The Midnight Eye Files: The Amulet

The blending of the Chandler/Hammett hard-boiled private eye motif with Lovecraft has been done before, on the screen in a pair of interesting motion pictures (Cast a Deadly Spell and Witch Hunt, which also uses its magic metaphorically as Communism in an alternate McCarthyism), and at least one anthology I can think of, Shadows Over Baker Street (which is a Holmes pastiche, but close enough for our purposes). Having said this, PI and Lovecraft elements do swirl together nicely if one works in the iconic nature of the statuette in The Maltese Falcon, for instance, and realizes that the two motifs share an affinity for mysterious suspects, unusual goings-on, and concentric circles of questions.

William Meikle plays this melody with near-perfect pitch. Though Glasgow might not be New York (or Chandler's LA), it's a worthy stand-in due to its age and the depressing weather so often alluded to. And the rocky Scottish coastline seems a good match for an island cliff-top Arkham House. Though Derek Adams might not be Spade or Marlowe, he plays the part to the hilt—and why not, he's a fan. He has the dingy office, the low-rent (mostly divorce) practice, and the excessive drinking and smoking that go well with rain-swept streets and saxophone solos. His voice screams voice-over. He also knows to label what the impossibly lovely Fiona Dunlop brings him as the "Bogart Case."

Mrs. Dunlop hires Adams to search for a stolen heirloom, the Johnson Amulet, which was mysteriously stolen from her and her husband. Adams takes the case, of course, and begins seeking out a number of fences and pawnbrokers he knows. Unfortunately, whenever he speaks to someone, that person ends up grotesquely murdered as if attacked by something tentacled (hmm, wonder why?). One good friend is thus dispatched, giving Adams a personal motive to see the case through, and a second friend mysteriously disappears, though not before helping to fill in the ancient history of the Amulet, which includes a certain Arab and his Necronomicon. A nice touch is a pair of rather questionable police constables who zero in on Adams as prime suspect in the murders that follow his trail.

Soon learning more about the Amulet and its powers, why it is sought after, and what fate will befall the world if the good guys don't get it back, Derek slogs through the detective work a beat behind, which works nicely because he himself admits he's more of a gumshoe wannabe than a great detective. He's an Everyman whose love of one set of elements crashes with terrible results into another set of elements. The climax is predictably high-strung and appropriately set at Arkham House with all sorts of tentacled beings tearing through the scenery.

Meikle's short novel is a loving romp in and out of both the Lovecraft Mythos and the noir detective novel, predictable in its own way but unapologetically so, and ultimately fulfilling because most of us have loved the same two sets of elements forever and can't resist whenever they are brought together again. There are few missteps in the plot or the telling, which follow the formulas with keen appreciation, though some technical inconsistencies do occur—Adams claims at one point to charge 500-a-day plus expenses but 250 the rest of the time, and occasionally the proofing fails with words such as "pore." These are minor problems and don't detract from the fun of the proceedings, which will surely be soon continued by a new Derek Adams adventure. Having faced Old Ones once, can he fail to be called upon to face them again? Seems like as good a curse as the drinking and smoking.

About the Author

W.D. Gagliani

W.D. Gagliani was born in Kenosha, WI, but grew up in Genova, Italy. He now lives and writes in Milwaukee, WI. He earned his Master's degree in English at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, where he also taught Composition and Creative Writing. Bill's first novel, Wolf's Trap, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in 2004—and was published by Leisure Books in 2006. He is also the author of the novels Wolf's Gambit (2009), Wolf's Bluff (2010), and Wolf's Edge (October 2011 from Samhain Publishing, who will also reissue Wolf's Trap in a new edition in 2012). He is also responsible for the thriller Savage Nights, and the novellas Wolf's Deal (2011), and The Great Belzoni and the Gait of Anubis, as well as the collection Shadowplays (all of which are available in all the popular ebook formats). With collaborator David Benton, he has published Mysteries & Mayhem, as well as various short stories and the middle grade novel I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter (as A.G. Kent). Recently he has had nonfiction in On Writing Horror (WD Books), Thrillers: The 100 Must Reads (Oceanview), and the October 2011 issue of The Writer magazine.

His short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Dark Passions: Hot Blood 13, Malpractice – An Anthology of Bedside Terror, the German anthology Masters of Unreality, and the ezine Dead Lines (all with David Benton), plus Undead Tales, Wicked Karnival Halloween Horror, Robert Bloch's Psychos, More Monsters From Memphis, Extremes 3: Terror on the High Seas, Extremes 4: Darkest Africa, The Asylum: The Violent Ward, Small Bites, The Black Spiral: Twisted Tales of Terror, and The Midnighters Club, among others. Fiction has also appeared in mostly now-defunct ezines such as Horrorfind, 1000 Delights, The Grimoire, and Dark Muse.

Besides ChiZine, his nonfiction articles, reviews, and interviews have appeared in Cemetery Dance, Hellnotes, HorrorWorld, Paperback Parade, Flesh & Blood, SFReader.com, Bookpage, BookPage.com, BookLovers, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Science Fiction Chronicle, Bare Bones, The Scream Factory, Horror Magazine, Midnight Journeys, and various others.

Along with the Bram Stoker Award nomination for Wolf's Trap, he has had six Honorable Mentions in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and won the 1999 Darrell Award of the Memphis Science Fiction Association. He is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), the International Thriller Writers (ITW), and the Authors Guild. For more info: www.wdgagliani.com. Find him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/wdgagliani and on Twitter @WDGagliani.

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