Being under 30, I had heard of the Devil Rides Out and Dennis Wheatley without really knowing what it was all about, so finding that such an inexpensive edition of the work was now available from Wordsworth's excellent line of supernatural stories, well I had to buy it, didn't I?
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.
This is not a horror story, I doubt that unless you're under the age of ten and sensitive (as I once was) you will find anything chilling in the book, but there certainly is atmosphere and the midnight vigil inside the pentacle, when Mocata sends the Angel of Death to our heroes, is as tense as can be. It's a supernatural adventure - a predecessor to the X-Files and Buffy, and as good a supernatural adventure as I've read. The ending seems like a bit of a copout at first, but the final page makes it all matter again and I can't recommend it enough.
So why not five stars? Well, there are a few typographical errors in the book, errant speech marks and punctuation, but that shouldn't dissuade you from buying this book!
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