Typical Dennis Wheatley satanism story, lots of details of satanic rituals, heroic good guys, evil satanists Nice Riviera Essex locations too My problem with Wheatley s writing is that it always feels slightly padded out, there s an awful lot of dialogue with characters describing what they re going to do what they ve done what s going on, lots of telling, not showing There are some good set pieces such as what the villain has hidden in a crypt an exciting climax too, but it ll be a little while before I pick up another book by this author.Incidentally, my wife was reading another famous Dennis Wheatley satanism book, The Devil Rides Out, having loved the movie version, found the same problems with narrative pace, lots of explaining, not a whole lot of action, she s now or less given up with it. This was plain awful, even by Wheatley standards Not even the anachronistic sexism, racism and commie baiting was remotely interesting this time It was just bad and took me ages to finish This must be one of the few instances where the later film adaptation was actually way better. Beneath The Azure Sky Of The French Riviera, Christina Mordant Looks And Behaves Like Any Other Attractive Girl But Each Night As Darkness Falls, The Demon Within Her Betrays Its PresenceA Thousand Miles Away, Deep In The Essex Marshes, A Priest Of Satan Is About To Achieve His Life S Ambition Canon Copely Syle Of Bentford Priory Prepares For The Virgin Sacrifice Which Will Give Breath To The Foul Abomination He Has Created A horror classic from the days when only the upper classes were depicted to engage in activity of merit and excitement This can only be read as a period piece and since I collect classic supernatural horror, it was on my reading list Not recommended as a gripping read, but rather an historical legacy. The book started off well enough, but took a horrid downturn on page 72 This is where the main character leaps from surmising that the girl she is helping suffers from some sort of personality disorder to dispassionately concluding she is possessed by the devil This would be fine if Wheatley brought the reader with her, but the suspicion seems laughable because it comes out of nowhere Plus, it would have been entertaining if he followed the Ann Radcliffe school of suspense and kept the mystery going longer After that, I decided to keep plowing through, but what followed was undisguised propagandistic drivel The main character casually explains that the Devil exists and strangely seems overly familiar with his plans and thought processes , that Satanic cults are flourishing and use yoga and sex to control people, and that Communism is an evil tool meant to deliver the world into the hands of Satan We also learn that girls schools can be places of sin where sexual experimentation among the girls can provide an ingress for the devil s possessory powers So in a mere couple of pages we learn that non exclusive, non hetero, non binary, non missionary sex is the devil s work and disfavored political theory is the equivalent of sin And if you can hold your lunch down through that fun little chapter, you get treated to a social darwinist diatribe in the next chapter about the horrors of government taxation, a dialogue which has no apparent purpose except to display Wheatley s political views If one if going to incorporate their own biases into their writings, at least do it subtly and not through the characters lecturing the reader What should have been a fun read has suddenly become a poorly written polemic. This is an odd mixture of mystery, horror, and adventure The central mystery of the story what is going on with the odd young English woman in a villa in Nice, France is largely telegraphed by the book s title, though we are nearly a third of the way through the story before things take a turn from the mundane to the fantastic, and all the vague talk of occultism and conspiracy comes to the fore It is a little distracting that Wheatley is obsessed with connecting Satanism to Communism, but given that this written during the height of the Cold War, it is understandable that the author chooses to align all the enemies of respectable upper class morality and the monarchy Wheatley s characters are all interesting and vivid, even if his extreme classism and nationalism cause him to rely on overt stereotyping Despite the absurdity of the the novel s central conceit that Satanists are aided by Communists in their effort take over the world the story moves quickly and works as a thriller The author s piety is tempered by some decent humor and mostly good dialogue I suppose it would be odd to write about a Satanic cult without getting moralistic, but his protagonists are occasionally such pious, law abiding twits that I began to find myself indifferent to their fates, and it was only the extreme evil and arrogance of the villain that made me root for the good guys.There is some really creepy imagery, particularly in the final third of the book, and some interesting asides For one thing, apparently Wheatley actually met the infamous Aleister Crowley and he s included a story about him in one character s dialogue painting an unflattering but plausible portrait of the Great Beast Another throw away idea he includes is that Atlantis was sunk by White Magicians in response to horrible rituals being carried out by Atlantis Black Magicians I get the sense that Wheatley was both attracted to and repulsed by the occult movement of his time and it gave him some really cool plot ideas, even if many are never developed.Worth checking out, despite its flaws. To the Devil a Daughter, written in 1953, is everything you could ask for in a Dennis Wheatley novel It has wicked devil worshippers, outrageous conspiracies, and some amusingly lurid descriptions of satanic rituals A businessman makes a deal with a satanic clergymen, and has his daughter Christina baptised into Satan s church Twenty one years later, provided she is still a virgin, she is destined to be the centrepiece of a hideous satanic ritual As she has been dedicated to Lucifer she undergoes a personality change