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on 14 November 2011
There is a famous drinking game amongst British students based around the film `Withnail and I'. The rule of the game is simple. Whatever the two main characters drink in the film. You drink. I can't imagine too many have made it to the credits. I may make a suggestion that `Gateway to Hell' would make an excellent vehicle for a foodies version of this game, as throughout the novel the main characters never stop eating. Every other page has the characters indulging in some gastronomic frenzy, and not just any old food either, even in times of imprisonment there always seems to be the opportunity for a little fois grais, French toast and a decent bottle of champagne. Wheatly was clearly a man of a voracious appetite.

`Gateway to Hell' features old friends, the Duc de Richelieu, Simon Aaron, Richard Eaton and Rex van Ryn. Van Ryn has gone missing in South America, stealing $1 million in the process. With dark forces suspected our heroes go in search of van Ryn, picking up the beautiful, but blind, Miranda van Ryn along the way as they fight the Black Power movement, a group hell-bent on bring temporary chaos to the world, in order to bring about a supposed new era of peace and equality. The set up of the story is actually rather good. Without giving too much away, the idea of an equal rights movement being a front for black magicians is a nice touch, but Wheatly's treatment of it is rather ham-fisted, using the plot to unashamedly promote his own opinions on race and class. The problem with Wheatly's writing here is that it is so dated. As a comparison, in `The Devil Rides Out' he largely gets away with his anachronistic language and attitudes as there is actually little in the story to tie those opinions to the era politically. Here, however, relating a supernatural story to a political one, very much of its time, really grates to modern eyes.

I'm not the sort to get riled by outmoded attitudes in old artworks. There is little point in getting indignant about the racism, sexism etc, in old books, but here I would make an exception. There is a lot of old fashioned British `fair-play' here, `...equal rights are all well and good but...' `I think all men are created equal but...' and so on and so forth. Whilst it is by no means the focus of the book, the modern reader cannot help but feel that this is the ranting of an old man, railing against a changing world.

Another area of useful comparison with `The Devil Rides Out' is the detailed references to occult practises. Inexpertly handled, these descriptions of ritual and magic can be wince-inducingly awful, and here I'm afraid they are. Constant references to being `up on the astral' become irritating, as it is used as a lazy device to either get around a problem or move the story on rapidly. In `The Devil Rides Out' it is most definitely not the case, there the occult is delicately explained and thus the novel remains convincing.

It is a shame that this book seems so rushed, Wheatly is just going through the motions here. It's a pity because de Richelieu, Simon Aaron, Richard Eaton and Rex van Ryn are such strong characters, and the reader can't help but feel that they are wasted here. As an aside, I'm surprised these four haven't featured in a film series of their own.

In summary, 'Gateway to Hell' has some good elements to it, but they are the broader elements of character and plot. Where the novel really fails is in the detail. The poorly handled story, the political posturing and the unconvincing descriptions of the occult, make this a disappointing read. It's not a particularly substantial book and one gets the impression that Wheatly knock it out without a great deal of care or attention. Not the best supernatural novel ever, but probably its most gluttonous.
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on 5 June 2016
Sadly (even though I normally love Wheatley's work) this reads more like a South American travel brochure as Simon and Richard search for Rex van Ryn. Wheatley spends more time describing the scenery than actually spinning a tale of black magic and daring do. Utterly boring. Really disappointed.
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on 11 February 2015
I am a big fan of Dennis Wheatley and the Duec De Richleau but unfortunately the end was a bit pathetic two or three pages and it was all over
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on 23 April 2002
Rex Van Ryn has disappeared having withdrawn over a million dollars from his family bank in Buenos Aires. On hearing of his friends strange disappearance the Duc de Richleau, Simon and Richard embark on a mission to find their old friend. Little do they now that once again they will have to pit themsleves against the powers of darkness to rescue Rex. Another very good Occult novel by Dennis Wheatley.
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on 6 February 2012
I am a long-standing fan of classic and wierd horror fiction, and I came to Wheatley because he was influenced by one of my faves William Hope Hodgson. The Devil rides out, although I found it long-winded and pompous actually had some proper scary moments. So I decided to give this one a go. I shouldn't have bothered. Set in South America, The heroes of TDRO search for their chum Rex and get involved with a bunch of evil Satanists bent on World domination via an extremely offensive and unlikely race war scheme. This, apart from the truly ill-advised central conceit is just a poorly written adventure story where the heroes seem to spend their time escaping then getting re-captured, then escaping then ....you get the idea. I didn't like how the Duke could just slip into "the astral" when they needed information. As easy as going online. If anyone had power like that, they would never have gotten captured in the first place. The scary bits were scarce, unconvincing and gave me the impression that Wheatley just was not interested.

