Friday, January 14, 2011

Guest Blog and Giveaway with Author William Meikle

I grew up with the sixties explosion of popular culture embracing the supernatural and the weird. Hammer horror movies got me young. And the one that hooked me was Dracula.
I first saw this in about 1970, on BBC2, on an old black and white TV which was about 10 inches square and made everybody look like short fat cubes. But even that didn't detract from the power of this film.

This Hammer horror version sticks fairly closely to Stoker's original novel, and as such is a purist's dream.

Lee plays the Count as no one before or since. His flat demonic stare sems to ooze pure evil. The count has become a cultural icon in the past forty years, and has even been parodied and made fun of (Count Duckula anybody?) but I challenge anybody to look Lee in the eye when he's on the hunt and not feel a frisson of cold terror.

Vampires have been humanised recently (and have even got a soul in Angel's case), but it shouldn't be forgotten that they are bloodsucking bas*ards - that's what they are, that's what they do. The high cheekbones, sex-appeal and good clothes sense are just nice-to-have after thoughts. And in Lee's case you can believe that the bloodsucking is the important part, judging by the relish he shows for the deed.

And just because Buffy can stake a dozen or so without breaking sweat, it shouldn't be forgotten that the vampire is traditionally a great evil force of destruction. Lee never lets you forget it.

Which brings me round to The Watchers trilogy, my retelling of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion in Britain. Bonnie Prince Charlie, and all his highland army, are Vampires and are heading south to claim the British throne. The "Watchers" of the title are the guards of the old Roman wall built by Hadrian, now reinforced to keep the vamps out. It is constantly patrolled by officers of the Watch, two of whom become the main protagonists of the series. I got the idea on a walk along what is left of the wall, and by the time I'd had finished my walk and had a few beers the first part of the trilogy was fully formed in my head. Think "ZULU" or "Last of the Mohicans" with vamps and you'll get a feel of what I was trying to do.

I was dealing with a retelling of the Bonnie Prince Charlie story, where romantic myths have subsumed the harsh reality of a coup gone badly wrong. I needed to strip all the romance out of the Highlanders and build them up from the bottom. Making them a shambling army of vamps and mindless drones seemed an obvious place to start. The Watchers series is a swashbuckler, but there is little lace and finery. What I do have is blood and thunder, death and glory in big scale battles and small scale heartbreak. I love it.

Watchers: The Coming of the King is out new in print and ebook

A free ebook of Watchers: The Coming of the King (MOBI, EPUB or PDF ) will be awarded to the best comment relating to this blog post, to be judged by William Meikle on Jan 31st

The old wall is a border: England and Scotland, South and North, light and darkness.

It is 1745, and the long-awaited night as come. The Bloodking calls his army to battle, and armed with the powers of the undead and the damned, he will bring them South to claim his birthright: The throne of Britain.
Only the old Watchers on the wall stand in his way. They, their swords, and their faith. But too much time has passed and the Watch has grown slack and ill-prepared for the coming war. Only Martin and Sean have seen the horrors that lie ahead for humankind. Only they have the power to stop it. Now the two young officers of the Watch have a duty to perform.

Stop the Bloodking.

Or die trying.

William Meikle is a Scottish writer with ten novels published in the genre press and over 200 short story credits in thirteen countries. He is the author of the ongoing Midnight Eye series among others, and his work appears in a number of professional anthologies. His ebook THE INVASION has been as high as #2 in the Kindle SF charts. He lives in a remote corner of Newfoundland with icebergs, whales and bald eagles for company. In the winters he gets warm vicariously through the lives of others in cyberspace, so please check him out at

They were a rag-tag bunch for an army. From his vantage point Sean saw kilted Scotsmen, the red-tunics of those who had once been in the English army, the tattered woollen overgarments of farm workers and, down there, just beginning to climb, the recently animated bodies of fellow officers of the watch killed in the last attack. They made up little more than a screaming, disorganised, mob; men, women and older children all united in just one common cause - to get over the wall and feed.

He aimed the nozzle of the bellows down at them and pressed the handles together. The stench of garlic suddenly filled his nose and brought tears to his eyes. As the water hit the attackers they fell back, hissing and mewling, leaving long trails of greasy marks as they slid back to the earth. Screams rent the air, inhuman screeches of pain. Some of them, only their heads touched by the liquid, kept trying to climb until being hosed down further. And still the throng pressed forward, walking over the bodies of the fallen. And everywhere that water touched it brought boiling lesions to the skin and fresh screams in the air.

"This is no way for a man to fight." The Warden shouted, and Sean had to agree with him, but anything that killed the Others so efficiently was welcome at a time like this.

