AUTHOR INTERVIEW: William Meikle

Meghan: Hi, William. Welcome back to our annual Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

William: I have a confession.

I don’t celebrate Halloween, and haven’t since I was a kid. Back in Scotland when I was growing up, Halloween was for kids, and just for kids. I never saw an adult dressed up, never saw a house decorated for Hallowen. We kids went out ‘acting the gloshes’ which translates as ‘pretending to be ghosts’ and, as we were all poor as church mice, that mostly consisted of an old sheet with holes cut for eyes.

We went round the local houses, not trick or treating as such… we had to tell a joke or sing a song to get a reward which in those days was often a toffee apple. I always enjoyed the singing (I found out later that I perform well in front of audiences with guitar in hand).

About the only thing I recognize when watching North American Halloween is dunking for apples in a big bucket of water. Some of the old folk in town still insisted we did that before we’d get a treat… an apple usually.

It being the end of October, in the West of Scotland, Halloween was often damp, windy and sometimes downright miserable as a lot of folks didn’t bother to participate.

So my favorite part of Hallowween these days is watching in bemusement what a big deal gets made of it over here in the New World.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

William: We didn’t have pumpkins in Scotland. We carved swedes (we call them tumchies) with kitchen knives, a process that took hours and caused many a bruised knuckle, then stuck a candle in them. I can still smell the roasted turnip even now fifty years and more on.

It’s a very old tradition. Carved swedes have been found in old graves all the way back to the Neolithic.

And there’s something spooky about the manic grin on a carved turnip that no amount of artistry in pumpkin carving can match. That was always my favorite part of the night.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

William: See above. I do like seeing kids enjoy themselves, but I’m a bit bemused as to how much adults get into it here in North America.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

William: Not a lot really. I am a believer in the supernatural, having had several encounters that leads me to think that the land of Faerie is close by us, so if I’m somewhere with a faerie tradition (there are more than a few places in Scotland and also some here in Newfoundland) I try not to piss off the wee folk and always say hello and thank you when crossing ‘their’ bridges.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

William: The same one it has been for fifty years. It’s not strictly horror, but it has to be KONG. I first saw the big guy back in the late ’60s in his 1933 incarnation, and around the same time I caught the Japanese Godzilla vs Kong movie, and that was it, I was hooked on big beasties.

The recent resurgence, firstly with Jackson‘s Kong ( which I loathe in places and love in other places) through to Skull Island and Godzilla vs Kong has me like a kid in a toy shop.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

William: It’s always been the Whitechapel Ripper case. I’ve read numerous books, seen all the movies, and remain no closer to having a clue as to who Jack might have been.

His crimes cast a shadow over the whole late-Victorian era in London, and his effect on popular culture down the years has been remarkable. He’s become almost mythic. I wonder if the perpetrator had any idea what he was starting… and indeed, was that the point?

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

William: Back in the 1950s, in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, about 20 miles north of where I lived, stories were going around about missing children, believed killed. The culprit was said to be a seven-foot vampire, with iron teeth, lurking in the Southern Necropolis graveyard.

One night after school, hundreds of children of all ages armed themselves with blades and crosses, stakes and dogs and descended upon the Necropolis to hunt it. The children prowled the graveyard as night fell, checking behind trees and headstones for the awful creature that might be lurking.

They never caught it of course, but the story passed into legend.

I heard about it when I was around ten years old in ’68 and it gave me a recurring nightmare that still pops up every few years.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

William: I don’t have a ‘favorite’ serial killer. I find the idea of having that kind of empathy with them to be a strange concept. But there’s one or two that intrigue me.

Again in 1968, which was kind of a formative time for my horror roots, a serial killer was operating in Glasgow, as I said before only 20 miles from us. Bible John, as he was known, was stalking a nightclub, quoting bible verse, abducting young women and killing them. It filled the news at the time and we schoolkids were obviously fascinated.

There were 3 confirmed deaths, several other possibles.

He was never caught.

When I was at university in the late ’70s in Glasgow rumours spread that he was still around, still working the same area. We all kept a close eye on our female friends when we were out and about town.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

William: The first time I remember being terrified at the movies was not at a horror movie as such, but at the transformation scene in Jerry LewisThe Nutty Professor which I was taken to see by my mum… I can’t have been more than six years old at the time. All that strobing red lighting and screaming soundtrack had me getting out of my seat and heading for the door before fascination had me turning back to see…

The first horror movie I remember seeing was a rerun of the original The Blob in around 1967 when I was nine. I thought it was a hoot and loved every minute of it, and it gave me a lifelong love of big blobs in film. There’s a particularly good one in one of the early B&W Hammer movies X-The Unknown that I love to bits.

The first X-rated horror movie I saw in the cinema was when I sneaked in to The Exorcist on its first run in 1973. I’d already read the book so knew broadly what to expect, but it certainly made an impact.

As for books…

I got early nightmares in around ’67 from a first read of The Hobbit, my dreams being plagued by Gollum and red eyes in dark places for a while.

