The Devil Rides Out Paperback – 1961
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is the second, in published terms, to feature DW's hero the Duke de Richleau, and was his first ever black magic novel. It was a huge bestseller in the 1930s when it first came out, and continued to be a bestseller until he went out of fashion in the 1980s/1990s. Fortunately DW is now experiencing something of a resurgence, and well done Wordsworth for bringing this out in a cheap but elegant reprint (a good first edition would cost you several thousands of pounds !).
It's full of 1930s atmosphere, skilfully written and well researched too - although Wheatley never practiced magic himself, he met with many of the most famous occultists of his day (Aleister Crowley, Rollo Ahmed etc) in his endeavour to make the book as authentic as possible.
In The Devil Rides Out, the Duke and a friend find that one of their number (Simon) is missing from a reunion, and it turns out that he has fallen under the influence of a black magic sect. At first disbelieving the Duke, his friends soon discover that he is right when he says that magic still exists and that the powers of darkness are still alive and very real, as they fight a series of terrific earthly and occult battles to save their friend's soul.
The book was filmed in the 1960s with Christopher Lee taking the lead role as the Duke in one of his few appearances as a `goodie', and while Lee was first rate, for my money the book is superior to the film.
If you're grey haired and read it in your youth, it's worth reading again. If you're about to read it for the first time, I envy you. You're in for a treat !
Concerned with their friend's absence, The Duc and Rex pay a visit to Simon's house in North London, where they come across a bizarre gathering of strangers. Suspecting foul play, the Duc ignores Simon's claims that he has joined an astrological society, and quickly discovers that he has in fact, joined a satanic sect, led by the powerful Mocata. What follows is a game of cat and mouse as Simon is pulled between the powers of light and darkness in a battle of the astral plane. Dinner at the Ritz, fine wines, brandy, cigars and vintage sports cars are all part of a rich backdrop in what amounts to a phenomenally well researched and gripping thriller. Stand out scenes include the sacrifice to Satan on Salisbury Plain, the car chase, the mesmeric words of De Richleau and of course, the infamous night in the Pentangle, where the friends encounter the Angel of Death himself.
The book was to inspire the sixties Hammer version, and though the film was not quite up to the quality of the original, it did feature a great performance from Christopher Lee, and of course, the most chilling line captured on film by the powerful Charles Gray: "I won't be back, but something will."
What surprised me is that once I started reading, I couldn't put the book down. The tale is of the Duc de Richleau's battle for the soul of his friend Simon Aron, the fate of a young girl, and ultimately the fate of the world, as he takes on satanist Mocata and his entourage. Having read a biography of Aleister Crowley, we can see that he was the touchstone for Mocata, although it is only a surface representation as Mocata is presented as a villain, rather than as a human being. As far as I know, the representations of magic are well researched, with Wheatley representing both white and black magic and the will to power.
Because of the era it was written in, there are no shades of grey in the story, just as the magic used in the tale is black or white, so is the morality and Wheatley is clearly from the same stable as the other great British adventure writers like Buchan, Sapper and Ian Fleming. It also reminds me of the excellent Carnacki stories by Hodgson. As such you may feel that some of the views are a little dated. I didn't notice anything that I thought was necessarily objectionable as I do with Fleming. But the story is written at such a rollicking pace that it is impossible not to get swept up.Read more ›
Anyway, back to the story. The Duc de Richleau and his friend Rex are waiting for Simon Aron to come along to their usual jovial evenings. However, Simon hasn't turned up for several of these meetings so the Duc and Rex set out to find him and boy, what they discover he has got himself into is horrifying. Particularly so for the Duc, as he has great knowledge of the occult and the arcane.
The main evil character in this book is Mocata played admirably well in the film by Charles Grey. In the book however, Mocata is nothing like Charles Grey. He is a small, pudgy man with bulging eyes.
So begins a race to save Simon's immortal soul and also that of a young woman called Tanith.
The book moves fluently through each chapter right to the thrilling scene in the library which still gives me chills today. The ending is different to that of the film which starred Christopher Lee as de Richleau, in which he did an admirable job of portaying the Duc. The true ending is in many ways similar yet different.
If I had children I certainly wouldn't want them reading any of Dennis Wheatley's books until they were in their late teens.
Truly scary because Satanists do exist! Or maybe I should call them 'Stupid Fools' who mess with the unknown in the hope of riches and great abilities to do harm to others.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
dennis wheatley at his best..gripping tale of the occult that he writes so well..Published 1 month ago by jennifer allen
Old fashioned but thrilling. Intriguing storyline but stilted dialogue.
Good holiday reading.
I first read this book 30 years ago. I loved it then and I still love it now.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
It may seem superfluous to register an opinion on this well-liked and well-read 1934 novel, but on a 2016 re-reading - my first for at leat 30 years - I'd say it has lost none of... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Camberwick Green is Puppets
Despite occasional irritations with the writing style, it still grips. Manages to make the highly improbable sound almost believable. Read morePublished 3 months ago by W. B. Collins
A classic masterpiece in horror writing. Gripping - stands the test of time and still one of the best horror novels ever. I will be reading his others for sure.Published 4 months ago by Echo