Title: The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror | Author: William Meikle | Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing | Pub. Date: 12/09/2017 | Pages: 189 | ASIN: B077SWFLZM | Genre: Horror, Classic Horror | Language: English | Triggers: Child death | Rating: 5 out of 5 | Source: Received from Crystal Lake Publishing for review consideration
The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror
Writers never really die; their stories live on, to be found again, to be told again, to scare again.
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 and Blavatsky alongside their hosts.
Come, join us for dinner and a story:
Robert Louis Stevenson – Wee Davie Makes a Friend | Rudyard Kipling – The High Bungalow | Leo Tolstoy – The Immortal Memory | Bram Stoker – The House of the Dead | Mark Twain – Once a Jackass | Herbert George Wells – Farside | Margaret Oliphant – To the Manor Born | Oscar Wilde – The Angry Ghost | Henry Rider Haggard – The Black Ziggurat | Helena P Blavatsky – Born of Ether | Henry James – The Scrimshaw Set | Anton Checkov – At the Molenzki Junction | Jules Verne – To the Moon and Beyond | Arthur Conan Doyle – The Curious Affair on the Embankment
Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.
The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror
Saturday is generally Kid’s Day around here but the regular programming will be interrupted to bring you the launch day review of The Ghost Club. And since we do like working with Crystal Lake Publishing (and because they have fantastic anthologies and collections) we were happy to oblige. While this might not be classic horror, per se, classic horror is a great place for kids to start since the language is clean (and helps build vocabulary skills as my son will attest) and sex rarely rears it’s head (or other parts). So I hope you won’t mind the interruption too much. Next week it will be back to normal (or, as normal as it gets around here, anyways).
I love classic horror. Sometimes it can give me the creepy crawlies much more than a modern book will. I think it’s partly the restraint of them. Not restraint in the amount of words they used (some of them can be a bit…wordy) but in their topics and what they were and were not allowed to say. Modern authors can be as graphic as they please and it can take away a bit from the terror at times.
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.