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on 16 May 2000
Readers who already have more than a superficial knowledge of the life and works of Aleister Crowley will find very little that is new in this biography. It is really just a re-hash of all the well known scandals and conflicts that plagued Crowleys life (most of his own making). However, for anyone reading about Crowley for the first time it could be the ideal introduction because it is written clearly and simply and without the assumption by the author that the reader has an understanding of Crowleys particular brand of "magick". It is rather unfortunate however that the book is sub-titled "The Beast Demystified", because what this book definately does not do is demystify him, but,to be fair to Hutchinson no single book could ever hope to explain a man as complex as Crowley. If what one wants is a good entertaining read and at the same time something to wet the appetite to know more about this enigmatic man, then this book is as good a starter as any.
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on 7 June 2012
This book gives no sources. When will small publishers realise that this renders a book worthless? The quotes are attributed to their originator but only rarely to the work they are from. Information contained within the author's text is never attributed.

Crowley is a fascinating character, about whom an awful lot of drivel (both demonising and deifying) has been written. So the task of demystification is a very worthwhile one, as I suspect he will still be a fascinating character even when all that rubbish written about him has been cleared away and we're left with only the truth (or closest you can expect to get to the truth).

It was especially important that this author gave his sources as I noticed a couple of inaccuracies regarding Somerset Maugham (whom I'm no expert on). On page 95 Maugham is described as being 26 in 1902 (he was born 30/11/1874), and on page 99 'The Magician' was described as his second novel (according to 'The Reader's Companion to Twentieth Century Writers' it was his 8th).

This book is also far too short, and has the feel of a piece of journalism knocked off quickly for the money. We can't know if this was the author's fault or the publisher's. In its brevity it omits a lot of things I've read about Crowley elsewhere that could do with a dose of demystification, for example his rather unbelievable chess-playing ability which only gets one very brief mention. (It isn't, perhaps, a failing that the 'magick' isn't treated in depth, as it would be insulting to the reader's intelligence to treat that nonsense as anything more than an excuse to dress up, boss gullible people about and generally play silly buggers.)

I'm also not sure it's a good idea for a writer to slag off another writer's writing when he uses words such as slumped and pleonastic incorrectly.

The author has obviously done some research for the book and a lot of what he has given us could be of value, but without citing his sources we can never know if what we are reading is the whole truth, the inaccurate truth or simply an addition to the great mountain of guff written about this most interesting of men.
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on 21 September 2012
I've read two other books about Crowley and two by him, including his autobiography "Confessions of Aleister Crowley". This book told me nothing that I didn't already know. It has no bibliography- very unusal in a non-fiction book. Crowley was above all an occultist, yet Hutchinson appears to have to knowledge of or interest in this subject. He calls Dion Fortune a "fourth rate novelist". Dion Fortune's books "Moon Magic" and "The Sea Priestess" are widely regarded (by those who study these things) as the best novels about ritual magic ever written. Dion fouded a magical Order which remains active to this day. Crowley himself wrote (among many other works)"Liber 777" which is again widely regarded as one of the best books on ritual magic ever written. This book is not even moentioned in Hutchinson's index. Nor is Paula "Deidre" MacAlpine who was the mother of Crowley's son and was close to him during the last years of his life. Hutchinson seems to have no real interest in Crowley. nor in the occult subculture in which he lived. I can only assume that he wrote this book purely for the money. The very idea of "demystifying" someone as complex, intelligent, mischievous, unreliable, and powerful as Crowley is in any case absurd. And only a fourth-rate intellect would want to anyway.

