There is possibly some truth in it - Fighting Mac (Sir Hector Archibald Macdonald) and Aleister Crowley (the Beast to adherents and his mother), were both in Paris on 24 March 1903, but there is no evidence other than that of Aleister Crowley himself that they ever actually met. However, Jake Arnott's scenario is an intriguing opening for the beginning of this rather patchy novel.
"A great, simple, lion-hearted man with the spirit of a child, thought the Beast as he caught sight of Hector Macdonald taking lunch alone in the dining room of the Hotel Regina."
From this promising opening we are taken on to the premise that the two men formed something of a friendship, perhaps allied by similar interests. Involved along the way are Baden-Powell (otherwise known as Bathing Towel to initiates), Edward VII, General Gordon, Lord Kitchener and the poet William Butler Yeats. All are called upon to play a part in either past or contemporary sections of the plot. I would like to say that all this is marvellously entertaining, but somehow it doesn't quite come off. The most exciting sections concern the various wars in which Macdonald fought, including leading a contingent of Sudanese soldiers in North Africa, which enable Arnott to construct a past for Macdonald replete with love affairs with various men, including his young Sudenese Batman, Bakhit (pun intended, I wonder?). Most of this can be documented in Macdonald's history, though at his death the British Army whitewashed his life entirely.
The most conspicuous lack, however, is any real sense of the man Aleister Crowley, Occultist, Mountaineer, writer and founder of various esoteric Magic-related associations, and possibly a spy for the British and Americans. His unique `theology' was compounded of parts comprising Buddhism, Philosophy, White Magic, so-called Sex Magic rituals, etc., and his writings were both opaque and contentious, probably deliberately so. Unfortunately, in this book, none of this really comes alive. Though we see him attending a Black Mass, (he was opposed to the sacrifice of animals - even the human kind), there is little conveyed of the man himself, supposedly the "wickedest man in the world". The book therefore seems rather hollow as a result.