As I peruse yellowed pages I come across lots of racist,sexist and bombastically pompous old stuff. In most cases, as long as there is some sort of decent plot, I am willing to overlook this as a product of the times. This can even be quite interesting as as a window into contemporary mindset. Not this though. It has nothing going for it at all. It is kind of an angry rant with little actual entertainment value. I get the impression that Wheatley just churned this one out Barbara Cartland style. A pity. I wanted to like Wheatley. Another series to get into. But I dont know.

I am not yet ready to write Wheatley off just yet. I just got hold of another one of his Black magic series "Strange conflict" set in World War Two. Nazis and Voodoo. I'll give it a go and post my thoughts.
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to try and discover why their friend Rex has embezzled his own Bank out of a million dollars. De Richleau now getting older is looking into buying a property in Corfu and Marie-Lou is recovering from a Hysterectomy. So it is up to Richard and Simon to find Rex and discover why he has pinched all this money.

They find themselves on his trail in Buenos Aires and with the help of a beautiful woman called Silvia they get a lead on where he may have gone.

It's not long before they find themselves once more embroiled in Satanic goings on and it is when they are about to be killed that de Richleau turns up having found out from being on the Astral Plan they that were both in trouble.

This isn't one of Wheatley's best offerings but I still enjoyed it..........particularly the end where the Satanists got what they deserved.
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on 18 September 2008
This is another of Wheatley's "Black Magic" stories featuring the Duc de Richleau, Simon, Richard and Rex. Wheatley is at his most tired and formulaic, leading up to a tedious conclusion part swashbuckler, part supernatural.
Wheatley's politics are at their most questionable here, given that the plot centres on the notion that the Black Power movement was run by satanists and followed by gullible cretins(and zombies). The satanic leaders of the movement are of various nationalities, none English of course, principally a dapper Spanish gentleman and a German ex-Nazi general with sadistic tendencies and an improbably poor grasp of English sentence structure.
Plot developments also go beyond the limits of credibility, especially the ridiculous method the Duc uses to free his friends from police custody and suspicion of murder in the early part of the book.

From my reading of Dennis Wheatley he was far more prolific than was good for his quality control, though he wrote a few first-class thrillers(the first Wheatley book I read, The Shadow of Tyburn Tree, is still a personal favourite). My initial enthusiasm for his novels has waned and I think I'll give him a miss for a while. Gateway to Hell is one of the weakest, most irritating and plain stupid of all his books.
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on 20 January 2014
Like all Dennis Wheatley's books this is one I couldn't put down. It was one of the few I hadn't read before so I didn't really know what to too expect. I suppose in 1950's speak it was a ripping good yarn and refreshingly politically incorrect particularly with the characters he has created. I know that Dennis Wheatley's understanding of the "Prince of Darkness" and his friends was quite extensive I only hope it turns out to be untrue.

Whether you believe in the subject or not just let your imagination go and enjoy the story, and be glad your safe at home! All I'll say is I have cancelled my planned expedition to the Amazon.
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on 9 September 2015
Good story, I love the period it's set in with the three main characters all well to do people who can find money no problem to gad around the world.
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on 14 May 2014
Yet another good Dennis Wheatley book, his Black Magic stories are worth reading, and most of them have been made into good films.
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