every evening when the sun goes down In the hours of darkness she becomes a Bad Girl, giving herself up to all kinds of naughtiness Luckily she makes the acquaintance of Molly, a middle aged English writer who used to work for British Intelligence during the war, and Molly and her son John are determined to save Christina from the clutches of the Satanists, and quite probably from a Fate Worse Than Death Wheatley also finds time for his favourite hobbyhorse, the links between Satanists and Communism It s all breathless excitement, and a silly but highly entertaining romp The fact that Wheatley took this stuff seriously just makes it even enjoyable This novel was of course the basis for the last horror movie made by Hammer Studios The movie doesn t follow the plot of the book very closely at all, but it s also great fun in its own way. This may have been a thrilling page turner when it first came out, but the years have not been kind A LOT of talking And thinking about what to do When the action does happen, it s well done and exciting, but getting there is a chore First, this is listed as Molly Fountain 1 , which I guess it is, but Molly only shows up in the first few chapters and then disappears until the very end Sort of like saying Harry Potter and the Sorcerer s Stone was Hedwig the Owl 1 And Christina acts SLIGHTLY naughty when the sun goes down, so of course she s possessed by the devil Honestly, she drinks and flirts a bit If that s being possessed by Satan, then I m in big trouble And when a character in this book says, I d better tell you my story from the beginning you know you d better buckle up, because they aren t going to leave out any detail And where did Christina s father get the ape he used to guard his house Rent a ape Disappointing, as I remembered reading Wheatley when I was a kid finding it scary fun But it s awful writing, with lapses into reactionary ranting and dialogue which is truly risible The idea that a writer can simply put down as literally Satanic everything he finds dangerous or distasteful is worth thinking about, though Wheatley is rightly afraid of totalitarianism, but foolishly sees no evil in fact, sees the ultimate good in the English class system Nobody could take his ravings seriously because his reactionary ideology dates him so terribly, and his writing isn t good enough to earn him the pardon which Yeats promised Paul Claudel. When I was at school, Dennis Wheatley books the horror stories not the historical novels were all the rage I had thrown all my Dennis Wheatley novels away except this one and read it again out of curiosity to see how it would come across than 40 years on I gained much the same impression as I had had when I was 14 Firstly, as almost anyone who is honest with themselves and free of intellectual snobbery should admit, Dennis Wheatley s ability to keep a reader turning the page is hard to beat He is the master of the pot boiler The Black Magic novels do expect the reader to accept for the purposes of enjoying the stories, that there exist some sort of parallel Satanic underground This view, which is conspiratorial and invites an interpretation of world events as being driven by occult forces is quite naturally reactionary, quite apart from the fact that the Gothic paraphenalia of Satanism is likely by its very nature to involve a nostalgic yearning for luxury, service, style, superstition, tradition, ritual, hierachy, tradition and all the trappings of a society that is anything but egalitarian I suspect that part of the explanation of the resounding success of Wheatley s Black Magic tales lies in the authenticity of the writer s approach It seems to me that he genuineally believes in the facts in the plots which he uses for his stories, eg possession, exorcism, the protective power of pentagrams For this reason, there are probably many biographical and histoprical portraits and references which I miss, although I could see that the Black Magician in this tale is a portrait of the notorious non fictional Black Magician, Alistair Crowley So, whereas liking or not liking Dennis Wheatley has something to do with enjoying a thriller, it is impossible to ignore the expectation of at least a suspension of disbelief or better, concurrence with the author s interpretation of the world Either one is going to buy into the Manichean Wheatley world of Good versus Evil or as a rationalist or progressivist, one will reject it Although this is only a thriller, it makes some religious demands upon the reader, not in terms of belief as such, but in terms of empathy Where both elements meet and where I think Dennis Wheatley disappoints, in this as in the other Black Magic novels, is in his conclusions, his inevitable very happy endings The triumph of Good always takes the form of some kind of last minute Bruce Willis style saving of the world or virigin and heroes and heroines fall into one another s arms while the forces of Darknmess are sent packing down to Hell, ready and willing however, to return in a new episode Time and again, and To the Devil a Daughter is no exception, I find Dennis Wheatley ending his novels with a kind of maybe divinely orchestrated Big Bang Satanists and Devils are very much present, whilst God and the Angels are not physically present at all This is probably because Wheatley was attached to the Aryan heresy, alluded to in several of his books, which maintains that the World was given over Unto Satan At the end of the book, I am left thinking all that struggle and furor and the baddies could have been destroyed in a puff of divine smoke anyway Come to think of it, is that not the disturbing thought which challenges atheists and Christians alike Be all that as it may, whoever enjoys and for whatsoever reason, innocent or not so innocent, the world of luxury, ritual, power of magic and symbols, the gothically inclined shall we say, will not have to fear that Dennis Wheatley will allow any wry and cynical rationalist to wink at them from behind the sacrificial altar or break into their fantasies with knowing smirks or rational explanations of the paranormal.