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So you can imagine how quick to grab this book and run. I may not have been so eager if I hadn't known the author was William Meikle. As anyone who has read his "Carnacki" books can attest, Mr. Meikle is very comfortable with writing in period language. From the very intro I was sucked in and, for the most part, I can say he does a fantastic job of recreating several different author's voices. The only ones that I'm not 100% sure on were the authors whose works I am not very familiar with such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Rudyard Kipling. I always had trouble getting into his stories. I have liked a few but they just don't grab me and say, "Read me!"
I also loved the forewords to the book and the stories themselves. The foreword at the beginning has a cleverly worded paragraph about the dubious authenticity of the "find" that I thought was amusing. The forewords to the stories were great. They evoked each writer very clearly and were a nice way to shift the 'mood' between stories so the style changes were less jarring.
That being said, let's check out the stories, shall we?
Wee Davie Makes a Friend - Robert Louis Stevenson
I very much liked it. It was a bit sad but you could kind of tell where it was going to go. I also loved how William Meikle worked in Louis' own childhood experiences in 'The Land of Counterpane'.
The High Bungalow - 'Rudyard Kipling'
An enjoyable tale that centers around an interrupted rendezvous and an unexpected encounter with something rather unusual beneath a bungalow. It also ends, dare I say it? A bit clearer than some of Kipling's own tales did.
The Immortal Memory - 'Leo Tolstoy'
The Empress has summoned Captain Marsh for one reason...and one reason only. He must find her a Scotsman to repeat the works of Robert Burns into perfectly translated Russian. Should be a snap...I'm not familiar with Tolstoy's works so I'm not sure how faithfully the story is to his writing style but the story itself is a good one. It is true that an author can have immortality like no other
In the House of the Dead - 'Bram Stoker'
Bram Stokers shorter works have always been either/or with me. I loved 'The Judge's House'. This story evokes his writing style very well, including the epistolary style that Dracula is well-famed for. The story itself is quite beautiful. A story of love, loss, hope and, perhaps, reuniting.
Once a Jackass - 'Mark Twain'
It certainly has the dry wit and terseness of any story I've read of Twain's. He always seemed to me to write merely for the fun of a ghost story, not really trying to get down to the emotional depths that others plumbed. The concluding lines are funny in their own way and also, in their own way, could be applied to anyone at anytime.
Farside - 'Herbert George Wells'
I have never read much by H.G. Wells (no, not even War of the Worlds) so I'm not sure on how close the style is. A machine in which your aura is shown seems to be the crux of this tale and I won't say anymore as the ending is great. As is the rest of the story. Is it ghostly vengeance? Or something more?
To the Manor Born - 'Margaret Oliphant'
I thought this story was excellent and could have come from the pen of Ms. Oliphant herself. The more I read on the more I am impressed. Mr. Meikle is not just talented at pastiching writers, he can create stories in their voices. It might seem like mere imitation to be able to do that but I assure you, it is not. It takes a talent all its own and the ability to not just imitate another writer but to get within their mindset as well. I loved this story and although it's sad it kept me captivated until the end.
The Angry Ghost - 'Oscar Wilde'
I did think Oscar Wilde a bit of an odd choice. As far as I am aware the only supernatural writing he had ever done was 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' (if I'm wrong please point some out to me, new stories are always welcome!). Which, I have to admit, the first time I read it I didn't get past the first couple of chapters. I may give it a go again one of these days. The Angry Ghost is darkly funny and a brisk, to the point tale.
The Black Ziggurat - 'Henry Rider Haggard'
I have to be honest. I wasn't that enthused with this tale. I've never been one for adventure stories and I've read one or two of Haggard's work. Enough to know they're just not for me. Someone else might like this story a lot more because from the admittedly limited exposure I've had to his stories they do imitate his style quite well.
Born of Ether - Helena P. Blavatsky
A very good story taking a more unusual subject and blending it with a good ghost story. As far as I can tell the style seems somewhat consistent with what I've read of her Theosophy writings.
The Scrimshaw Set - 'Henry James'
What is it about chess sets? You wouldn't think something so prosaic and commonplace (and, some people might add, boring) would be able to summon up dread or horror but yet there are quite a few tales of chess sets - haunted, cursed or otherwise disagreeable. Meikle, with a superb rendition of James' sometimes prolix writing conjures up a tale of a haunted chess set with a most unusual apparition. Definitely not to miss.
At the Molenzki Junction - Anton Checkov
I'm not really sure if I have ever read anything by Anton Checkov so I can't speak to style but if this story is representative of his real stories I am certainly going to be looking him up.
To the Moon and Beyond - 'Jules Verne'
This story was a bit more of a mix of fantasy and sci-fi (to me at least) and although it was interesting I did catch myself skimming certain parts. Not high on my list of favorites from the book but someone else may like it much better than I.
The Curious Affair on the Embankment - 'Arthur Conan Doyle'
The book winds up its tales with a story from Arthur Conan Doyle, the same writer who has been providing the introductions to the tales. With Lestrade at its center (we all know Mr. Holmes would sneer at the thought of magic) it's a very good Holmesian tale of magic. And it's nice to see Lestrade not presented as the bumbling ijit so many modern Holmes writers portray him as.
To wrap it up, these are some very fine stories and William Meikle does a very good job of trying to create the voices of each author. As I said, no small feat. I do have to question the inclusion of Blavatsky and Wilde as there were many other lady Victorian writers who I think would have been great to see represented here. In fact, it would be interesting to see what Mr. Meikle could do sticking strictly to writers such as Mary Wilkins Freeman, Edith Nesbit and so on. Maybe we'll get lucky and get another Ghost Club anthology.
