When it comes to horror fiction, there is an argument that in recent years it has lost its heat, and its sense of fun. To some extent this is probably true, many authors are turning their back on what made horror great, determined to write the next great literary masterpiece. Which is fair enough, but it makes people like Willie Meikle that more special. You see Willie remembers the good old days, and understands what makes for a good fun story, the sort of cracking boys own adventure story that can mix rip roaring excitement with a cheeky smile. Samurai and Other Stories collects some of Willie's short stories from throughout the years. In this anthology we high drama, mysterious all consuming blobs, handsome rugged Scotsman, some of which are named Jim McLeod, (surely the most handsome of all Scottish men, Lovecraftan monsters, and some viscous Witch Queens.
One of the things that I love the most about Willie's writing is the fact that he is not afraid to wear his influences with pride. Many of these wonderful stories have a heritage that is pure Pulp. They are born in a time when Pulp wasn't felt to be a four letter word. And for that Mr Meikle I thank you.
Kicking of the collection is a cracking story of shipwrecked sailors, hidden treasure and an unstoppable guardian. Samurai sets the tone perfectly for this collection, a high octane adventure story that sees the uncouth world of British sailors clash violently with the duty and honour bound world of the Samurai. I particularly enjoyed how Meikle counterpointed the clashing of swords upon swords with the silent almost robotic nature of the temples guardian
Other favourites of mine include the thrilling The Toughest Mile. Where Meikle riffs on Gemmell and Leiber to provide a heart pounding chase story, with a world weary protagonist who just wants to go for a pint. A fantasy version of The Running Man, the Toughest Mile, has as much heart as it does momentum.
Inquisitor is a chilling tale hat sees the worlds of The Old Ones clash with The Spanish Inquisition. Lets just say nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition to end that way. (please note no comfy cushions were harmed in the making of this story)
The Haunting of Esther Cox, is classic tale of poltergeists, possession and things that go bump in the night. Meikle does a sterling job in giving a believable voice to the story via the diary entries of Esther.
Which brings us to what is my favourite story of the collection, Home is The Sailor. Lets be clear it's not because one of the characters in this story is named after me, I've lost count of the number of times I've been killed off by Willie in a story. No what makes this story special is the long awaited return of Scotland's greatest PI Derek Adams. Adam's is a genuinely brilliant creation, imagine Columbo with an added twist Galswegean sass and a dash of whiskey soaked world weariness. Home is The Sailor sees our intrepid investigator head down to Largs to an hotel where mysterious things are happing to the guests thanks to an ancient African totem. What follows is a gripping story full of charm,and sly line in humour.
Samurai and other stories is a perfect introduction to the worlds and imagination of William Meikle. These are the sort of stories that show just how important a sense of fun and adventure is to storytelling. There is a great heritage in this collection, one that deserves to be kept alive. Meikle is pulptastic.
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