Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Wheatley, Dennis

(1897-1977) Prolific and once bestselling UK author of thrillers, historical romances and a loosely linked occult sequence, the Black Magic stories. These add frissons of Black Magic, Black Masses and Satanism to the basic adventure-thriller Template. The first and liveliest is The Devil Rides Out (1935; juvenile edn cut Alison Sage 1987), featuring a Sabbat, a set-piece scene in a pentacle subjected to magical assaults culminating with the mounted Angel of Death, a Satanist who lacks a Shadow, a McGuffin-hunt for the evil Talisman of Set, and a deus ex machina finale; this was filmed as The Devil Rides Out (1968). A sequel, Strange Conflict (1941) uneasily extends World War II espionage to the Astral Plane, throwing in Voodoo, Zombies and Pan for good measure. The Haunting of Toby Jugg (1948) makes grisly play with the Demon in Spider form which terrifies the crippled hero, but loses its force in anti-Communist polemic: DW's asides on race and politics are frequently embarrassing. To the Devil – A Daughter (1953) features an innocent virgin (> Virginity) who at night undergoes fearsome Possession, making her sophisticated and interested in Sex; she has been Pact-bound to the Devil as preliminary to suffering Human Sacrifice, which will transfer her Soul to a Homunculus. It is typical of DW's Plot Devices that a malign altar should be fortuitously struck by lightning: "God had intervened." The movie is To the Devil a Daughter (1976).

Other relevant novels are: The Ka of Gifford Hillary (1956), whose "murdered" protagonist's eponymous Astral Body struggles for Vengeance; The Satanist (1960); They Used Dark Forces (1964), mixing elements of Magic and Astrology (and the inevitable Black Mass) into an over-long WWII thriller; Unholy Crusade (1967); The White Witch of the South Seas (1968), with more voodoo; Gateway to Hell (1970); and The Irish Witch (1973). Additionally, DW produced some novels of Lost Lands, shading between sf and fantasy: The Fabulous Valley (1934); They Found Atlantis (1936), disclosing an inhabited Atlantis; Uncharted Seas (1938), set in a Sargasso replete with Sea Monsters – this was filmed as The Lost Continent (1968) – and the Antarctic The Man who Missed The War (1945), assembled with the previous two as Worlds Far from Here (omni 1952). Star of Ill-Omen (1952) presents routine UFOs.

A modest power of storytelling partly redeems DW's narrative longueurs, clichéd thought and repetitious pursuits, confrontations and escapes. The Black Magic books' spice of wickedness once held particular appeal for adolescents who found them daringly "adult", but Horror's excesses have long since passed them by. [DRL]

other works (selective): Gunmen, Gallants and Ghosts (coll 1943); The Devil Rides Out and Gateway To Hell (omni 1992).

as editor: A Century of Horror Stories (anth 1935; cut vt Quiver of Horror 1965); Uncanny Tales 1 (anth 1974); Uncanny Tales 2 (anth 1974).

Dennis Yeats Wheatley

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.