Interview by Kent Holloway, Managing Editor
I am absolutely thrilled to interview today's author. I've been a huge fan of William Meikle ever since I first discovered his supernatural detective Derek Adams and the Midnight Eye Files book series. Adams is a detective whose cases draw him into the weird that only Lovecraft could navigate. The stories were always so rich with folklore...authentic folklore, not the stuff you see in Hollywood and the dialogue was always taut and crisp.
When my business partner Sean Smith and I were discussing starting Charade Press and what authors we might recruit to be among our first, Willie was my go-to guy. I knew I wanted to add him to our roster of authors. However, as much as I love the Midnight Eye Files series, I didn't think our eventual readers would be ready for what Derek Adams had to offer. So I asked Willie if he had anything a little more...of this world. And he didn't disappoint.
He told me about a detective story he had that was similar in many ways to the style and panache of Derek Storm, only with less tentacles and flashing claws. He told me about a story he had involving a typical shamus who just happened to love old Bogart pictures. Even took to dressing the part despite living in the 21st century. And on top of it all, he did his business in a Scottish town with the oldest golf course in the world, St. Andrews. I knew right then and there, I wanted this story and I was absolutely correct in bringing into the Charade Media library. It's just that much fun.
So, without further ado, let me introduce you to William Meikle (you'll thank me later).
It’s no secret that you’re one of my all-time favorite authors. You’ve been writing for a very long time and have delved in so many genres from Lovecraftian horror to sci-fi to military sci-fi. You’ve written supernatural thrillers and weird Sherlock Holmes stories. Nothing seems to be out of your wheelhouse. Oddly though, you haven’t written too many mysteries (that didn’t involve tentacles, man-eating mermaids, or werewolves anyway). So, tell me, what was your inspiration for THE ROAD HOLE BUNKER MYSTERY?
The inspiration came from walking the streets.
St. Andrews is a lovely old town, and I lived in the area from 1999 to 2007.
I've spent many a happy hour wandering around the pubs, the castle, ruined abbey, graveyards, coastline and beaches.
As you say, my writing tends to the weird, but when this one started forming it was the history of the golf course that got into my head, beginning with the rabbits. Once that had wormed its way in, there was no getting it out, and the story unfolded naturally from there.
The P.I. here is very much Derek Adam's non-occult brother though, and in much the same voice, so I didn't stray too far.
What are some of your personal favorite mysteries (either movies or books)? Who are some of your favorite detectives and did any of them factor into your golf course-adjacent P.I. in this book?
My early reading was a mixture of SF, Fantasy and crime. Tarzan is the second novel I remember reading. (The first was Treasure Island, so I was already well on the way to the land of adventure even then.) I quickly read everything of Burroughs I could find. Then I devoured Wells, Dumas, Verne and Haggard. I moved on to Conan Doyle before I was twelve, and Professor Challenger’s adventures in spiritualism led me, almost directly, to Dennis Wheatley, Algernon Blackwood, and then on to Lovecraft. Then Stephen King came along.
But there’s a separate but related thread of a deep love of detective novels running parallel to this, as Conan Doyle also gave me Holmes, then I moved on to Christie, Chandler, Hammett, Ross MacDonald and Ed McBain, reading everything by them I could find.
I always return to Chandler and Hammett though, and it's Bogart I see in my head.
I think I first saw The Maltese Falcon in around 1963.
My granddad was a big Bogart fan, and I remember long Sunday afternoons spent sitting at his feet watching movies on the tiny black and white TV that was the norm back in the UK in the early Sixties. Back then everything in Britain was still in black and white – the Beatles were about to change all that, but Bogey would stay eternally gray and eternally Sam Spade for me. Even at that early age there was something about the snappy dialogue and the larger-than-life character that spoke to me.
So, mix all that lot together, add a hefty slug of heroic fantasy from Howard, Leiber and Moorcock, a sprinkle of fast-moving Scottish thrillers from John Buchan and Alistair MacLean, and a final pinch of piratical swashbuckling. Leave to marinate for fifty years and more and what do you get?
A psyche with a deep love of the weird in its most basic forms, and the urge to beat up monsters.
As for the actual inspiration for my P.I., he too is a Bogart and Chandler fan, and it is the movies and Americana of the '40s that I find a lot of my inspiration for him, rather than in the modern procedural.
That, and the old city, are the two main drivers.