The first outright horror book I remember reading was one of the Pan Books of Horror collections, probably some time in 1969 IIRC. My granddad was an avid reader and had boxes of paperbacks lying around. I’d pick them up and read them, which is how I discovered the likes of Alistair MacLean, Ed McBain, Louis L’Amour and many more. One day I picked up #6 in the PBOH series and was immediately hooked. That led me on almost directly to Dennis Wheatley, then H.P. Lovecraft and then, in ’74, a chap called Stephen King came along and everything changed.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

William: T.E.D. Klein‘s The Ceremonies

Dread is a word you don’t see used much in association with horror fiction any more. And it’s a shame, because used properly, slow building dread can be more horrific than any gore or bloodletting.

Fortunately, there are writers who understand this, and one of the best examples can be found in The Ceremonies, which starts slow, gets slower, but accumulates dread along the way like a wool suit collecting cat hairs. And it’s a marvel of timing, precision and skill, with its cast of great characters all circling around the central motifs, each of them catching glimpses of the whole but none completely understanding what they are being shown, or why.

The slow build, taking care and attention to let us get to know, if not like, the main characters, gives their respective fates at the climax emotional resonance, and a depth that’s often lacking in fiction in the field.

The book is one of the wonders of modern weird fiction.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

William: Don’t Look Now

I was only 17 when I first saw this classic, and wasn’t really prepared for the depth of sadness and misery that has hold of the main characters all the way through. It’s a simply stunning piece of work, with the director Roeg keeping us unsure as to what’s going on all the way through to the shock at the end. It’s lived with me ever since. Donald Sutherland‘s best movie, Roeg‘s best movie, and one of the all time great horror movies.

As an aside, Roeg‘s use of color, in particular red, to highlight important plot points meant that when I first saw The Sixth Sense and saw that Shamalyan had done the same, I saw the end coming a long way off…

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

William: I still have a nostalgic fondness for that white sheet I mentioned earlier but if I were to do it today (and had the money) I’d splash out on a good gorilla suit and go round as KONG for the night. That would be lovely.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

William: That would have to be THE MONSTER MASH, not the Boris Pickett version but the one by the very silly Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, a bunch of English eccentrics who did a brilliant cover version.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

William: As I don’t really do Halloween, I don’t really have one. And in Scotland we didn’t have ‘candy’, we had ‘sweeties’. My favourite as a lad was black liquorice dipped in sherbet – I’m weird that way.

I remember being disappointed as a kid by a very old and sad Tangerine.

Meghan: Thanks, William. This has been great, learning more about you. Before you go, what are your top three Halloween movies and books.

William:
Top films

Top books


Boo-graphy:
William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with more than thirty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries.

He has books available from a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, Crossroad Press and Severed Press, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines.

He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company.

When he’s not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory.

Website

The Green & the Black
A small group of industrial archaeologists head into the center of Newfoundland, investigating a rumor of a lost prospecting team of Irish miners in the late Nineteenth century.

They find the remains of a mining operation, and a journal and papers detailing the extent of the miners’ activities. But there is something else on the site, something older than the miners, as old as the rock itself.

Soon the archaeologists are coming under assault, from a strange infection that spreads like wildfire through mind and body, one that doctors seem powerless to define let alone control.

The survivors only have one option. They must return to the mine, and face what waits for them, down in the deep dark places, where the green meets the black.

William’s Halloween Giveaway

Halloween Extravaganza: Robert Herold: Movie Maven Mausoleum Films to Die For

Movie Maven Mausoleum
Films to Die For!

By Robert Herold
Author of The Eidola Project

Finding obscure and/or largely forgotten gems in our genre is a bloody-good treat. And, in addition to reading a great book, what better way is there to celebrate the season? (Or any season!)

Curse of the Demon/Night of the Demon (1957)

The film opens with an admittedly goofy-looking monster. Don’t let that put you off! The director, Jacques Tourneur (of Cat People fame) did not want the creature in the film, but he was overruled by the studio. Night of the Demon is the British version of the film and is thirteen (lucky) minutes longer. Given this is one of my all-time favorites, I’d go with the longer version.

The movie concerns an egotistical warlock who is eliminating those who criticize him. Dana Andrews (who also starred in The Best Years of Our Lives and the noir-classic Laura) and Peggy Cummins (star of another noir classic, Gun Crazy) run afoul of the warlock, played by Niall MacGinnis.

The film has some wonderfully creepy moments, especially when MacGinnis is demonstrating his power during a little picnic he is hosting for the kiddies in the area. Check it out!

A Chinese Ghost Story I, II, & III (1987, 1990, 1991)

(Note: The first of the series was remade in 2011 by Wilson Yip (of Ip Man fame) I have not seen the remake, but most reviewers rate the original higher. I love the original, so I recommend you go with it.)

