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Thursday, 30 October 2008

Yesterday's bestsellers - Dennis Wheatley

As this is Halloween I thought it would be a good time to look at the one-time horror master, Dennis Wheatley.Currently his books are all out of print - strange, given that he was a big seller for over four decades with total sales of his books topping thirty million. And yet, these days he is completely out of favour. And this despite the fact that his books are chillingly well researched and I've yet to be disappointed by a Wheatley novel.

Wheatley was born in 1897 and enjoyed a good education suitable to his middle class upbringing. During the second world war he served as a Wing Commander. Even during this period he was able to produce prolifically which was something which would stick with him for the rest of his life.

He wrote in many genres - romance, adventure, historical, war thrillers but it is for his occult novels, that began in 1935 with The Devil Rides Out. A sequel Strange Conflict followed in 1941 and then in 1948 he produced the Haunting of Toby Jugg. Many more occult themed novels followed and his all time bestseller was 1960's, The Satanist.

In 1973 Wheatley approached his publisher, Hutchinson with an idea - he wanted to edit a series of books by other writers that would go under the collective - Dennis Wheatley's Library of the Occult but the publisher declined. At that time Sphere books were looking to build a bigger horror list and so they decided to go with the project. The series was to embrace both fiction and non-fiction. The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult was intended to be the definitive work on the subject of the paranormal.

The series was intended to run for a couple of hundred titles but it managed 45 of which follows a complete list:
1. Bram Stoker - Dracula
2. Guy Endore - The Werewolf Of Paris

3. Aleister Crowley - Moonchild
4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky - Studies In Occultism
5. William Hope Hodgson - Carnacki The Ghost-Finder
6. Elliott O’Donnell - The Sorcery Club
7. Paul Tabori - Harry Price: The Biography Of A Ghost Hunter
8. F. Marion Crawford - The Witch Of Prague
9. Dennis Wheatley (ed.) - Uncanny Tales #1
10. A. E. W. Mason - The Prisoner In The Opal
11. J. W. Brodie-Innes - The Devil’s Mistress
12. Cheiro - You And Your Hand

13. Marjorie Bowen - Black Magic
14. Philip Bonewits - Real Magic
15. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Faust
16. Dennis Wheatley (ed.) - Uncanny Tales #2
17. John Buchan - The Gap In The Curtain
18. Zolar - The Interpretation Of Dreams
19. Alfred Métraux - Voodoo
20. R. H. Benson - The Necromancers
21. Dennis Wheatley (ed.) - Satanism And Witches
22. Joan Grant - The Winged Pharaoh
23. J.K. Huysmans - Down There
24. M. G. Lewis - The Monk
25. Alexandre Dumas - Horror At Fontenay
26. Donald McCormick - The Hell-Fire Club

27. Marie Corelli - The Mighty Atom
28. Frances Mossiker - The Affair Of The Poisons
29. Hilda Lewis - The Witch And The Priest
30. Julian Franklyn - Death By Enchantment. An Examination Of Ancient And Modern Witchcraft
31. Ida B. Prangley - Fortune Telling By Cards
32. Peter Saxon - Dark Ways To Death
33. William Hope Hodgson - The Ghost Pirates
34. Gaston Leroux - The Phantom Of The Opera
35. Charles Williams - The Greater Trumps
36. Maurice Magre - The Return Of The Magi
37. Dennis Wheatley (ed.) - Uncanny Tales #3
38. Evelyn Eaton - The King Is A Witch
39. Mary Shelley - Frankenstein
40. Lord Dunsany - The Curse Of The Wise Woman
41. Sax Rohmer - Brood Of The Witch Queen
42. Pedro McGregor - Brazilian Magic: Is It The Answer?
43. Jack Williamson - Darker Than You Think
44. Charles Williams - War In Heaven
45. John Cowper Powys - Morwyn: The Vengeance Of God

In his day Wheatley was the horror author - he summed up the genre in the way Stephen King does today. And his books are well worth checking out - he was never too bothered with getting the technical details correct but he was a master at telling a good exciting story. And isn't that the main ingredient of a good book?


Ray said...

Gregory Sallust novels were my favourites - and 'Black August'.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've got several of these novels. I don't think I've actually read any by wheatley himself, though.

Anonymous said...

Interest in Wheatley is starting to revive. There's a website at:

- which includes a discussion forum (though for some reason they don't seem too keen now on admitting new users - I've tried twice to join, and both times they've failed to activate my ID as promised).

John said...

As the Guardian has pointed out, Wheatley is too politically incorrect for today's taste. I suppose the Roger Brook and the Duc de Richleau stories were my favourites. I still have a couple of his novels floating around!