I was in Secondary Three when Jimmy and I went to Malacca for a short trip. While wandering the streets of downtown Malacca like blur sotongs, we bumped into our classmate Julian who invited us to stay at his grandparents’ place instead of at a hotel. So we checked out and hauled our asses over to Julian’s grandparents’ place. (It was a good thing that happened, I came home with five cents in my pocket eventually. The other good thing that happened was that I managed to meet my dear penpal Catherine Wee Jee Lan of 25, Tranquerah Pantai One.)
Anyway, I digressed.
In the room I was put in, which was Julian’s uncle’s room, I saw a bookshelf, and from the bookshelf I retrieved a book.
It was The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley. There, at age 15, my love for this author’s works started.
Widely regarded as one of the finest occult thrillers ever written, and almost certainly his most famous work, The Devil Rides Out, published in 1934, is a rollercoaster of an adventure, set in post World War One England – but note, it is not a horror or ghost story – it is a thriller, the best example of its kind.
It was hailed as the best thing of its kind since Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the comparison is entirely justified. This classic tale of devilry might also be said to have been strongly influenced by the ripping occult tales of Sax Rohmer as well. The book was even made into a film by Hammer Film Productions in 1967, starring Christopher Lee.
As a teenager, that book shocked and enthralled me and hooked me to the rest of Wheatley’s books. Sadly they are all out of print now. (A couple of years ago, a dear friend scoured the net and manage to track down an entire used set for me!)
Set amidst the dashing world of the wealthy in 1920’s England, Wheatley conjured up an amazing yarn of satanic horrors and hidden diabolism lurking amid the shadowed mansions of St John’s Wood and in luxurious West End hotels, of midnight car-chases through the English countryside in Hispano limousines and bottle-green Bentleys. Readers are transported into a glamorous era of aristocratic manners, exotically beautiful women, regally-appointed apartments, burgundy smoking jackets, fine aged cognacs, Veuve Cliquot champagne and Hoyo de Monterrey cigars.
It is said that Wheatley garnered many details and esoteric data from the libertine Aleister Crowley, the Old Catholic prelate Montague Summers and the Jamaican occultist Rollo Ahmed. His books were certainly far superior fare to much of today’s etiolated crap and in no small part this is due to the almost mediaeval or Zarathustran dualism which pervades Wheatley’s mindset.
Jean Parvulesco even asserted that Wheatley was what he termed a “mediumistic” writer and that his novels actually depict the occult forces and undercurrents operating beneath the facade of the 20th century. Behind the narrative we are supposed to discern the great spiritual conflict underlying the modern epoch, a kind of chronicle of the final phases of the Kali Yuga.
Yup, you can see Wheatley certainly has his fans.
Wheatley was born in 1897 and passed away in 1977.
He was a soldier during the First World War and during the Second World War, he was a member of the London Controlling Section, which secretly coordinated strategic military deception and cover plans.