Two of the most entertaining characters in THE ROAD HOLE BUNKER MYSTERY were Willie and Davie, two old geezers who loved to bicker in the pub like an old married couple. As I read this book, I was wondering if these two men might not be real people in your own life. They seemed so real and definitely added a lot of great humor. Tell me, what was the inspiration for them? In fact, are there any people in this book you pulled from your own life and if so, how?
They're quite similar to two old chaps my dad introduced me to in a working man's club in my hometown, who did indeed bicker like an old married couple, but the book is populated by types of people rather than anyone specific. They're amalgams of people found in Scottish pubs and tea rooms.
Everybody in Scotland's got stories to tell, and once you get them going, you can't stop them. I love chatting to people, (usually in pubs) and finding out the -weird- shit they've experienced. The P.I. here is mainly based on a bloke I met years ago in a bar in Partick in Glasgow, and quite a few of the characters that turn up and talk too much in my books can be imagined in real life in bars in Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews.
Many of your books deal with Scotland. Most of them deal with myths and legends of Scotland in particular. Tell our readers some of the Scottish tales you’ve already written about. What are some legends you haven’t touched on yet, but might plan to in the future?
A lot of my work, long and short form, has been set in Scotland, and much of it uses the history and folklore. There's just something about the misty landscapes and old buildings that speaks straight to my soul. Bloody Celts. We get all sentimental at the least wee thing.
I grew up on the West Coast of Scotland in an environment where the supernatural was almost commonplace.
My grannie certainly had a touch of the sight, always knowing when someone in the family was in trouble. There are numerous stories told of family members meeting other, long dead, family in their dreams, and I myself have had more than a few encounters with dead family, plus meetings with what I can only class as residents of faerie. I have had several precognitive dreams, one of which saved me from a potentially fatal car crash.
I have a deep love of old places, in particular menhirs and stone circles, and I've spent quite a lot of time travelling the UK and Europe just to visit archaeological remains. I also love what is widely known as weird shit. I've spent far too much time surfing and reading Fortean, paranormal and cryptozoological websites. The cryptozoological stuff especially fascinates me and provides a direct stimulus for a lot of my fiction, the S-SQUAD in particular, what with them being a bunch of Scottish squaddies who fight cryptid monsters.
I've also been influenced by many Scottish writers. Stevenson is a big influence. He is a master of plotting, and of putting innocents into situations far out of their usual comfort zones while still maintaining a grounding in their previous, calmer, reality. His way with a loveable rogue in Treasure Island and Kidnapped, in particular, is also a big influence. Other Scottish writers who have influenced me include Arthur Conan Doyle, John Buchan, Iain Banks and, more in my youth than now, Alistair MacLean and Nigel Tranter. From them I learned how to use the scope of both the Scottish landscape and its history while still keeping the characters alive. That's led to some thrillers with a supernatural bent such as THE EXILED, RAMSKULL, THE CONCORDANCES OF THE RED SERPENT, and the 3 MIDNIGHT EYE books.
Some more of the inspiration comes from the countryside, the history and weather. All those lonely hillsides, stone circles, ancient buildings and fog are ripe for stories to be creeping about in. That in particular led to many ghost stories and folklore related works, the prime examples probably being ISLAND LIFE, TORMENTOR and THE AULD MITHER
Then there's all the fighting. A country that's seemingly been at war with either somebody else or with itself for most of its existence can't help but be filled with stories of love and loss, heroism and betrayal. My WATCHERS trilogy, a retelling of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion with vampires is probably my best example of that.
The fact that we've always been England's scruffy wee brother and have been slightly resentful of the fact for centuries adds another layer, the wee chip on the shoulder and the need to prove yourself is always a good place from which to start an adventure.
Added to that that we're a melting pot of Lowlander's, Highlanders, Islanders, Scandanavians, Picts, Irish, Dutch, English, Indians, Pakistanis and Chinese and everybody else who has made their way to the greatest wee country in the world, all with their own stories to tell and to make.
And when it's raining and dreich, what better than to sit by a fire with a stiff drink and tell some stories?
There are some I haven't got round to yet, mainly centered around the old Celtic myths. I've got an idea for a big honking Scottish mythological fantasy novel that I'll hopefully get to one day.
Beside THE ROAD HOLE BUNKER MYSTERY, what other books do you have coming out soon (or might have been released recently)? Tell us a little about them.
