Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Dennis Wheatley

Dennis Wheatley Although Dennis Wheatley, who was born in London on 8th January 1897, had his first book published in 1933, he was particularly popular during the 1960s when his books were selling a million copies a year in the UK alone. Wheatley was most noted for eight of his books, in which the theme was black magic - 'The Devil Rides Out', 'Strange Conflict', 'The Ka of Gifford Hillary', 'To the Devil - a Daughter', 'The Haunting of Toby Jugg', 'The Satanist', 'They Used Dark Forces' and 'Gateway to Hell' which, during the Sixties, had an average annual sale of 80,000 copies per title. Also during the Sixties his remaining 59 books, all of which were in print, recorded average annual sales of 12,000 copies per title per year. All of Wheatley's knowledge of the occult came from books he had read, but he was still regarded as an expert on the subject and penned a non-fiction work 'The Devil and All His Works'. He was to write: "The fact that I had read extensively about ancient religions gave me some useful background, but I required up-to-date information about occult circles in this country. My friend, Tom Driberg, proved most helpful. He introduced me to Aleister Crowley, the Reverend Montague Summers and Rollo Ahmed".

The release of his occult story, 'The Devil Rides Out', hailed by James Hilton as "the best thing of its kind since Dracula", cemented his reputation as 'The Prince of Thriller Writers'. He was a prolific writer and his novels covered many themes including the occult, war, espionage, historical, science fiction and lost worlds, many of them a series of novels with the same characters: Gregory Sallust (said to be Ian Fleming's inspiration for James Bond), the Duc de Richleau, Julian Day, Roger Brook and Molly Fountain. Among his more than seventy published works were ones published during the Sixties which were: 'Vendetta in Spain', 'Dangerous Inheritance', 'They Used Dark Forces', 'The White Witch of the South Seas'; 'Bill For the Use of a Body'; 'The Sultan's Daughter'; 'The Wanton Princess', 'Evil in a Mask', 'The Satanist', 'Unholy Crusade' and 'Mayhem in Greece'. His final major project was to present a series of 45 paperback books, including some of the most classic supernatural and horror novels of all time, in addition to some non-fiction occult works, under the series title 'The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult'. They were:

1. 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker
2. 'The Werewolf of Paris' by Guy Endore
3. 'Moonchild' by Aleister Crowley
4. 'Studies in Occultism' by Helena Blavatsky
5. 'Carnacki the Ghost-Finder' by William Hope Hodgson
6. 'The Sorcery Review' by Elliott O'Donnell
7. 'Harry Price: The Biography of a Ghost-Hunter' by Paul Tabori
8. 'The Witch of Prague by F. Marion Crawford
9. 'Uncanny Tales 1' selected by Dennis Wheatley
10. 'The Prisoner in the Opal' by A.E.W. Mason
11. 'The Devil's Mistress' by J.W. Brodie-Innes
12. 'You and Your Hand' by Cheiro
13. 'Black Magic' by Marjorie Bowen
14. 'Real Magic' by Philip Bonewits
15. 'Faust' by Goethe
Dennis Wheatley
16. 'Uncanny Tales 2' selected by Dennis Wheatley
17. 'The Gap in the Curtain' by John Buchan
18. 'The Interpretation of Dreams' by Zolar
19. 'Voodoo' by Alfred Metraux
20. 'The Necromancers' by R.H.Benson
21. 'Satanism and Witches' - selected by Dennis Wheatley
22. 'The Winged Pharaoh' by Joan Grant
23. 'Down There' by J.K. Huymans
24. 'The Monk' by Matthew Lewis
25. 'Horror at Fontenay' by Alexandre Duman
26. 'The Hell-Fire Club' by Donald McCormick
27. 'The Mighty Atom' by Marie Corelli
28. 'The Affair of the Poisons' by Francis Mossiker
29. 'The Witch and the Priest' by Hilda Lewis
30. 'Death by Enchantment' by Julian Franklyn
Dennis Wheatley
31. 'Fortune Telling by Cards' by Ida Prangley
32. 'Dark Ways to Death' by Peter Saxon
33. 'The Ghost Pirates' by William Hope Hodgson
34. 'The Phantom of the Opera' by Gaston Leroux
35. 'The Greater Trumps' by Charles Williams
36. 'The Return of the Magi' by Maurice Magre
37. 'Uncanny Tales3' selected by Dennis Wheatley
38. 'King Is a Witch' by Evelyn Eaton
39. 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley
40. 'Curse of the Wise Woman' by Lord Dunsany
41. 'Brood of the Witch Queen' by Sax Rohmer
42. 'Brazilian Magic: Is It the Answer?' by Pedro McGregor
43. 'Darker Than You Think' by Jack Williamson
44. 'War in Heaven' by Charles Williams
45. 'Morwyn' by John Cowper Powys
Dennis Wheatley

When Hammer Films felt that their original horror movies, most of them based on the Universal horror characters, had passed their sell-by date, they began to negotiate to film a series of Wheatley novels, the first released in 1968. This was 'The Lost Continent', based on his novel 'Uncharted Seas', which was a fantasy rather than horror subject. The second Wheatley horror outing was 'The Devil Rides Out' starring Christopher Lee. Unfortunately, although Wheatley was popular in Britain, he was virtually unknown in America and the films did little business in the States. As a result, Hammer cancelled plans for the filming of 'The Haunting of Toby Jugg' and a 12-part television series of his tales called 'The Devil and All His Works'. Wheatley and Christopher Lee had become friends during the filming of 'The Devil Rides Out' and Lee accepted an offer to film more of Wheatley's books. He teamed up with Hammer producer Anthony Nelson Keys and set up a film company specifically to film several of Wheatley's works.

The first was 'To The Devil A Daughter', but it was almost unrecognisable from Wheatley's book. The company were on a tight budget and attempted to get the American company AIP to co-finance the film, but AIP didn't like the script and commented, "This has all the visual horrors, apparitions, nightmares, hallucinations and special effects to appeal to those who are into seeing occultism and exorcism conjured up. However, the story is written in a confusing style. While the central characters are good, interesting types, their inter-relationships are never satisfactorily explained, which accounts for much of the confusion, thereby leaving big holes in the overall plot".

Hammer eventually found a co-producer in the German company 'Terra Filmkunst', who insisted that the 15 year-old Nastassja Kinski be cast as Catherine Beddows, a girl who is to be sacrificed to the Devil. The star of the film was American actor Richard Widmark, who was granted script approval. However, the scripts were repeatedly re-written and Widmark called the company 'Mickey Mouse Productions' and had to be talked out of catching a plane back to Los Angeles on a number of occasions. At the time of his death from liver failure at the age of 80 on 10th November 1977, it is estimated that Wheatley had sold in excess of fifty million copies of his books worldwide.
Dana Gillespie - The Lost Continent - Dennis Wheatley  The Lost Continent - Hammer Films



Also see: Sixties City: Hammer Films and History, Hammer Horror, Hammer Scream Queens


Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.


Article Bill Harry 2017               Original Graphics SixtiesCity 2017

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