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The Devil is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley Dark Masters
 
 

The Devil is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley Dark Masters [Kindle Edition]

Phil Baker
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Review

The Devil is a Gentleman ... is a brilliantly illuminating biography. --Michael Gove in The Times

I enjoyed this biography. It may not, in the reviewer's cliché, send me rushing back to Wheatley's novels. But I came away with an enhanced understanding of a complex and sociable man whose work epitomised some of the more lurid aspects of British popular taste. --Andrew Lycett in The Literary Review

The arguments and information in the text are excellent, so that a consistent and well-rounded personality is constructed for Wheatley and the sources of his ideas and images carefully traced --Ronald Hutton in The Times Literary Supplement

Product Description

Definitive study of Wheatley and the world he lived in, providing along the way an enthralling social history of the 20th century.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2020 KB
  • Print Length: 699 pages
  • Publisher: Dedalus (20 Nov 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006WV3EUE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #174,300 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Just finished co-editing a book of essays on Sax Rohmer, creator of Dr Fu Manchu. I've also found a dead man's manuscript, a biography of Gerald Hamilton (the original of Mr Norris, in Christopher Isherwood's novel Mr Norris Changes Trains) and this should be out soon as The Man Who Was Norris, by Tom Cullen.

There's an American edition of my Austin Osman Spare book coming out (titled Austin Osman Spare: The Occult Life of London's Legendary Artist) but NB that's all it is. It is not a new book, and it's not co-written with Alan Moore, as the Amazon listing seems to suggest. So if you've already got the UK edition, please don't buy it twice by mistake.

I'd like to correct something in my Burroughs book if it goes to a second edition, and here in the meantime. There is an error about a synthetic German opioid that Burroughs used in Tangier called dolophine, which I've reported was named after Adolf Hitler: this is widely said, and it's in the Ted Morgan biography of Burroughs (which Burroughs checked, so he probably believed the Hitler dolophine story himself). I now think this is a folk myth, and that dolophine was named after dol for pain, as in tic douloureux and dols (the unit that pain is measured in, like sound is measured in decibels).

Still with dolophine, also known as methadone, I was struck that at the end of his life Burroughs was back on the same stuff he'd been using in Tangier (as "dollies"), but I've screwed the point by confusing dolophine and Eukodol (another synthetic German opiod which Burroughs was also using in Tangier). Methadone is dolophine but it is not Eukodol.

I had a fabulous review - a fabulously bad review, that is - by some trolly clown who seemed to misunderstand almost everything, including the blurb saying that the book draws on newly available material. She thought this meant a few trivial words I had with Brion Gysin in the 1980s - but if it was anything like that we'd have just said "new material". Newly "available" means material published since the Morgan and Miles biographies, notably Burroughs's Latin American notebook (Everything Lost, 2007); James Grauerholz's research into the shooting and trial in Mexico; and accounts of Burroughs's last years in Kansas. I hope that hasn't misled anyone else. Obviously the book also contains new material in the sense of interpretation, connections, and research (and some rare photos), but "newly available" means other published sources.

Enough of that. Like everyone interested in Burroughs I'm waiting for the monumental Grauerholz biography, although it might be more like a reference work than a gripping narrative. He was unable to finish it, and it has been taken over by Miles.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life more fascinating than the work 5 Mar 2010
Format:Hardcover
Dennis Wheatly was not a great writer, perhaps not even a good one and Phil Baker, while giving full credit to his story-telling abilities, is by no means blind to the absurd aspects of his writing, nor to the unattractive elements of racism and snobbery. However anyone who, as I did, devoured his books in adolescence, will be fascinated to know what sort of a man he was. Phil Baker has been lucky to discover a man with an engagingly contradictory character - naive/shrewd, mercenary/idealistic, sensualist/moralising - and an equally strange life. Central to this narrative is his friendship with Eric Gordon Tombe, a fraudster who was eventually murdered by a fellow fraudster. Wheatley sat at the feet (literally in the case of his bookplate) of this weird poseur and drank in his bogus philosophising. Despite eventually becoming aware of the man's contradictions Wheatley resolutely failed to translate this awareness into fiction which was always about black and white, darkness and light. That is the strangeness of the man that Baker brings out so well: a writer who deliberately shut the ambiguities of his life out of his fiction, a relentless self-mythologiser and self-publicist. There are one or two infelicities of style, not inappropriate for a book on Wheatley, and a few errors, such as the muddling of Charles Williams with Charles Morgan, two very different writers. Altogether, though, a very interesting story told with a verve that rivals Wheatley and a humour and subtlety that his subject could only have envied.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brit Zeitgeist, but no Lovecraft. 30 Dec 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is not an academic Literary survey but an overview of an individual who had a suprising impact on British popular culture, and indeed the ideas to which he pandered and influenced still underline poplulist tastes today. Dennis Wheatley was the 'Adult Enid Blyton' the 'Steven King' of his day. His literate style kept him a notch above pulp but never quite made his works true literature, but what they were, and are, is immensley entertaining, more Dumas than Hugo! Like Wheatley's stories, the book has a toffee rich chewable enjoyment. I would recommend this to those with a passing interest in mid 20th Century British Pop Culture, and of course Dennis fans.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterly achievement 21 Oct 2009
Format:Hardcover
This biography has surprises as strange and as unexpected as anything in Wheatley's own novels. Meticulously researched, Baker never stifles his material by presenting it as dreary facts, but vividly and deftly creates an entirely credible portrait of Wheatley in the round, with an enviable lightness of style.
A book worthy of its subject, and likely to be one of the biographies of the year.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Wheatley biography 30 Jan 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Dennis Wheatley led a fascinating life, both as a writer and a war planner, and it's high time a decent biography of him was published. This is it. Despite Wheatley having written several volumes of revealing memoir, this book is a must for anyone interested in his life. Wheatley was often vague on dates, especially for the latter part of his life, and was not the person to put his own life into meaningful context. Phil Baker's biography is a great read, but is also invaluable as a reference tool, as it is meticulously researched and sourced, and uncovers all sorts of intriguing connections in the literary, cinematic and military fields. At this length, it's perhaps not a book to take to the beach and read in one sitting: it is more of a rich meal to savour over time. The writing is lively and often laconic - Baker is as attuned to literary establishment snobbery as he is to Wheatley's own pretensions - but it is his hard work in reference libraries and newspaper archives that has really paid off, and which makes this the definitive Wheatley biography.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dennis and All His Works 12 Aug 2010
Format:Hardcover
As a lifelong enthusiast of supernatural and occult fiction I've tried at various times to enjoy Dennis Wheatley's books, with little success. But I know enough about the history of magic to recognise the crucial role that Wheatley played in shaping the occult imagination of the 20th century, and so, somewhat daunted by its 700-page girth, I began reading Phil Baker's biography of the man who put smoking jackets on Satanists and made black magic seem like a wise career choice for many a dreaming teen.