My most recent book is another throwback to a favorite detective, INSPECTOR LESTRADE: THE BLACK TEMPLE. It's a collection of weird Inspector Lestrade stories from Weird House Press, out now in hardback, paperback and ebook. Watson has portrayed Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard as an inept foil to Sherlock Holmes. But, left to his own devices, Lestrade is no mean detective himself. In these new encounters with the supernatural, the dogged inspector comes into his own.
Coming up I have a new S-Squad, #16, OPERATION: NORTH POLE, and a new Scottish supernatural short story collection, again from Weird House Press.
You’re a big fan of pulp fiction and old movies. If you had the opportunity to write for any franchise in history, what would it be? What might such a franchise look like with William Meikle behind the wheel?
I nearly got to do a JUDGE DREDD vs CTHULHU book some years back. Got 1/2 of it written before the publishers changed editors and the plug got pulled. A missed opportunity.
I'd love to write in Michael Moorcock's ETERNAL CHAMPION universe and introduce one of my Scottish Seton family members into the pantheon. That would give me a hook to hang that big honking fantasy idea onto and allow me to play with his multiverse in a Scottish setting. If you've read his Prince Corum trilogy set in the Irish mythology setting, you'll get a clue as to how it might pan out. I can see it all in my head, if only somebody could make it so :-)
Failing that, I'd enjoy the hell out of doing a Tarzan meets Kong book.
Finally, the question I always like to ask of every author I interview: for all those aspiring writers out there hacking away at the keyboard with their first story, what one piece of advice would you give them knowing what you know today?
For me it's mainly inspiration. I wouldn't write at all if the ideas didn't present themselves in my head. I find I get a lot of ideas clamoring for attention all at once. I write them down in a notebook that never leaves my side, and sometimes one of them gathers a bit more depth, and I get a clearer image. At this stage I find myself thinking about it almost constantly, until a plot, or an ending, clarifies itself.
Once I've written down where the story should be going it quietens down a bit. Then, if I find myself still thinking about it a couple of days later, I'll probably start writing the actual story. At any given time, I have about 20 ideas waiting for clarity, two or three of which might end up as finished works.
That's the inspiration part. And that continues when I start putting the words on paper. I've tried writing outlines, both for short stories and novels, but I've never stuck to one yet. My fingers get a direct line to the muse, and I continually find myself being surprised at the outcome. Thanks to South Park, I call them my "Oh shit, I've killed Kenny" moments, and when they happen, I know I'm doing the right thing.
There is also a certain amount of perspiration, especially in writing a novel. But I find if it feels too much like work, I'm heading in the wrong direction, and it usually ends up in the recycle bin.
And, yes, there's a certain degree of desperation in that I want to get better, to make the big sale, to see my name in lights, all that happy stuff. But I try not to think about that too much. :)
But the one bit of advice that comes out of all the writing (30 years plus of it now) is a very simple one.
The conversation usually goes the same way.
“What do you do?” they say.
“I’m a writer,” I answer.
“I always wanted to do that,” they say.
I wonder if brain surgeons or rocket scientists get the same response?
After I’ve stifled the urge to scream, I ask why they’ve never done anything about writing.
“Oh, I’m too busy.”
And there’s the rub. Everybody is always too busy. But writing doesn’t get done if you don’t do it. It is purely a matter of whether you’ve got the will and the commitment to get the words down, see your name in print, get the fortune and glory, the Hollywood deal, the yacht in the Bahamas and as much caviar as you can snort – all that happy crap that will never happen if you don’t sit on your arse and write.
So here is your mantra. Chant it at all times and repeat it to boring types at dinner parties.
Writers Write. Wannabe Writers Wanna Write.
As with all good mantras, it bears closer study. What it says, in a nutshell, is that you’ll never be a writer if you don’t write. Obvious really, but most beginners ignore it. They procrastinate, they obfuscate, and they pretend to the world and his wife that they’re “Working on a piece right now.”
Don’t believe them. What they mean is that they’ve had an idea, but they don’t really want to do the work to put it in writing. The only way to do it is to sit down with your means of expression, be it pen, word processor, or big thick crayon, and write.
Keep writing, and don’t stop until you’re happy with what you’ve produced.
I never get tired of listening to Willie talk about his passions or the fog-blanketed hills of Scotland. Do yourself a favor, buy his book THE ROAD HOLE BUNKER MYSTERY here. Then go to his website here and find yourself a great read that might not be in the mystery realm, but will entertain the pants off you nonetheless.
And remember to come back here next Wednesday for an interview with Tom Mead. I promise, you're not going to want to miss it!