Denis Meikle obituary

·2 min read

My friend Denis Meikle, who has died aged 74 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was an author, film historian and publisher known for his pioneering and meticulously researched books on Hammer studios, Roman Polanski, Vincent Price, and Johnny Depp, and the Japanese horror franchise The Ring.

Denis was born in Glasgow, the only child of Elizabeth (nee Little) and Adam Meikle. Through his father’s work for the Post Office, the family moved to Peckham, south London, when Denis was nine years old.

A bright boy, he won a scholarship to Alleyn’s school in Dulwich and in his teenage years developed a passion for the rock’n’roll of the late 1950s and for 60s Motown, and most significantly, cinema, particular the horror, science fiction and fantasy films he saw.

In 1969, Denis married Hilda McArdle, and embarked on a career as a graphic designer, although the marriage came to an end 15 years later. In 1987, he met Jane Kelly, when she began work as his “righthand woman” at the design department of the Masters car dealership in Beckenham that he was running. In 1990, the couple married, and eventually settled in Hailsham, East Sussex, where their two children, Sarah and James, were born. There he devoted his energies to his long cherished dream of becoming a writer.

In 1996 Denis’s first book, A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer, was published, after almost six years of writing and intensive research during which time he developed a close friendship with Michael Carreras, the head of the studio in its later years. It is considered the definitive history of Hammer Films.

This was followed by Jack the Ripper: The Murders and the Movies (2001), Vincent Price: The Art of Fear (2003), Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion (2004), The Ring Companion (2005) and Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out (2006).

With Jane, in 2007 he founded Hemlock Books, specialising in non-fiction publications on film, horror, mystery and the macabre and actor and director biographies, through which he edited and published the journals The Fantastic Fifties, The Sensational Sixties and The Age of Thrills (1930s and 40s), and published his final work, Mr Murder: The Life and Times of Tod Slaughter (2019), jointly researched with Kip Xool and Doug Young.

This recent Tod Slaughter biography encapsulates Denis’s approach to film writing perfectly: scholarly, fact-driven and intensively researched without being dry, and writerly and critical without thrusting his role as the writer to the fore.

He is survived by Jane, Sarah and James.