‘The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror’ by William Meikle – Book Review

*STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GODS*

When I received The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror by William Meikle to review for PopHorror, I didn’t know what to expect… I’m ashamed to admit, I didn’t know anything about the author and his monstrous contribution to horror and weird fiction. This is something I will remedy as soon as possible.

After reading the synopsis, I actually got quite excited when I saw that Meikle wrote stories in the voices of Kipling, Stoker, Verne, Stevenson, and more. The anthology even had one of my favorite short story writers, H.G. Welles, as well as the occult scholar, Helena Blavatsky. I had been a student on writings of the latter for at least 20 plus years, and my father-in-law was a high-ranking member of her Theosophical Society in the mid-60s and onwards.

William Meikle cunningly and charismatically channeled legendary heavy weight giants of Victorian fiction in The Ghost Club. The first tale in this incredible ambitious anthology, “Wee Davie Makes A Friend” by Robert Louis Stevenson, is very autobiographical, as Meikle certainly knows his history on Stevenson. This story is something I imagine Stevenson could have written himself. A lot of Victorians at the time were known to move to topical places due to the warmer climate, which seems to eliminate problems like asthma and many horrid chest affiliations. The story itself resembles the great Guillermo del Toro’s Devil’s Backbone in the showing of the tale, and reminded me of some of James Herbert’s best ghostly efforts.

Kipling was known for his tales of man and beast. In “The High Bungalow,” a man of the brotherhood investigates noises and finds a trap door which just happens to lead to a centuries old Freemasonry lodge. The tale reminded me of some of Lovecraft’s efforts in the simple way that Meikle is really great in laying down a late night mystery told in the first person.

“The Immortal Memory” by Leo Tolstoy takes place in Russia, as one would expect from a Tolstoy story and even has a cameo by Catherine the Great. . “The House of the Dead” by Bram Stoker is devised of journal entries and letters. While reading the story, one can smell the quintessential scent of fine brandy and the sweet smelling aroma of Stoker’s ornate Victorian vocab. In “Once A Jackass” by Mark Twain, Meikle whips up a fine, creamy wit reminiscent of the late great Mark Twain, offering some comic relief to The Ghost Club.

Herbert George Wells’ “Farside” tells the tale of an inventor who creates a device that can view people’s auras. This is possibly the best story in the book and barks a resemblance to Lovecraft’s “Beyond The Wall of Sleep.” This is a fine short tale that would have made Wells himself proud.

“You had a dream, boy, and dreams are something you would do well to ignore—and suppress altogether, for dreams will make a good boy into a bad man faster than just about anything.” This sums up “Angry Ghost” by Oscar Wilde in a nutshell… a great piece of writing. “The Black Ziggurat” by Henry Rider Haggard tells the tale of a man’s encounter with an ancient African civilization which will leave the reader feeling very small in the scheme of things.

“Born of Ether” by Helena P. Blavatsky tells an interesting tale of the pursuit of a mystic adept who seeks enlightenment. Traveling to the Far East, he learns the highs and lows of knowledge and the importance of what many seekers call the Jacob’s Ladder Effect as he climbs the mountains of Gnosis… “to know thy self.” He learns that great spiritual truths are not abounding upwards or downwards but inwards. Blavatsky would have been happy, I think, to some degree, but I feel strongly that a tale of this nature needed more guidance for its reader as many are unfamiliar with the effects of opium and its influence on developing the Jungian theory of the shadow self, as well as other aspects within the kingdom of shadows, but Meikle manages to steer the ship away from the storm, turning the story into quite a nice shadow play.

In “The Scrimshaw Set” by Henry James, an avid chess player and a haunted chess set add allurement to this wonderful Victorian ghost tale. Meikle superbly imitates James’ prolific prose. “At The Molenzki Junction” by Anton Chekov intrigued me and is a well-deserved addition to The Ghost Club. I’m not really sure if I have ever read anything by Anton Chekov, so I can’t speak to style, but if this story is representative of his real writing, I am certainly going to be looking him up.

“To the Moon and Beyond” by Jules Verne is a personal favorite from The Ghost Club due to the fact that it transports the reader back to the Victorian age more evidently than many of the other stories, and uses sci-fi of the Victorian flavor to beef up the taste buds of the tale.

“The Curious Affair on the Embankment” by Arthur Conan Doyle completes this ambitious anthology. Doyle, who narrates the intros of each tale, ends with a story of magic, a subject that haunted his later prose years.

Some last words wrapping up The Ghost Club

William Meikle does a wonderful job paying tribute the masters of Victorian fiction, and if you can ponder that thought for a second, the idea itself is quite creepy. The tome would make for a wonderful graphic novel – something of the Alan Moore variety.

I recommend The Ghost Club, but preferably under the strict conditions of an old Victorian house, and don’t forget to keep that lava lamp burning because you may just need more light.

About lfmccabe

Lee Francis McCabe is a British born aspiring Author/screenwriter who began writing at a young age. He commenced professionally at the age of 21 in the form of screenplay writing, resulting in three films produced in the UK, and two films produced in Cape Town / South Africa. His favourite authors include Ramsey Campbell, Bret Easton Ellis, William S. Burroughs, Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark and Richard Matheson. When he’s not talking film or literature, he’s busy writing fiction and chasing surrealism whilst trying his hardest not to sound like an enlightened asshole. He holds a degree in Media and Journalism, as well as Screenplay writing and Filmmaking. Lee resides in Cape Town/South Africa and is working toward becoming an established author.

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