He saw that the Warden was managing to pump nearly double the volume of water that he was capable of; the huge muscles of his shoulders and arms bunched and knotted tight under his overshirt. The Others had fallen in their scores below him and he was now beginning to create an empty buffer zone. However the enemy were getting smarter, and more of them were moving in Sean's direction, where the flow of the killing liquid was less.

"Close up," Sean shouted, and the Warden moved nearer. Sean kept pumping water down over the wall, and further along he could see another doing the same, and the Others kept coming, and they kept dying. The smell that came off the hissing, bubbling bodies stung his eyes and threaten to make him gag as it hit the back of his throat, but he kept pumping.

"Check the barrels," he shouted at the Warden. "We can't let them run dry."

"Too late," the big man replied. There was a sucking sound as his pump brought up air. He dropped the bellows.

"To me," the big man shouted. "More water. More garlic." At the same time Sean's bellows began to wheeze.

He turned, and saw a convoy of children labouring with buckets and gourds, heading for the wall, but it would be long seconds before they would be able to replenish his weapon.

One final squeeze left barely a dribble coming from the spout. Sean dropped the bellows and unsheathed his sword as the black swarm began to slowly make their way up the wall over their twice dead.

"I'm always impressed when anyone can add a new twist to the venerable vampire canon. Hugely enjoyable fun to read." --Joe Gordon, The Alien Online
"...a confident and breathless romp through an alternative Jacobean history. Aims for entertainment, and hits the mark." --Simon Morden, Vector, the magazine of the British SF Association

"The book is very well-written. The language is rich, and... I found myself carrying the book everywhere, and taking slightly longer over lunch than I should have, as I just had to know what was happening!" --The Dracula Society

"The author is relentless; just when you catch your breath, something new and exciting happens, sending you spinning into another part of the adventure, and keeping you flipping pages to see what's next." --David Wilbanks, Horrorworld


Tea and Tomes said...

I'm not quite old enough to have been able to embrace that genre when it first made a big boom, but my own introduction into horror and the like first came when I watched Interview with the Vampire. I was too young to watch it, according to my parents, but being in the beginning of my "obsessed-with-vampires" stage, I wasn't about to let a little thing like that stop me! I had a TV in my room, and snuck out of bed one night when it was airing on cable TV, and watched it really quietly so they wouldn't notice I was still up!

I was hooked, and wouldn't look back!

Mary Newhall said...

Ever since I was little and watched "The Shining" by Stephen King, I had to read every book by him and watch every movie (most times the books are better, as usual). Now, I can't get enough of horror books and movies. My first Vampire movie was with Lagosi as Dracula and I believe no one can play Dracula like he does. I then got into watching the series Night Stalker and the comedy spoof of Dracula with the recently diseased Leslie Nielsen. I have read most of Ann Rice's Vampire books and lover her movie "An Interview with a Vampire". I have never read any of the Watcher books mentioned in this post but they seem very interesting. I truly want to read Island Life by my favorite author William Meikle. One day, I will get this book.

SandyG265 said...

My brother and I grew up watching Creature Features every Saturday mrning on TV. And every month we'd drag my dad to the comic book store to get the latest copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland.

Bethie said...

This sounds like something I would really enjoy. I remember getting hooked on Horror while watching Vincent Price in the 4:30 movie. Wow, I just dated myself. Good luck with the release and thanks for the giveaway.

lizzi0915 at aol dot com

Cara Marsi said...

I remember those old Dracula movies. Scared me to death. To this day vampires scare me. I believe they exist. Your books sound very intriguing, and more than a little scary.

Tore said...

Please enter me in contest. I love reading about vampires.

my crap said...

Wow! Awesome giveaway!! I've always been one drawn to the horror genre with vampires being a top favorite.

Sirhijinx said...

Keep up the good work...

S.A.Robb said...

I have been fascinated with Vampires ever since the first time I heard about Dracula. I had heard about it from a family member when I was young and totally enthralled in the story.
From then on I read everything I could relating to them, although never immersing myself in a goth movement. I strictly enjoyed the idea, myth, whatever you want to call it.

I have been to Hadrians wall and think your story idea is interesting, and well thought out.

I hope to one day write a series retelling the vampire myth in a comical way, changing the story behind the legend, and having some fun while I do it.

Best of luck

shadowferret said...

I remember as a child staying up late Saturday night's to sneak a peak at a local horror host, Dr. Cadaverino. Those movies, both Universal and Hammer, scared me. The vampires were monsters, scary and deadly creatures of the night. I long for a return to vampires as monsters and not lovers.