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The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley
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The Devil Rides Out (1934)

by Dennis Wheatley

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330452,008 (3.49)16
The Duke of Richleau and Rex van Ryn know instinctively that something bizarre has happened to Simon Aron. Why else would he fail his most trusted friends? Their friend has fallen prey to the Forces of Darkness, through a powerful emisary of Satan.

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Still the best Black Magic story I've read! Excellent. ( )
  nwdavies | Aug 21, 2014 |
One of Dennis Wheatley’s most famous novels, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT is a supernatural thriller originally published in 1934, and the first of Wheatley’s so-called “Black Magic” novels that explore a series of confrontations between Satanists and those seeking to stop them. It has just been republished as part of a new set of attractively bound trade paperback reprints by Bloomsbury Reader. While Wheatley wrote a large number of very popular thrillers and adventure novels, this was the first of his works to explicitly deal with the occult. It’s a doozy, full of plenty of action and occult menace, though it’s also what I would describe as a “mannerly” thriller, depicting the actions of a clique of genteel aristocrats and upper-crust Brits.

THE DEVIL RIDES OUT picks up shortly where one of Wheatley’s earlier novels, THE FORBIDDEN TERRITORY, leaves off, and the early pages of DEVIL reference the earlier events. I’d say that it isn’t necessary to have read FORBIDDEN before this one, but reading the earlier work certainly would expand the characterization of the protagonists and make them seem much more fully fleshed out. Wheatley’s recurring protagonists include: the elderly but still spry French exile, the Duc de Richleau, who knows a great deal of occult lore and leads the group in opposing the Satanic cult; the wealthy Jewish banker, Simon Aron, who is in way over his head and has inadvertently fallen under the sway of evil; the brash young American adventurer, Rex Van Ryn, who falls in love with a mysterious young woman named Tanith, a psychic of great power and a member of the Satanic cult; and well-connected, upper-crust Brit, Richard Eaton, a skeptic about the occult who has settled down to life with his new wife and infant daughter.

The novel opens simply enough: Richleau and Rex discover that their friend Simon Aron has become involved with a Satanic cult led by the charismatic sorcerer and high priest Mocata. To Simon, his involvement began as just dabbling in the occult, but it’s quickly become apparent that he features prominently in Mocata’s plans, and is destined for a bad end (and by that, I mean, drained of his wealth, mystically mind-controlled to commit unspeakable acts, and eventually sacrificed). The situation is complicated by the fact that Mocata wields true supernatural power – this isn’t just a matter of lunatics playing around with meaningless rituals, but people who are capable of working actual spells, summoning demons, and the like. Wheatley is not coy about how the supernatural – and specifically black magic – is represented here: magic is real, the Devil is real, and he is capable of actively intervening in the world when called upon to do so by his followers. Richleau is the only one of the heroes to have any knowledge of the supernatural, while the rest have to witness the power of black magic before they’re convinced that anything supernatural is going on. I don’t want to spoil the plot’s twists and turns, but I will say that it’s a mix of adventure and occult horror that’s ultimately more thriller than pure horror. There’s a genuine sense of menace throughout though, and very real stakes: innocent lives are at stake, with the penalty for failure by the protagonists being the triumph of truly depraved evil-doers and the ritual murder of a child.

Some critics have complained that Wheatley occasionally uses too much exposition (coming from the mouths of his protagonists) to convey the fruits of his research on magic, occult lore, esoteric practices, and the like. Those passages are present here, and occasionally slow down the plot a bit, but I think they only serve to enrich the story and add a touch of verisimilitude to the proceedings, even if the delivery may come off a little forced at times.

I should also note that the book was the loose inspiration for the eponymous – and notorious – Hammer Horror film from 1968 (screenplay by the late, great Richard Matheson), starring Christopher Lee in a fine performance as the Duc de Richleau. If you’re a fan of Hammer films, you probably owe it to yourself to read the original novel, even though its plot only bears a superficial resemblance to the film.

Certainly recommended, if only so you can see what all the fuss is about when it comes to the iconic Black Magic novels of Dennis Wheatley. This is a good entry point to Wheatley’s fiction. It’s fast paced, and while it’s not a gorefest, it holds up very well against other pulp adventures, especially if you’re looking for an occult.

