William Meikle is a man on a mission. With fifteen novels and more than 250 short story credits to his name, Meikle has written everything from Sword & Sorcery to Sherlock Holmes. But it is, perhaps, the many Lovecraftian novels and short stories for which he is most renowned.
Dark Melodies is a collection of such tales; a set of eight interlinking (through either quote or reference) stories inspired by the master himself, HP Lovecraft. The binding theme in Dark Melodies is music, and the idea that a simple beat is able to alter reality, break down walls and make the elder gods rise up once again.
‘The Tenants Of Ladywell Manor’ kicks off the collection with considerable savvy. Here we have the tale of a naval crew’s expedition gone awry, and the subsequent aftermath at Ladywell. The story builds slowly to an action-packed finale, where tentacles fly and love ultimately wins the day.
In ‘The Persistence Of Memory’, Meikle explores the desolation of losing a loved one. A widow attempts to resurrect her husband using the piano he so fervently played in life. There is a wonderful scene portrayed through a flashback, where Betty recounts the day George first saw the piano at a shop in Whitby, which brings a sense of humanity to the proceedings. A solid story from beginning to end.
‘The Chamber Of Tiamat’ is a wonderful example of why some things should remain undiscovered, as a diving duo stumble upon a Babylonian Goddess’s dwelling. With the ever-present theme of rhythm, and the appearance of the terrifying Aqrabuamelu – roughly translated as scorpion-men – Meikle succeeds once again in creating a sense of dread and foreboding.
‘The Unfinished Basement’ is the tale of one man’s search for answers as he discovers a dilapidated basement and a beautiful piano in a house which he plans to develop. His investigations lead to an age-old curse, of which he is now a part.
‘The Mill Dance’ tells the story of a boy’s hatred for his abusive father, and the mill in which he works. A priest is summoned to exorcise the mill, much to the boy’s dismay as he believes it to be the source of his power. Not the strongest story in this particular collection, but still an enjoyable read.
In ‘The Death Of Sergeant Macleod’, the singer of a touring ceilidh band discovers the truth behind a certain song; a song which causes people to vanish from the face of the earth whenever it is performed. As always, Meikle superbly investigates the mythology behind the mystery, and the feeling of helplessness is palpable throughout.
‘Where The Kobolds Dance’ tells the story of a group of miners and their encounter with the strange, white creatures appearing from the mine walls. The sheriff of the town is brought in to investigate.
Which brings us to the final – and longest – story of the book. ‘Rhythm And Booze’ sees the return of Derek Adams, a Glasgow PI who likes nothing more than whisky and a good case. This is the strongest story in a book filled with gems, which is testament to Meikle’s ability as a writer. Adams’ search for the Arisaig Worm leads him from adventure to adventure, and the conclusion is as epic as anything by Mr Lovecraft himself.
The writing throughout is strong, and Meikle’s capacity to create an atmosphere you would struggle to cut with a machete is something all genre authors should pay attention to. Each story has a satisfying conclusion, with the mythos behind each tale being fully explained with an adroitness one could quite happily grow accustomed to. If you’re already a fan of William Meikle, you know exactly what I mean. If you are yet to discover him, this is a great place to start.
In musical terms, a fine collection from intro to outro.
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