Carnacki: Heaven and Hell
I'd love to have a chance to write a Tarzan, John Carter, Allan Quartermain, Mike Hammer or Conan novel, whereas a lot of writers I know would sniff and turn their noses up at the very thought of it.
Most of the aforesaid characters are trademarked and off-bounds for writers without paying licensing fees. Carnacki however is fair game.
Nowadays there is a plethora of detectives in both book and film who may seem to use the trappings of crime solvers, but get involved in the supernatural. William Hjortsberg's Falling Angel (the book that led to the movie Angel Heart) is a fine example, an expert blending of gumshoe and deviltry that is one of my favorite books. Likewise, in the movies, we have cops facing a demon in Denzel Washington's Fallen that plays like a police procedural taken to a very dark place.
My interest goes further back to the "gentleman detective" era where we have seekers of truth in Blackwood's John Silence Sherlock Holmes... and William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki.
Carnacki resonated with me immediately on my first reading many years ago. Several of the stories have a Lovecraftian viewpoint, with cosmic entities that have no regard for the doings of mankind. The background Hodgson proposes fits with some of my own viewpoint on the ways the Universe might function, and the slightly formal Edwardian language seems to be a "voice" I fall into naturally. I write them because of love, pure and simple.
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It's all about the struggle of the dark against the light. The time and place, and the way it plays out is in some ways secondary to that. And when you're dealing with archetypes, there's only so many to go around, and it's not surprising that the same concepts of death and betrayal, love and loss, turn up wherever, and whenever, the story is placed.
The ghost story is no different in utilising the archetype of the return of the lost from the great beyond, but a good one needs verisimilitude.
If the reader doesn't believe wholeheartedly in the supernatural element, even if only for the duration of the story, then they'll be looking for the Scooby-Doo escape, the man in the mask that means everything before was just smoke and mirrors. To pull off a good ghost story, you need to get past that, and engage the reader at an emotional level.
The best stories allow us to overlay our own fears and nightmares on a backdrop provided by the writer. Some people are terrified of dark corners, others of sounds, others still of silence. A mixture of the primal fears in the story will have readers constantly looking over their shoulder, and almost afraid to reach the end. For me, that's what makes a good ghost story.
I also love exploring the Occult Detective sub-genre, in the Midnight Eye Files stories, in this series of Carnacki stories, and with Sherlock Holmes in REVENANT, and a series of short stories. I intend to write a lot more of it, and that will definitely mean more Carnacki to come. THE DARK ISLAND novella in the collection is a focal point for Carnacki -- in it he has learned that the bounds of his research are much, much wider than he had previously thought. That's going to give me plenty of scope for further stories and explorations.
You may notice while reading that Carnacki likes a drink and a smoke, and a hearty meal with his friends gathered round. This dovetails perfectly with my own idea of a good time. And although I no longer smoke, witing about characters who do allows me a small vicarious reminder of my own younger days. I wish I had Carnacki's library, his toys, but most of all, I envy him his regular visits from his tight group of friends, all more than willing to listen to his tales of adventure into the weird places of the world while drinking his Scotch and smoking his cigarettes.
Here's an up to date list of all my Carnacki story appearances so far. There will be more to come, I'm sure.
- Carnacki: Heaven and Hell collection (Hardcover / paperback / ebook / Dark Regions Press)
- The Blooded Iklwa
- The Larkhill Barrow
- The Sisters of Mercy
- The Hellfire Mirror
- The Beast of Glamis
- The Tomb of Pygea
- The Lusitania
- The Haunted Oak
- The Shoreditch Worm
- The Dark Island
- The Kew Growths (The Kew Growths and other stories / Dark Renaissance)
- The Cornish Owlman (The Kew Growths and other stories / Dark Renaissance)
- Treason and Plot (Horror for the Holidays anthology / Miskatonic River Press / 2011)
- The Parliament of Owls ( Lovecraft Ezine #18 / 2012)
- A Cold Christmas in Chelsea (13 Ghosts of Xmas anthology / Spectral Press / 2012)
- The Blue Egg (Sargasso #1 / The Journal of W.H. Hodgson Studies / 2013)
- Captain Gault's Nemesis (Carnacki: The New Adventures / 2013)
- The Island of Dr. Monroe (Steampunk Cthulhu anthology / Chaosium / 2014)
- Bedlam in Yellow (In the Court of the Yellow King / Celaeno Press / 2014)
- Carnacki: The New Investigations boxset / Ghostwriter Publications / 2009
- The Blooded Iklwa
- The Larkhill Barrow
- The Sisters of Mercy
- The Parliament of Owls (text and audio / Lovecraft Ezine #18 / 2012)
- Treason and Plot (audio / Tales to Terrify #47 / 2012)
- The Hellfire Mirror (audio, read by Morgan Scorpion)
Foreign Language and reprints
- The Grunting Man (venue TBA)
- The Sisters of Mercy in Japanese (Nightland Magazine #4 / Japan / 2012)
- The Beast of Glamis - reprint (Weird Detection anthology / Prime / 2013 )
Carnacki: Heaven and Hell reviews
This is an excellent collection, worthy of the attention of any reader with a fondness for ghost stories. Meikle does a fine job, both in creating fresh material for the supernatural sleuth, and also for delivering the voice and feel of the classic Carnacki tales ... I urge you to seek out this book with all possible speed; Iím confident you wonít be disappointed. - Flames Rising
William Meikle does a stand up job here of capturing the tone of the original stories. He falls naturally into the more formal language of the period, without making it any less easy to read. - David Brzeski, British Fantasy Society
William Meikle has become one of my favorite storytellers--here with a trademark mingling of intrigue, suspense and fantasy in these linked tales. Part Sherlock Holmes, part Lovecraft, and all Meikle, these tales are perfect for curling up on a foggy night with a bottle and a fire." - Scott Nicholson
Meikle gets the style of the original stories so well that it is virtually impossible to distinguish his tales from the ones Hodgson wrote a century ago. In a couple of stories he brings in real world elements that Hodgson probably wouldn't have included; it doesn't distract at all. And Carnacki's four friends - who were VERY anonymous in the original stories - get rudimentary personalities (Arkwright is a bit of a twit). I am generally fond of pastiches - Sherlock Holmes, Lovecraftian tales etc. - and this is one of the best I've read for quite some time. - Stig Olsen
This version of Carnacki seems a bit more voluble than the one I remember, but horror stories of this type generally assume a more relaxed and intellectual air than most modern ones. It's a style of writing that I appreciate, and miss. - Don D'Ammassa
...worthy of sharing a bookshelf with its source material. - Pete Tennant, Black Static #30
Professor Challenger: The Kew Growths and other Stories
CARNACKI also makes 2 appearances in my Professor Challenger collection, in the title story THE KEW GROWTHS and in THE CORNISH OWLMAN, out now in hardcover and paperback from Dark Renaissance. This volume is also illustrated by Wayne Miller.
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