Genre: Horror / Ghost Story / Collection
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Publication Date: 9th December 2017
REVIEWED BY NEV
A copy of The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the author, William Meikle, and the publisher, Crystal Lake Publishing, as part of a blog tour being undertaken by Mr Meikle. This was in exchange for an honest review. This is said review.
Another disclaimer is the fact that many of you will know that I work for Crystal Lake Publishing as their Reviews Manager. Most of you will also know that even though I have the honour of holding that position, I don’t review many of the titles. It’s a bit awkward when it comes down to the issue of being impartial. I can, and always do, remain totally impartial when I review, no matter who supplies me with the book. Unfortunately, I know there are some out there who would slate me, and Crystal Lake, if I reviewed every book they produce.
The Ghost Club is an exception I am very willing to run with though. William Meikle is a writer I admire for more than one reason. The biggest one though is his ability to write things set in Victorian and Edwardian England. His whole style of writing in this era just blows me away. Given the fact that is the time period in which this book is set, I was sold when I first heard about it. The second reason that made it very easy to pick this book up is the way it is presented:
A dinner in a respected gentlemen’s club in London which is attended by some of the top literary names of the time. The only stipulation is that they must tell a ghost story to guarantee their admittance. Sold, sold, sold. When you see the table of contents in this book you will immediately want to pick it up. You are after all going to be reading some ghost stories told by some of the greatest writers, ever.
This is what I thought of The Ghost Club.
WEE DAVIE MAKES A FRIEND BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
Davie is sick. In a time when illness is not totally recognisable, and curable, Davie is sent to live with his uncle, the thought being that living in the country air may help. It doesn’t seem to. Until he is introduced to Sandy.
This tale is one of despair and one that seems to have no hope for our wee Davie. Until he strikes up the friendship with Sandy. An unlikely one that seems to be mending what ails Davie, until his father finds out.
What happens next is something of a fantasy. Or is it? Is it all in the mind or do these friends we make actually make a difference?
Only time will tell.
THE HIGH BUNGALOW BY RUDYARD KIPLING
Captain Mackie is attempting to have a dalliance with someone else’s wife in one of the high bungalows in the Punjab.
Hearing strange noises most of the night, when he attempts to investigate, he discovers a secret in the bungalow that he is amazed he never noticed before.
This is the sort of horror or ghost story that gets to me when it is written as being set in this era. The lack of technology that we have today makes it more eerie, more spine tingling and makes you more susceptible to panic. When it is written well that is. This is written well. It creeped me the hell out.
There was one aspect that I didn’t quite understand about the story but maybe that is because I don’t know the special handshake!
THE IMMORTAL MEMORY BY LEO TOLSTOY
Captain Marsh has been summoned by the Empress of Russia. He has been tasked to find a Scotsman who can recite Burns in Russian for her glamorous ball taking place that very night.
A tall task by any standards.
This one had me wondering where it was going to go. It was the shortest story so far but was confusing me as to where it was going.
The killer twist in this one is at the very end so stick with it.
A simple but effective tale with a ghostly ending.
IN THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD BY BRAM STOKER
George and Brian have been close friends for years. When George’s wife passes, Brian feels it is his duty to protect him and pull him through everything.
A strange house has other ideas.
Loved this one. So moody and meek yet powerfully emotional at the same time. This one plays on the fragility of the mind when tragedy strikes. Or does it? Is what it describes not possible?
I certainly believe it is. But you must read it to see what it is about.
The language of the times is perfectly captured in this one again. William Meikle writes this stuff so well.
ONCE A JACKASS BY MARK TWAIN
A new river boat is about to be launched but needs insurance. When the insurance assessor goes along on the maiden voyage, things do not go as he planned, leading to a string of catastrophes for everyone.
This is another good one. I’m not sure exactly where this one is set but it has a distinct feel of the deep south about it that gives a distinct feeling of voodoo magic.
Very effective in raising the hairs on the back of your neck, I could imagine this one being made into a much longer story.
FARSIDE BY HERBERT GEORGE WELLS
When a group of friends are introduced to a new-fangled device at an evening’s dinner, by the host, things seem to be very light hearted, until one of the friends has different results to the others with the device.
This is what a Victorian era horror story is all about. Mystery, horror, intrigue and an atmosphere to match.
Perfect stuff. Enough said.
TO THE MANOR BORN BY MARGARET OLIPHANT
Agnes is employed as a maid in a large stately home. When she swaps jobs with one of the other maids, she soon discovers that it is not going to be the best move she has ever made in her life. Especially when she hears the singing.
This is the stereotypical girl hears singing in old haunted house and has no idea who it is or where it is coming from. You know what though? I just don’t care.