The first film is about a hapless but good-hearted tax-collector in Medieval China who is forced to stay in a haunted locale and falls in love with a beautiful ghost. Too bad for him, and anyone else who strays near the place, the ghost is under the control of a nasty tree witch. A wonderful story, great special effects for the time, humor, romance, and insane action—what more could one want? Number II in the series is more of a stand-alone film, whereas number III is a sequel. These are a bit difficult to find, but are worth the trouble!

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1972)

Made toward the end of Hammer Studios’ heyday, this gem is largely forgotten. Too bad, because it’s a great film. Dashing Captain Kronos, accompanied by his faithful hunchback friend, Professor Grost, gallop all over the 18th Century English countryside in search of vampires. They’re in luck, or maybe not, depending on your perspective. There’s some nice variations on the familiar vampire theme. This would have made a marvelous television series. I’ve love to write it, if there are any producers out there!

Eyes of Fire (1983)

A precursor to the marvelous the film The Witch (2015), which you must see if you haven’t, Eyes of Fire is also a tale of witchcraft set in early rural America. A group of settlers stumble upon a haunted locale and are terrorized by dangerous spirits. A mysterious girl appears who may hold the key to their survival. The excellent story, acting, and production values make this a great film!

Borgman (2014)

Few people saw this Danish film in America when it was first released. Fortunately, it is available on a ton of streaming services (many for free). This is one of the creepiest films I have ever seen. It gets under your skin like a parasite, making your flesh crawl, and then wiggles around in your brain for days afterward. Are you ready? Prepare for a little confusion, it’s meant to be so, as it is a horror mystery, but you will never be the same again. ‘Enjoy!

The Wicker Man (1973) – Original Film

You may be familiar with the 2006 remake, but I am recommending you go back to review the vastly superior original, starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee. Cinefantastique Magazine at the time declared it “The Citizen Kane of horror films,” and I agree. It’s an eerie film with excellent acting and a great story. It involves a strait-laced religious policeman who is sent to a remote British isle to investigate a missing girl. Things are amiss in this seemingly idyllic town.

Dark City (1998)

The line between horror and SF is often blurry (consider Alien and its sequels), so you may have missed this gem from the 90’s. The director of The Crow, Alex Proyas, takes us on a noir nightmare with wonderful special effects and acting. The actors and production values are top-notch. The actors include Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland (in one of his best roles), Jennifer Connelly, and William Hurt. It’s a heady mix of horror, mystery, and science fiction you’re sure to love!

A Portrait of Jennie (1948)

If your taste runs toward paranormal romance, I recommend The Portrait of Jennie. This well-acted film features many top actors from the time: Joseph Cotten, Jennifer Jones, Ethel Barrymore, and Lillian Gish. Cotton plays a down on his luck artist, whose career starts to change when he meets an enigmatic young woman.

Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979)

You have probably seen the original film (if not, do so!), but you may have missed Werner Herzog’s outstanding remake. It is a stylized horror film with excellent acting and sets. Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani are wonderful in the lead roles, and the rats deserve a shout-out too! (I hope they got paid union-scale wages!)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Set the Way-back Machine ™ for one hundred years ago: Following the nightmare of deaths and dashed dreams of glory experienced by Germany because of World War One (to say nothing of the other countries involved) came the genius of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. From the expressionistic sets to wonderfully weird characters and expressionistic acting, the film still has remarkable power to unnerve you. Incidentally, Conrad Veit, who plays the somnambulist, was later considered for the role of Dracula (ultimately given to Bela Lugosi) and still later went on to chew up scenes as Major Strasser in Casablanca. Note: I strongly recommend seeing a version with the contemporary orchestral score by Rainer Viertelboeck. Since Caligari is a silent film, music is a key component, and this soundtrack adds to the creepiness!

The supernatural always had the allure of forbidden fruit, ever since my mother refused to allow me, as a boy, to watch creature features on late night TV. She caved in. (Well, not literally.)

As a child, fresh snow provided me the opportunity to walk out onto neighbors’ lawns halfway and then make paw prints with my fingers as far as I could stretch. I would retrace the paw and boot prints, then fetch the neighbor kids and point out that someone turned into a werewolf on their front lawn. (They were skeptical.)

I have pursued many interests over the years, but the supernatural always called to me. You could say I was haunted. Finally, following the siren’s call, I wrote The Eidola Project, based on a germ of an idea I had as a teenager. Ultimately, I hope my book gives you the creeps, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Website ** Facebook

The Eidola Project

It’s 1885 and a drunk and rage-filled Nigel Pickford breaks up a phony medium’s séance. A strange twist of fate soon finds him part of a team investigating the afterlife.

The Eidola Project is an intrepid group of explorers dedicated to bringing the light of science to that which has been feared, misunderstood, and often manipulated by charlatans. They are a psychology professor, his assistant, an African-American physicist, a sideshow medium, and now a derelict, each possessing unique strengths and weaknesses.

Called to the brooding Hutchinson Estate to investigate rumored hauntings, they encounter deadly supernatural forces and a young woman driven to the brink of madness.

Will any of them survive?