Sunday, 10 December 2017

A relationship with an Old Lady - Willie Meikle

As promised, here's the first of the guest posts coming to you over the next few months. Here Willie Meikle gets the chance to talk about the place that inspired his latest short story collection, The Ghost Club.


I went to London to seek my fortune, or rather, to follow a woman, back in early 1982. My relationship with the Old Lady proved to be the healthier one of the two, a love affair that I still carry with me even though it lasted less than ten years.

For the first few months I was living and working outside the main city while making forays into the museums, cinemas and pubs of the city center at weekends. But the love only came after I started working in the old city itself. I got a job in a converted warehouse in Devonshire Square near Liverpool Street Railway Station. My desk looked out over Petticoat Lane Market, my lunchtime wanderings took me to the curry cafes of Brick Lane and the bars of Whitechapel in the footsteps of the Ripper. I was supporting computer systems down in the financial sector, and my wanderings down there took me to Bank and Monument, to indoor markets and gorgeous old pubs, to tiny churches and cemeteries hidden away in courtyards, and across the river, to Borough Market and even older pubs, like The George and The Market Porter. If you're after a true whiff of old London, there's few finer places to seek it.

A few years later we moved office to Farringdon Road and more old markets, Guardian journalists in the pubs and forays into the area between there and Euston. Then we settled in High Holborn which for me meant Skoob Bookshop, the British Museum and yes, more pubs, in the Victorian splendor of The Princess Louise, the high gothic weirdness of The City of Yorke and many more, including forays down to Fleet Street for some Dickensian musings in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, the Strand for The George and the Coal Hole under The Savoy for some slices of theatrical history, and many other bars, too numerous to mention or too lost to memory in alcoholic poisoning of the brain cells.

For a while London got into my soul. I got able to find my way around from just about anywhere inside the M25, I lived south of the river in Bromley, Beckenham and Ladywell, where I discovered that the flat I'd bought didn't just have a bogeyman in the stairwell, but that the Old Lady's Well bubbled up in the cellar, to my eventual enormous financial cost, But at least I got to know the similarly drunken patrons of a variety of night buses after concerts or drinking sessions during my time there.

London is indeed a fine old city. Almost, but not quite, the equal of Edinburgh or Glasgow in my heart. My real love for it came from not just the place, but from the people I met there. I met many Londoners, but I also met people from all over the UK, people from India, Pakistan, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Poland, Greece, Turkey and many other far flung spots. I made great friends and a lot of them are still friends today, 35 years on. We spent many happy hours in those aforementioned old bars, telling each other stories. They heard mine, and I heard theirs, and the telling of them bound, and binds us in friendship all across the globe to this day. That's been better than any fortune to me over the years.

Towards the end of my time in the Old Lady, I met my wife there too, in another of the old bars, and our courtship was spent over beer, curries, film and theatre around Covent Garden and in the West End.

We left London for Scotland in 1991, but the Old Lady came with me, in my friends and, eventually, in my own writing. When I started to drift into writing Victoriana, it was London that called loudest to me, from Baker Street and Cheyne Walk, from Whitechapel to Embankment and yes, from bar to bar, Charringtons IPA, Fullers London Pride, Young's Special and all.

In my newest collection, THE GHOST CLUB, most of the stories don't take place in London. But they are all told there, over a meal and a drink, by Doyle and Stoker, Stevenson and Oliphant, Tolstoy and Wilde and others, all drawn, like me, by the tales to be told, and heard, in the arms of the Old Lady.

THE GHOST CLUB, a new collection of supernatural stories, is out from me at Crystal Lake Publishing in paperback and ebook on 8th December.

It's a tad ambitious, and might fall flat on its face, but given my love for the city, the era and the storytellers who lived in it, writing a story as if written by each of them is something I had to try.

It's a simple premise.

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, Wilde and Blavatsky alongside their hosts.

Come, join us for dinner and a story.

Here's the TOC, which may have a different running order in the final book.


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

You can order a copy here.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Let's get this show back on the road!

Yeah, yeah, I know I've said this before, but this time it's really going to happen. I'm not promising that I'll be making updates every day, but they'll certainly be more frequent that once every year or so. I have no excuses beyond the pressure of work, and while there's no guarantee that the load will get any lighter, I'll be making sure that I find time to provide some kind of update.

So why am I doing this? Well, there are still plenty of people stopping by to read the previous posts and the least I can do is provide a little more for those who keep coming back hoping for more.

For the next few weeks I'll be trying to bring everyone up to speed with the stuff I've been up to for the last couple of years and talk about a few of the projects I have lined up for 2018 - it's already looking like it's going to be a busy one. There are a couple of things in there that I can't talk about yet, but it's all good

I'll be posting a few thoughts on various aspects of building a writing career including things like writing without payment and royalty only anthologies. I have no intentions of giving writing advice - there are plenty of others out there that have something to say - but I'm happy to talk about my own experiences.

I have some guest posts lined up for the next few months but this time I've invited a few people from outside the Fantasy/SF/Horror community. If you're interested in a guest slot, I'd love to hear from you.

Kicking things off will be the fabulous Willie Meikle. Willie and I started off writing for the small press far too many years ago and somehow we've both managed to keep plugging away. His new collection of short fiction looks rather special but more of that soon enough.

So if you're a writer and would like a slot to talk about the way you work, or to vent your spleen at some aspect of the publishing industry, get in touch. Hope to hear from you!