Vivian (Bernard) Meek came to my attention when one of his books, The Curse of Red Shiva, appeared in the Hillman-Curl line of mysteries, covers of which I’ve been gradually uploading to the Murder at 3 Cents a Day website.

   Mr. Meek was born in 1894 and, as recently discovered by Victor Berch, died in California in 1955. Some short biographical notes online describe him as being an author, engineer and a war correspondent. In the course of these occupations he was also a dedicated world traveler, spending much time in India and the surrounding territory. In addition to his suspense and horror fiction, for which he is probably best known today, he wrote The People of the Leaves (Philip Allan, UK, 1931; Henry Holt, 1931), an anthropological study of an obscure tribe called the Juang located in Orissa, a sizable state along the east coast of the Indian subcontinent.


UPDATE: While waiting for me to complete my commentary on the books themselves, Victor came up with the following additional information on the author:

   Here is some info I picked up from various documents I found, the most informative being the information Meik supplied on his flight to the US for permanent residency here. According to the California Death Index, Meik was born June 21, 1894 and died December 22, 1955. Another database gives his birth date as July 21, 1894, however.

   Supposedly born in Calcutta, India, on the flight information, Meik claims he was born at sea on a British vessel. From another document, his father was a Lorenzo Meik and his mother was Alice Gertrude Thomas Meik. Another document lists his wife’s name as Bernadette Marie Desparadze. Going back to the flight document, the following further information is supplied:

   His flight left Frankfort, Germany June 21, 1947 and arrived in NY on June 22, 1947. His passport was issued June 14, 1947, a week before his 53rd birthday.

      Height: 6 feet
      Complexion: Swarthy
      Last permanent residence: 41 Denman Drive, London
      Occupation: Journalist
      Intention: Permanent residency in US. He was going to stay with an uncle, Francis T. Meik of Salt Lake City, Utah
      Age: 52

   There was no indication that his wife ever joined him. One outstanding feature that he had when he arrived in the US was that he was missing his left eye.


   I’m back. I have not located a usable cover scan for this first book, a collection of horror fiction, but the contents are listed in Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, who indicates that some of the stories are also crime-related. Note the slight correction in the title: the apostrophe is correctly after the “s”.

Devils’ Drums (Philip Allan, UK, 1933; Midnight House, US, in preparation, Douglas A. Anderson, editor)

* • An Acre in Hell • ss
* • Devils’ Drums • ss
* • The Doll of Death • nv
* • Domira’s Drum • ss
* • The Honeymoon in Hate • ss
* • L’Amitie Reste • ss
* • The Man Who Sold His Shadow • ss
* • Ra • ss
* • White Man’s Law • ss
* • White Zombie • ss

The volume edited by Doug Anderson will contain three additional stories:

* • Chimoro
* • I Leave It to You
* • The Two Old Women

   A second book, also published by Philip Allan in that publisher’s “Creeps series,” is a novel rather than a short story collection; it is nonetheless considered to be a sequel to the preceding one:
Veils of Fear (Philip Allan, 1934)

Veils of Fear

   The book is not presently included in CFIV, but Bill Pronzini says that in addition to featuring a reporter named Neil Martyn, “There are some homicides and suspense elements but they seem to be pretty much connected to the occult horror theme. Settings range from Port Said to the Far East.”

   On this basis, Al Hubin has indicated that the book will appear in an upcoming Addenda installment to the Revised Crime Fiction IV, but with a dash to indicate that it is only marginally criminous.

   Doug Anderson has more to say about the two books: “While Neil Martyn is the main point of view character, the [returning] series characters in Veils of Fear are Geoffrey Aylett and Padre Jan Vaneken. Both appear, along with others (Peter Verrey; one Vereker, no first name given; and Doctor Strang) in Devils’ Drums (and two – Vereker and Strang – are mentioned in the short story ‘The Two Old Women’.”


   The final work of fiction from the pen of Vivian Meik is also the only one which to this date has been published in the US, also a novel:

The Curse of the Red Shiva. (Philip Allan, 1936; Hillman-Curl, 1938.)

Curse of Red Shiva

Jacket blurb: Taken from the Hillman-Curl edition.

    “You will gasp for mercy for your children as I have cried for mine, and only the striking blade will be the answer. Behold! By Red Shiva I curse you!” A knife gleamed in her hand as it flashed downward and buried itself in her heart.

    More than a century and a half since those words were uttered by a beautiful Indian slave to Peter Trenton, adventurer …

    But now, after five generations, Sir Peter Trenton was found under Westminster Bridge, brutally murdered, a gold mohur tied around his neck.

    Sir Derek Balliol had guessed the significance of the series of murders – but he was killed before he could speak! Only Verrey was left … and against him were pitted the cunning powers behind the newly-awakened race consciousness of the East.

Review excepts: [Isaac Anderson, New York Times] “This is just the book for those who like tall tales of Oriental intrigue and of menaces to the supremacy of the white race.”

   [Saturday Review of Literature]. “Blood and thunder yarn of slinking Eurasians, renegade whites, stranglings, etc., with reasonably good detective trimmings.”

   [Bill Pronzini, earlier on the Mystery*File blog]. “A Sax Rohmerish adventure mystery with a screwball plot.”


Short fiction: [This list, which includes reprint appearances, is probably not complete. Doug Anderson promises that his edition of Devils’ Drums will include a more extensive bibliography as well as additional details of the author’s life, including where and when he lost one eye.]

    * • Chimoro. To be included in the expanded Devils’ Drums. From Doug Anderson: “This is an extract from a chapter of one of his autobiographical volumes, Zambezi Interlude (1932). It reads exactly like one of his stories.”

    * • The Doll of Death. From Devils’ Drums. Reprinted in The Sixth Pan Book of Horror Stories, Herbert van Thal, editor; Pan, pb, 1965. Televised on Night Gallery, NBC, Sunday, May 20, 1973.

    * • A Honeymoon in Hate. From Devils’ Drums. Reprinted in A Wave of Fear, Hugh Lamb, editor; W. H. Allen, 1973; Taplinger, US, hc, 1974.
      — Mikalongwa, Angoniland. English refugees Blair Taylor and Martin Kemp are bitter rivals for the love of the beautiful Estelle. When she decides to marry Taylor, Kemp turns to black magic and drives him to madness and suicide. Estelle avenges her beloved by marrying his murderer, having first infected herself with the blood of a leper. On their wedding night she performs a macabre striptease …

    * • I Leave It to You. From ?? Included in Another Corner Seat Omnibus, Anonymous, editor; Grafton Publications, March 1945. To be included in the expanded Devils’ Drums.

    * • The Two Old Women. From Monsters, A Collection of Uneasy Tales, Charles Birkin, editor. Philip Allan, 1934. Reprinted in The Fourth Pan Book of Horror Stories, Herbert van Thal, editor; Pan, pb, 1963. To be included in the expanded Devils’ Drums.