pretend swordfights as Vikings (when it wasn’t Zorro — but that’s another story 🙂
All those things were going round in my head when I first sat down to write BERSERKER. And there might be some of THE THIRTEENTH WARRIOR in there too.
3) Who are some of your biggest influences (whether authors, books, TV shows, movies, etc.)? How have they molded you as a writer?
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.
So, there’s that, and the fact that I grew up with the sixties explosion of popular culture embracing the supernatural and the weird. The Hammer horror movies got me young, and led me back to the Universal originals. My early reading somehow all tended to gravitate in similar directions, with DC comics leading me into pulp and to finding Tarzan.
Tarzan is the second novel I remember reading. (The first was Treasure Island, so I was already well on the way to the land of adventure even then.) I quickly read everything of Burroughs I could find. Then I devoured Wells, Verne and Haggard. I moved on to Conan Doyle before I was twelve, and Professor Challenger’s adventures in spiritualism led me, almost directly, to Dennis Wheatley, Algernon Blackwood, and then on to Lovecraft. Then Stephen King came along.
There’s a separate but related thread of a deep love of detective novels running parallel to this, as Conan Doyle also gave me Holmes, then I moved on to Christie, Chandler, Hammett, Ross MacDonald and Ed McBain, reading everything by them I could find.
Mix all that lot together, add a dash of ZULU, a hefty slug of heroic fantasy from Howard, Leiber and Moorcock, a sprinkle of fast moving Scottish thrillers from John Buchan and Alistair MacLean, and a final pinch of piratical swashbuckling. Leave to marinate for fifty years and what do you get?
A psyche with a deep love of the weird in its most basic forms, and the urge to beat the shit out of monsters.
4) If you had to describe your body of work in terms of style, mood, etc…how best would you describe what you write about and why?
I choose to write mainly at the pulpy end of the market, populating my stories with monsters, myths, men who like a drink and a smoke, and more monsters. People who like this sort of thing like it.
I’ve also been criticised for it by people who don’t get it. Willie Meikle is…”the author of the most cliched, derivative drivel imaginable…the critical acclaim he receives from his peers is virtually non-existent.” is only one of the responses I’ve had.
Now, I don’t write for the critical acclaim of my peers. I couldn’t give a toss what other writers think of me. I’m writing for two reasons… myself and a readership. Posterity, if there is one, can decide on whether it’s any good or not. Besides, the harder I work at it making my writing accessible, the more readers I get, so I’m doing something right.
But that’s still not why I do it. My pat answer has always been the same. “I like monsters.”
But it’s more than that. I like “pulp” fiction.
I think you have to have grown up with pulp to -get- it. A lot of writers have been told that pulp=bad plotting and that you have to have deep psychological insight in your work for it to be valid. They’ve also been told that pulp=bad writing, and they believe it. Whereas I remember the joy I got from early Moorcock, from Mickey Spillane and further back, A E Merritt and H Rider Haggard. I’d love to have a chance to write a Tarzan, John Carter, Allan Quartermain, Mike Hammer or Conan novel, whereas a lot of writers I know would sniff and turn their noses up at the very thought of it.
5) Besides writing, what do you like to do? What are your hobbies? Interests?
I’ve been playing guitar badly since 1973 and I use it as my relaxation when not writing. I also spend a fair bit of time outdoors rambling with my wife in the wilds of Newfoundland.
And I love beer.
I also love movies and watch at least one a day, and I spend far too much time online reading about Fortean subjects. I’m a sucker for stories of alien grays, bigfoot, lake monsters and all manner of weird shit.
6) When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer? What has the process been like for you?
I write to escape.
I grew up on a West of Scotland council estate in a town where you were either unemployed or working in the steelworks, and sometimes both. Many of the townspeople led hard, miserable lifes of quiet, and sometimes not so quiet desperation. I was relatively lucky in that both my parents worked, but they were both on shifts that rarely coincided, and I spent a lot of time alone or at my grandparent’s house.
My Granddad was housebound, and a voracious reader. I got the habit from him, and through him I discovered the Pan Books of Horror and Lovecraft, but I also discovered westerns, science fiction, war novels and the likes of Mickey Spillane, Ed McBain, Alistair MacLean, Dennis Wheatley, Nigel Tranter, Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov. When you mix all that together with DC Comics, Tarzan, Gerry Anderson’s numerous series and Dr Who then, later on, Hammer and Universal movies on the BBC, you can see how the pulp became embedded in my psyche.
When I was at school these books and my guitar were all that kept me sane in a town that was going downhill fast. The steelworks shut and employment got worse. I -could- have started writing about that, but why bother? All I had to do was walk outside and I’d get it slapped in my face. That horror was all too real.
So I took up my pen and wrote. At first it was song lyrics, designed (mostly unsuccessfully) to get me closer to girls.
I tried my hand at a few short stories but had no confidence in them and hid them away. And that was that for many years.
I didn’t get the urge again until I was past thirty and trapped in a very boring job. My home town had continued to stagnate and, unless I wanted to spend my whole life drinking (something I was actively considering at the time), returning there wasn’t an option.
As I said before, I write to escape.
My brain needed something, and writing gave it what was required. That point, back nearly twenty years ago, was like switching on an engine, one that has been running steadily ever since.
7) If you could only give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Write, write then write some more. Never stop. A writer who has stopped writing is no longer a writer, he’s just someone who wants to write. There’s a lot of them about.
And of course, you can purchase some of his books by clicking on these links:
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Or get the Berserker for the Kindle, here:
Thank you, Willie, for your time and a great interview! We really wish you the very best of luck in all your endeavors.