Review copyright © 2014 J. Andrew Byers ( )
2 vote bibliorex | Mar 23, 2014 |
Book : The Devil Rides Out
Author: Dennis Wheatley

This was the first time I came across a book by Dennis Wheatley & I am glad to say i was not disappointed.
The novel is intense & the plot is intriguing as well as a revelation. The book is a classic where it comes to the Thriller/Horror genre. The author has done full justice to the main theme of the novel which is, 'Black magic' or as a more informed person would put it, the dangers of the 'Left Hand'. The novel narrates in a very educative way, the mysteries of the Satanists who as we are well aware of have been in existence for many a century. It brings to our notice the peril behind a practitioner of the dreaded dark arts with an unusual twist in the narrative which confounds our rationality but, being informed of certain aspects of theosophy, theology, mysticism & the occult....we are able to fully comprehend. I admire the professionalism of the author with regards to his thorougher research on the matter including his in depth study of the esoteric arts & ancient history. His advanced mind is portrayed through the personage of De Richleau who abhors very bit of the dark side to magic & mysticism. He is the real 'hero' if one may put it, of the novel who fights against the evil forces that threaten to bring the world on the brink of another war on a grand scale (the author here refers to the 'Great War' which we know today as the 'First World War')
The novel is fast paced & yet not inadequate in the knowledge it tries to bring to the limelight. It is a highly shocking novel about how a Jewish friend of De Richleau & Rex Van Ryn gets seriously & dangerously involved in the blasphemous activities of Satanists. There follows the fight for the very soul of the Jewish young man,Mr. Simon Aron between the diabolic Satanist Mocata & Simon's true friends who wish him to rid himself of all that is evil. The characters in the story are all risk takers including Mocata the villain himself (he in frustration almost tries to seize Simon during the daytime when Satanists are at their weakest) yet, they are all true men of their beliefs & interestingly enough, it is a well balanced & highly strong willed woman (Marie Lou) who saves one and all from a calamity worse that death.
What I most appreciate about this novel is the way the author through his various characters, educate the reader as to the reason to believe in the forces of darkness.....& he manages to convince us very well indeed. The author I have noticed has divided his characters based on their level of skepticism or knowledge of the mystical. Rex Van Ryn is highly skeptical but easy to convince as his knowledge about the esoteric arts is nil (his only interests in life being planes & women); Richard Eaton, another character is also highly skeptical & remains so for a great length of time because of his knowledge about many matters (he may not belive in Black Magic, but he is aware about the practices of Bhraminism, Buddhism & Taoism as mentioned in the book); His wife Marie Lou on the other hand due to her Russian background is quite a believer & is well informed about witches & vampires ; Simon Aron (who causes all the trouble in the first place) is a person ready to learn new subjects that can aid him personally (if not where his shares are concerned). The novel does not lose its grip on the reader & manages to convey its spine tingling fear across. We feel the 'evil' of the devil & long for the light of righteousness to prevail. The best part about the book is that....the reader may be from any intellectual background possible,the author through many authentic records makes the reader believe what HE wants the reader to believe.
Each chapter is well written & makes ones heart race. Two part of the novel which I want to highlight here are 'The Sabbat' & 'Within The Pentacle'. Both resonate with suspense & horror beyond words.....the most grotesque form of terror possible.....the scariest part of it is that, such things do take place & that is marrow chilling enough which is escalated with the authors excellent narrating skills. From the two chapters mentioned above...the one that made my blood run cold was 'The Sabbat' especially the image of 'The Goat Of Mendes' that was described to perfection by the author.
On a scholarly note, the book is also a good way for a materialistic person to contemplate on the works of great writers of Theology & Philosophy. Although I myself am very much a reader of the fantastic, I realized through the 'The Devil Rides Out' that there were many works I still needed to get my hands on & read. The information in the book is a guaranteeing antidote to a person who likes a bit of mind work in his fiction.
But there is a moral in this work of art.....as stated by Wheatley himself through the person of De Richleau....one must not delve into something one does not know about.....especially not Black Magic. I am of the opinion that this statement in the book is very much in keeping with the theme & also is a practical suggestion on the whole.....although at first, it sounded a lot like a warning.
To conclude, I must state that the book is a masterpiece in its own right & is a must for ever reader to possess. ( )
  pathan.fiza | Oct 14, 2013 |
Excellent novel of magic, white and black. The Hammer movie is a respectable stab, but unless this gets remade in today's CGI era, the book is the place to go. ( )
2 vote mritchie56 | Oct 22, 2007 |
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To my old friend Mervyn Baron of whom, in these days, I see far too little but whose companionship, both in good times and in bad, has been to me a never-failing joy. D.W.
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The Duke de Richleau and Rex Van Ryn had gone into dinner at eight o'clock, but coffee was not served till after ten.
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