Monday 1 October 2012

Dark Melodies

Dark Melodies is a collection of short stories from William Meikle and is published, in a variety of formats, by Dark Regions Press. On his website, William describes himself as a writer at the "pulpy end of the market" - a genre that is, in my opinion, unfairly looked down upon. Horror, in particular, is a broad church - which is why I enjoy reading it so much. I enjoy the stories that hold up a mirror to society, using metaphors to comment and even sometimes educate but I also enjoy a good old monster story, of the kind that got me into the genre in the first place. Genre writing is frowned upon by those who think it panders to the masses, that it is easier to write than higher works of great literary merit. Bollocks, frankly. It could be argued that the "literary" novel is a genre in itself, following its own conventions and rules. Irrespective of genre, there is good writing and there is bad writing. Dark Melodies is good writing. Very good writing.
There are eight stories in the book, six of which are original to the collection. As the title suggests, the stories share a common theme of music. They share much more though. The book is cleverly constructed - like a symphony - with motifs and themes recurring throughout. The music in these stories is a key to unlocking another world, a theme explored most notably in The Unfinished Basement, The Death of Sergeant Macleod and the opening story in the collection The Tenants of Ladywell Manor - a pastiche of Pride and Prejudice which introduces cosmic horror to 19th Century society in a thoroughly entertaining way.
The story also introduces the phrase "lost to the dance" which then re-occurs in all of the other stories,  a clever device to create another link between them, akin to the main theme of a symphony being repeated in its different movements.
There are other linking devices too, the piano in The Persistence of Memory may or may not be the same one found in The Unfinished Basement (and may, or may not have been fashioned from a Navy ship in The Tenants of Ladywell Manor). The music, or rather the tune that is played to bring about mysterious and terrifying consequences, may be the same in every story - perhaps The Death of Sergeant Macleod..? A manuscript, detailing an earlier, disastrous encounter with the "other" world features in The Unfinished Basement and provides evidence for Meikle's Private Investigator Derek Adams to uncover the truth in a fittingly exciting - and thoroughly entertaining - conclusion to the book in Rhythm and Booze...
A couple of the stories, The Chamber of Tiamat and The Mill Dance, are more stand-alone, less linked to the overarching theme. I guess they're the key changes, the middle eight...
William Meikle is a new author to me but on the strength of Dark Melodies I will certainly be seeking out more of his writing. It's a while since I've been so entertained by a collection of stories. Dark Melodies was a pleasure to read -and I don't mean a guilty pleasure. It's a collection that struck a chord with me and I heartily recommend it.

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