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Here is a universal truth some people often forget: all writing has form.  It doesn’t matter whether the writing in question is poetry, drama, essay writing, or fiction, everything has a shape in how it’s crafted.  Quite often, many of those forms and shapes are consistent and frequently used.  It’s a charge often seen when a critic/reviewer charges that a book is “formulaic.”  More often then not, that’s meant in a negative way.  However, it doesn’t have to be.  Being “formulaic” or “by the numbers” in popular fiction, for example, is not a terrible thing.

Think of this way:  cooking usually tends to be formulaic.  If one is baking a cake, there are always going to be similar ingredients used, whether it be flower, butter, and sugar.  One is hardly going to bake a cake using baking soda, rock salt, and organ meat.  Even if one did, however, I wouldn’t eat it — its value as a cake becomes highly suspect.  A highly skilled chef, on the other hand, would take the familiar cake ingredients, cook close to the recipe (form), but would provide personal enough personal variations so that the result ends up being uniquely theirs.

Skilled genre writers often approach fiction the same way a master chef approaches a recipe.  Let me put it this way.  Lets substitute “Detective novel” for “cake.”  Lets say the ingredients were 1) a broke private eye, 2) A beautiful, but mysterious woman, 3) Cops who are either wrong or three steps behind the PI, and 4) dastardly villains.  There’s likely more, but lets say these are the butter, sugar, salt, and flower of the cake recipe — that is, the basic building blocks.  One can mix them and follow the usual recipe to get the most standard and widely consumed results.    Yet, it’s the variations and embellishments that separate the common and mediocre from something that is a little more special and interesting.

So, lets say you have those basic mystery building blocks mentioned, and you start begin to add occult magic, Lovecraft’s elder god, tentacle monsters, and a few other things.  All of a sudden, you don’t have the standard noir novel anymore.  You have something a little more unique.  And that, in my long winded way, finally brings me to William Meikle’s The Midnight Eye Files: The Amulet.

Sure, it’s a noir/detective/private eye mystery.  Meikle isn’t content to just leave it that way, as adds a strong touch of Lovecraftian horror.  The result is not that inedible rock salt cake I mentioned earlier.   The result has the best of both worlds — it’s a credible mystery, and it has enough of the supernatural to land it squarely in the horror camp.  It plays so well in both worlds, it really is a pleasure to read.

Basically, the story follows a detective in a story that starts in the standard noir way.  The detective is sitting in his office, wondering about the state of his career when I strange woman walks in promising a lot of money.  She wants him to find an old artifact from the Middle East — an amulet.  Apparently, it’s been stolen.  The PI takes the case, and the world begins to slowly unravel around him.  The amulet has mystical properties, and the people who stole it want to use it to acheive a nefarious objective.  The shit hits the fan — to use a cliche, and the fate of the world remains in the balance.

As I said, earlier, the story meets a basic starting formula, but Meikle actively makes that formula his.  The writing itself is crisp, filled with good description and strong dialogue.  The Scottish setting, while not prominent, grounds the reader in a sense of place.  The characters, while themselves variations on noir tropes, are beleivable, and more importantly, likable.    All of this, taken together, makes for a smooth, enjoyable read.  In that regard, I have Meikle’s sequel, The Sirens, and I look forward to reading that soon.

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One Comment

  1. Well thank you very much 🙂

    Glad you enjoyed it.

    Willie


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