If you want a quick, readable, amusing, general introduction to Crowley's life and work I'd suggest "The Magical World of Aleister Crowley" by Francis King. It's about the same length as Hutchinson's book, but far more interesting and informative. "Confessions of Aleister Crowley" by the man himself is very long, but very entertaining and interesting- though not of course wholly reliable! There's lots of other books by and about Crowley. But for heaven's sake don't waste a penny of your cash, or a minute of your time, on this one!
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on 5 December 2001
This book carefully examines the life of Aleister Crowley taking great care not to take sides, which considering the subject matter, is not an easy feat.
His entire life is 'dymsytified' and we get an impression that the beast is more of a spoilt brat, who couldn't get over his fathers death.
The book is constructed historically with various accounts from newspapers and friends (or enemies)as we follow Crowley through his life.
Hutchinson presents Crowley as desperate for attention, who perhaps would have entered for 'Popstars' if still around today; although to view him as a Darius or Nasty Nigel would be to make the same mistake as the author.
We are given this impression by accounts of Crowley as poet, magician, climber,cultist, painter.. i could go on.(like the author)
Rather than a jack of all trades he suggests 'the beast' merely wanted to be loved, to be recognised.. Ah.
In this sense then Crowley is viewed as a kind of Tommy Cooper figure. Somebody acknowledged for his quirky failures rather than his command of his subject and it is this that makes the book so annoying.
How anybody can possible dymystify Crowley without examining his work, notably 'The book of Lies'is nothing but the Devil's work itself! It's like watching popstars without Nasty Nigel. And it is for this reason that one gets the impression the author doesn't quite have the flexibility nor depth of mind to examine such work, years above it's time. Hence he has taken the easy road out, like many biographers before him and explains why the book is an under fed and paltry 216 pages, when it should have been 2160.
If you want to know where Crowley lived and visit it on your summer hol's this book's perfect. If you want to delve and drown inside one of the most tangled yet succinct minds of this century, buy a book actually written by Crowley.
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on 22 January 2003
After reading this book I was left wondering why on earth Roger Hutchinson bothered writing it in the first place. The entire book exudes contempt and loathing for Crowley and the author obviously has no understanding of Magick or Thelema. Anyone wanting to read a more balanced biography is advised to turn to "Do What Thou Wilt" by Lawrence Sutin or "A Magick Life" by Martin Booth. Compared to these two books, Hutchinsons book looks both amateurish and shallow. Tabloid journalism of the worst sort. Avoid this book like the plague.
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on 9 July 2007
I haven't actually finished reading this book yet, but it has annoyed me so much I feel the necessity of writing an interim review.

Frankly this book is atrocious. One can put aside a writers distaste for his subject, his scorn of the magick that formed a major part of his subject's life, and his frankly superficial treatment of any event. What one cannot forgive in a biographer is factual inaccuracy. And this book is riddled with them.

Just one, trivial, example - Hutchinson claims that the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was formed in "the wake of Madame Blavatsky's disgrace ... and death in 1891." This gave me a surprise, since most reputable historians date its founding to 1888. Other errors of fact abound - and these are only the ones that I can spot without checking - how much of the rest is hokum is anyones guess.

If you want a biography of Crowley go get one by someone who can at least get basic historical facts right.
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on 21 June 2000
The writer is unassuming in the reader's foreknowledge of Aleister Crowley therefore admirably serving the uninitiated into this most remarkable and enigmatic of men. Crowley's major achievements are cogently outlined and a sound narrative of Crowley's life is maintained throughout. In my opinion however, it appears that the writer is somewhat nonchalant towards aspects of Crowley which can, from a totally pragmatic viewpoint be regarded as nothing less than genius. Unfortunately this nonchalance is assimilated into the writing with a result verging on condescension. Nevertheless, a very concise and appropriate introduction into the man and the myth
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on 8 July 2000
Has Roger Hutchinson demystified the Beast? Yes, because he has managed to write a truly dull account of someone dubbed the Wickedest Man in the World.
Coming to this with no knowledge of Crowley apart from his reputation I expected to be terrified with an in-depth study of Crowley's reported Satanic bacchanals and contact with the Devil.
What you get is a portrait of a pro-Irish Indpendence rabble rouser in New York during WWII (a la Roger Casement) and someone who didn't follow etiquette when climing mountains.
The notorious sex rituals and demon raising are glossed over very quickly - and lets be frank thats what people want to read about with Aleister Crowley.
Overall, a bit of a yawn.
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on 12 April 2013
Oh yes - the beast has been demystified. I bought this as an intro to the man - now I don't want one, and I don't want to go any further. The book needed, maybe, to explore some of what he's most famous for - the black magic, his roots with it, advances with it, tales behind his experience, etc - but the book essentially says, 'This guy is a knob - avoid at all costs'. And I agree with that. I imagine there's another, very biased side of the argument, but I'm happy with this one. Goodbye Aleister. All the best.
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on 7 December 2012
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