This, again, is beautifully told. It really does give you that atmospheric sense of fear that is missing in so many modern horror stories these days.
Short and to the point, this is just wonderful stuff again.
THE ANGRY GHOST BY OSCAR WILDE
Tom is forever being told by Aunt Agatha that there are no such things as ghosts. Try telling that to the one that visits him every night.
This is another where the plot of the story is not new. Normally I would guess things as I go with this type of story but again, Mr Meikle brings his own twist to the end of it that changes everything.
An old-fashioned ghost story that will give you the willies but make you smile at the same time.
THE BLACK ZIGGURAT BY HENRY RIDER HAGGARD
One man’s attempt to leave Africa goes awry when he gets involved with helping a missionary lady get to her destination without falling foul of any mischief.
I have to be perfectly honest and say I didn’t really get this one. I understood where it was going and how it wanted to get there. I just didn’t get how it ended.
BORN OF ETHER BY HELENA P. BLAVATSKY
Alexi has been born into the gentry if you like. He never wants for anything, but never knows truly who he is. After going on a voyage of enlightenment, what he finds may just be his ultimate nightmare.
Alternate realities, astral plains and dopplegangers. This story has it all. It’s quite a deep topic to try and handle in such a short story but Mr Meikle pulls it off extremely well.
This would be my ultimate nightmare after “trying to find myself”.
THE SCRIMSHAW SET BY HENRY JAMES
James has fallen for a scrimshaw chess set. He simply has to own it. Little does he know that when he does, it may just take over his life.
This is the sort of Victorian horror I love. An object that is possessed by something. Just, something. A something that no one can figure out because, remember this is the Victorian era. They do not have the technology we have today, so they have to go with their instincts more than with a scientific explanation.
This inevitably leads to a more entertaining story.
My favourite so far.
AT THE MOLENZKI JUNCTION BY ANTON CHECKOV
Petyr is a junction master working at a remote location. When the winter sets in, he is cut off from almost everyone. When the trains stop coming, he runs dangerously low on supplies, especially vodka. He decides to risk going to the nearest town for the vodka. He should have stayed where he was.
I felt cold while I was reading this one. Mr Meikle paints a beautiful picture of the surroundings making you feel like you are actually there.
Reminded me a bit of Game of Thrones above the wall, this one.
TO THE MOON AND BEYOND BY JULES VERNE
Alain has high hopes and dreams of making his fantasies come true. He can’t do it alone though. He needs financial help to pull it off. When he enlists the help of journalist, Vincent, his plans start to come together.
I think I may have said this before, but this is my favourite so far!
Victorian sci-fi with tinges of horror and a magical belief that anything is possible no matter what you have at your disposal.
This story is just fantastic.
THE CURIOUS AFFAIR ON THE EMBANKMENT BY ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
Lestrade has been given a serious crime to look after that requires a certain amount of delicacy and secrecy. When things on the case start taking a supernatural swing, this becomes increasingly difficult to do.
Excellent again. Sherlock Holmes without Holmes, which is good. It gives Lestrade some of the spotlight he deserves.
This one is very creepy. Lestrade is up against a foe that cannot be explained but handles it perfectly giving the fact most people would have run a mile from it. I love this cool and calm exterior of the detective. It makes him into almost a super hero, without even trying.
So, there you have it. My thoughts on The Ghost Club.
This is a book that many different types of readers will love. By that, I mean people who read a variety of genres. Yes, there are creepy tales in this book, but I wouldn’t call it an out and out horror book. For me, it was even a bit light on the horror side of things.
But that doesn’t matter, because the writing is wonderful. Every single story sets you up in a bygone era. The atmosphere is so wonderful that you can imagine yourself to be living in the Victorian world for the entirety of the book.
William Meikle is one of those authors that gets this era. He is one of the few that I have read who understand it and can make it so you have no choice but to travel back in time when you are reading the stories.
This is a book that I know a hell of a lot of people will get a hell of a lot of joy out of.
I certainly did.
If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer, then please consider using the links below to buy The Ghost Club or any other books from Willie. This not only supports us but also lets us know how many people actually like to buy books after reading our reviews.
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.
CONFESSIONS REVIEWS WILLIAM MEIKLE
I am a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with over twenty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. I have had books published with a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, DarkFuse and Dark Renaissance, and my work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines with recent sales to NATURE Futures, Penumbra and Buzzy Mag among others.
I live in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company and when I’m not writing I drink beer, play guitar and dream of fortune and glory.
I don’t know where the ideas come from. I’m just glad that they come. It’s been over twenty five years now. I think it’s enthusiasm that keeps me going. I just love adventure stories with guns, swords, monsters and folks in peril.
I’m just a big kid at heart.
And for more about Willie, visit his site or find him on social media: