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. NotI 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.
Received from Crystal Lake Publishing for an honest review...more
I went into Red Room not really knowing what to expect. I was thinking it would be either a cheaply done or pushing too hard to live up to the 'extremI went into Red Room not really knowing what to expect. I was thinking it would be either a cheaply done or pushing too hard to live up to the 'extreme' in the title and just be gross. I owe them an apology because this was a fantastic magazine. I have the kindle version but with the art and everything I'm seriously considering getting the physical copy as well.
Don't misunderstand me, though. The kindle copy is great as well. The pictures and art look great and the formatting is on point as well. They didn't cheap out anywhere. The art fit the stories perfectly and the stories? They were awesome. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. There is a variety of authors, styles and topics that I'm sure anyone would find at least something to their taste. I loved the idea behind "The Phantom Video Stream" by Nick Manzolilo and it's execution (hehe) was just as good. Tim Waggoner's (a name I'm sure you're familiar with from the Horrors! posts) story "Are You Crazy?" had its shockers to it but in the end was actually a very sympathetic piece.
If I was going to warn anyone about a particular story in Red Room it would be "Sick Jokes" because it is sick. I didn't care for it but some of the more 'extreme' horror lovers might. Which, to be fair, is right in the title. of the magazine. That's ok. I'm not one to rave about stories that gross me out just to prove how 'horror hardcore' I am. I'm not really putting down the story because it's twisty-turniness did keep me reading it but I did want to say that it's not going to be for everyone.
The features in Red Room were well-done and have a great variety to them as well. It's not bogged down with too many interviews or too many reviews. There's a great balance to it. I loved the segment called Barfly Bob's Highballs and Lowballs. There were some...interesting drinks in there.
I really can't say enough about Red Room, honestly. I hope this magazine succeeds and I will be looking forward to more issues in the future.
Received in exchange for an honest interview...more