Dennis Wheatley was an English author of thrillers, adventure fiction, occult fiction, crime, and non-fiction. He was one of the most prolific and bestselling authors of his time in the UK, selling millions of copies of his novels from the 1930s through the 1960s. The official Dennis Wheatley website states that “by the time of his death in 1977, it is estimated that Wheatley had sold in excess of fifty million copies of his books worldwide.”
I was introduced to Wheatley’s works through two Hammer horror films, The Devil Rides Out and The Lost Continent. (They also adapted another novel from his Black Magic series, To The Devil — A Daughter, in 1975.) In a scene in the film version of The Lost Continent, one of the passengers on the ship is reading a Wheatley novel, which prompted me to seek out his work. That led me to my favorite of his novels, The Devil Rides Out, which was originally published in 1934. The book is an enduring classic of the genre — it is truly timeless, as Wheatley pulls no punches; when reading, it is easy to forget the book was written over 80 years ago. It is a vastly satisfying mix of grand adventure, horror, and the occult.
In the 1960s, Bantam reprinted a handful of Wheatley novels in the U.S. but as far as I know, they did not get far along in the series. Next to my Hutchinson hardcover edition of the The Irish Witch, the Bantam printings are the only Wheatley books I now own, although I once had an opportunity to pick up roughly 40 of his adventure and mystery paperbacks for a reasonable price but turned away (and have regretted it since). Nonetheless, these Black Magic novels fit nicely in the collection, and are quite satisfying.
I urge readers to search for more information about Dennis Wheatley. The site noted above notes the lamented unavailability of his work in bookstores over the past couple of decades, and points a finger at his unflinching handling of the occult, satanism, sadism toward women, and in particular, his tendency to proclaim the “superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race above all others.” Due to the changes in publishing in recent years, much of his work is back in print, or available in electronic editions. Despite any perceived flaws in personal philosophies that made it into the pages of his stories, he is still an important author and deserves to be remembered for his significant contributions to the genre.
To browse the list of his titles currently available in print and eBook editions, click here.
These cover scans are from the library of author Christopher Fulbright.