I needn't have worried - this is one of the most entertaining books I've read in years and also one of the most lucidly fascinating and effortlessly informative. In a tone that is alternately warm and wry, sympathetic and scandalous, Baker transports us into a bygone world of genteel bigotry, social climbing, institutionalised xenophobia and the fear of the devil himself. Wheatley himself is portrayed as an engaging product of pre-war Britain, one who sought in his fiction to reflect the world as he thought it ought to be, but found that world slipping away from him even faster than he could knock out novels.

But Baker's book is about more than just Wheatley himself. We learn a great deal about the man and his times through the other characters he comes into contact with - prominent among them his mentor, the Niven-esque underworld chancer Eric Tombe, and a supporting cast of upper class fascists, eccentrics and occultists - some of them, like MI5 founder Maxwell Knight and Tank Pioneer Captain John Fuller, all three at once.

I was genuinely sad to see Wheatley go at this wonderful book's end and, as a measure of the biography's success, I was so flushed with enthusiasm for Dennis and all his works, that I immediately bought a copy of The Devil Rides Out and began reading it. I gave up after 30 pages.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful insight!
I have been a Dennis Wheatley fan for the past 45 years, having been given Strange Conflict as a teenager. Read more
Published 1 month ago by D. Miller
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh what a lovely bore.
I used to devour Wheatley books by the yard back in the day, so I thought this long overdue biography would be right up my street. How wrong I was. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Nick the Shaker
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
An informative and interesting book, covering all aspects of Wheatley's life. It is fascinating that an author so prolific in his time could be so quickly forgotten. Read more
Published 14 months ago by K. E. Stewart
4.0 out of 5 stars Dennis Wheatley in the Flesh
I had thought to buy an introduction to DW followed by one of his works and was disappointed to find that I had only a biography. Read more
Published 15 months ago by John Holland
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going but occasionally illuminating biography
It's hard to imagine now just how popular Dennis Wheatley's novel were, when these days it's only in charity or second hand shops that you're likely to find any of them. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jl Adcock
5.0 out of 5 stars Was He?
A Wheatey fan since the 50's it's interesting to know more of the man to evaluate the backgound to his stories. Read more
Published 22 months ago by J Ford
5.0 out of 5 stars The Devil is a tory
Much better than I imagined a biography of Wheatley could be.Very detailed and illuminating about the right wing politics of the day.Probably a much better job than he deserved. Read more
Published on 19 Oct 2011 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars The definitive Wheatley biography
This massive book is clearly the product of extensive original research. The author is right that Wheatley had talent, but that he squandered it through concentrating on quantity... Read more
Published on 2 Mar 2011 by Nigel Barnett
5.0 out of 5 stars very comprehensive and readable biography of this legendary author
A very well written and well researched book - very readable - a few more photographs of related subject material i. Read more
Published on 1 Jan 2011 by Rob
1.0 out of 5 stars A dull book about a fascinating author
This book is not an interesting read about Wheatley. The focus seems to be about Wheatley's fascination with the occult and his dislike of socialism. Read more
Published on 1 Nov 2010 by L. S. Sinclair
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