Received from Crystal Lake Publishing for an unbiased review
The premise of this collection is simple and yet so damned cool - a long-forgotten trove of literary treasures is found, featuring tales of a supernatural nature from many of literature's greatest lights.
First up, Robert Louis Stevenson's Wee Davie Makes a Friend:
The tale is sparsely told, almost as if it was written with a holding back of emotions -suitable to the time, I suppose; I haven't read enough to be able to have a proper opinion- but this kind of telling makes the story have an even stronger emotional impact. It is melancholic and yet some events shine with exuberance and joy, while spiced with just enough strangeness to leave the reader wondering if the events related really occurred... It's an excellent tale and a suitably engaging story to open the anthology with.
The High Bungalow by Rudyard Kipling is a chilly, creepy tale which would have sent me packing from the location it takes place in. It's also an oddly captivating look at obsession, and the kinds of things we leave behind when ensnared. I loved how the story begins layering aspects of dread and fear with the descriptions of myriad sounds, and how that creepiness builds.
The Immortal Memory by Leo Tolstoy has an almost tragically comic edge to it (the kind of edge which cuts without pain, but is only noticed much later) as the main character struggles to do what has been asked of him, and becomes an endearing ghost story which also manages to paint a vivid picture of its location (guess) and supporting characters. The end is where the cut is felt - not really a twist, but a revelation of sorts which is further affected by the sadness connected to it.
In the House of the Dead by Bram Stoker was an excellent character- and grief-study, while also giving the reader a glimpse of a place (and choice) which many of us would choose to visit and make. We are all the main character, simply trying to help a friend and being drawn in despite our misgivings. It's serves as both a lesson and an exploration of where grief can take someone.
Once a Jackass by Mark Twain reads like it would make an awesome movie if directed by Guy Richie. It has flavours of humour and brutality and pulls the reader along into an unavoidable spiral - really good stuff!
Farside by H.G. Wells was damned entertaining - I've never encountered the equipment one of the characters uses to reach out to places beyond the real, and the tale managed to balance the technical details of this equipment with what it could do as well as giving us characters to embody the reactions and fears we would probably have. Really interesting and captivating tale.
To the Manor Born by Margaret Oliphant is an achingly sad tale of exploration and loss, one which also shows that loss and grief can be soothed even if the circumstances are beyond what people would call normal. It maintains a captivating balance between exposition and plot, and the characters are wonderfully real.
The Angry Ghost by Oscar Wilde is the only tale of the lot I struggle to identify with - the building of the mystery was expertly handled but I found myself a bit let down by the resolution, and the characters didn't 'speak' to me as much as I would have liked. Granted, I've never read Wilde, so that might be why the tale didn't hit all my spots.
The Black Ziggurat by Henry Rider Haggard was a tale which echoed with weary determination and wonder; the journey into the mystery was atmospheric and intriguing, led by Henry, which gave the story a personal, emotional touch, and I really felt that I was witness to the passing of something wonderful and beautiful. Great tale!
Born of Ether by Helena B. Blavatsky is, for me, the most hard-hitting tale - it explores the pursuit of knowledge and self, and leads the main character down an unexpected path. This tale will stay with me for years.
The Scrimshaw Set by Henry James is a stand-out tale because it focuses on one of the coolest haunted objects I've ever read about - the description of the object, the effect is has on both places and people, and the origin of the haunting are utterly original and captivating. Seriously good tale!
At the Molenzki Junction by Anton Chekov was another tale that, while well-written and offering a glimpse at a beautiful, hidden world, didn't connect with me as much as I'd hoped it would. The tale plays out in the depths of a Russian winter and shows what happens to a vodka-lover when he braves the snow; he meets with wolves, and the beautiful mystery hidden by the snow. As I said, well told, but I couldn't connect.
To the Moon and Beyond by Jules Verne was absolutely kickass - the perfect melding of SF and Horror, with a cool touch of the metaphysical. Since I've read Verne, I can say that this felt as if it had been written by him; the tale also showcased a great exploration of the tech of the time and also explored a bit of the role the media would have in an event such as what takes place in the story. Really memorable and exciting tale. :)
The Curious Affair on the Embankment by Arthur Conan Doyle seems like the perfect tale which Hammer Films never got to make - it's old-school, takes the reader on an interesting investigation (as one would expect from Doyle) led by a character who hardly ever gets the spotlight (and who turns out to be a really great lead), and shows a side of the world these characters inhabit which is entertaining as the world of strange, clever crimes they usually find themselves in.
William Meikle has outdone many authors who have tried their hand at doing something similar - the tales have the feel and texture of their time, including speech mannerisms, equipment, architecture, and much more. There's a sense of immersion in these tales which makes it feel as if the stories occur in the same world, almost side by side, instead of being told by the writer while sitting at a table with his or her peers.
The cover art and design are perfectly suited to the stories, so kudos to Ben Baldwin once again. :)
All in all, a massively entertaining and memorable collection by William - and another winner from Crystal Lake Publishing!
As I turned the pages, I became absorbed into Meikle's authentic Victorian world. This Ghost Club should have existed. Henry James, Bram Stoker and Arthur Conan Doyle shóuld have been at the heart of it. The whole collection is so credible. If the film world can have 'found footage', then surely The Ghost Club counts as 'found literature'. One of my favourites was the Oscar Wilde contribution - The Angry Ghost. It put me in mind of the great man's Cantervillle Ghost, without any attempt at plagiarism. It was the light touch, the pithy dialogue and the witty ending. Superb.
This is a book to curl up with on a winter's evening, in front of a roaring fire, with the crackling of logs and the steady deep tick...tock of a grandfather clock complementing the warm amber glow of oil lamps, while outside a storm rages, the wind howls and rain rattles the windows.
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Subtitled "Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror," this collection will delight fans of subtle horror, aficionados of...Read more