Authors: Dennis Wheatley
Tags: #Fiction, #Occult & Supernatural, #War & Military
THEY USED DARK FORCES
Edited by Miranda Vaughan Jones
A LETTER FROM GREGORY SALLUST
My dear Dennis,
I don't much like the idea of it becoming publicly known that for the best part of two years I was closely associated with a Satanist, but I appreciate that you cannot chronicle my adventures during the latter part of World War II without disclosing that.
It is very understandable, too, that as over eighteen million copies of your books have been sold, and nine of those books are about myself, many of your faithful readers should continue to demand that you should let them know whether my beloved Erika ever got free from her hateful husband, what happened to beautiful, wicked Sabine, and if my old enemy GruppenfÃ¼hrer Grauber met with his just deserts.
There are, of course, plenty of well-authenticated accounts of those terrible last days in Berlin; Goering's dismissal, Himmler's treachery and Hitler's savage attempt to involve the whole German people in his own ruin; but, although the faith he placed in astrologers is well known, no-one has yet described how his belief in supernatural guidance influenced his final decisions.
How much Malacou and I contributed to his committing suicide it is impossible to say; but Malacou was unquestionably a disciple of the Devil and, knowing your capabilities, I have no doubt at all that in recording those unforgettable weeks that I spent with Hitler in the bunker you will write a spy story to top all spy stories. So let me down lightly and go ahead.
P.S. Knowing your usual kindness in replenishing my cellar whenever you use my material, I may mention that I have developed a particular liking for the Moet et Chandon in the Dom Perignon bottles. No doubt you, too, have found it quite outstanding.
Dennis Wheatley was my grandfather. He only had one child, my father Anthony, from his first marriage to Nancy Robinson. Nancy was the youngest in a large family of ten Robinson children and she had a wonderful zest for life and a gaiety about her that I much admired as a boy brought up in the dull Seventies. Thinking about it now, I suspect that I was drawn to a young Ginny Hewett, a similarly bubbly character, and now my wife of 27 years, because she resembled Nancy in many ways.
As grandparents, Dennis and Nancy were very different. Nancy's visits would fill the house with laughter and mischievous gossip, while Dennis and his second wife Joan would descend like minor royalty, all children expected to behave. Each held court in their own way but Dennis was the famous one with the famous friends and the famous stories.
There is something of the fantasist in every storyteller, and most novelists writing thrillers see themselves in their heroes. However, only a handful can claim to have been involved in actual daring-do. Dennis saw action both at the Front, in the First World War, and behind a desk in the Second. His involvement informed his writing and his stories, even those based on historical events, held a notable veracity that only the life-experienced novelist can obtain. I think it was this element that added the important plausibility to his writing. This appealed to his legions of readers who were in that middle ground of fiction, not looking for pure fantasy nor dry fact, but something exciting, extraordinary, possible and even probable.
There were three key characters that Dennis created over the years: The Duc de Richleau, Gregory Sallust and Roger Brook. The first de Richleau stories were set in the years between the wars, when Dennis had started writing. Many of the Sallust stories were written in the early days of the Second World War, shortly before Dennis joined the Joint Planning Staff in Whitehall, and Brook was cast in the time of the French Revolution, a period that particularly fascinated him.
He is probably always going to be associated with Black Magic first and foremost, and it's true that he plugged it hard because sales were always good for those books. However, it's important to remember that he only wrote eleven Black Magic novels out of more than sixty bestsellers, and readers were just as keen on his other stories. In fact, invariably when I meet people who ask if there is any connection, they tell me that they read âall his books'.
Dennis had a full and eventful life, even by the standards of the era he grew up in. He was expelled from Dulwich College and sent to a floating navel run school, HMS Worcester. The conditions on this extraordinary ship were Dickensian. He survived it, and briefly enjoyed London at the pinnacle of the Empire before war was declared and the fun ended. That sort of fun would never be seen again.
He went into business after the First World War, succeeded and failed, and stumbled into writing. It proved to be his calling. Immediate success opened up the opportunity to read and travel, fueling yet more stories and thrilling his growing band of followers.
He had an extraordinary World War II, being one of the first people to be recruited into the select team which dreamed up the deception plans to cover some of the major events of the war such as Operation Torch, Operation Mincemeat and the D-Day landings. Here he became familiar with not only the people at the very top of the war effort, but also a young Commander Ian Fleming, who was later to write the James Bond novels. There are indeed those who have suggested that Gregory Sallust was one of James Bond's precursors.
The aftermath of the war saw Dennis grow in stature and fame. He settled in his beautiful Georgian house in Lymington surrounded by beautiful things. He knew how to live well, perhaps without regard for his health. He hated exercise, smoked, drank and wrote. Today he would have been bullied by wife and children and friends into giving up these habits and changing his lifestyle, but I'm not sure he would have given in. Maybe like me, he would simply find a quiet place.
Dominic Wheatley, 2013
By Midnight the aircraft was far out over the North Sea. She was a Mosquito, fitted with extra fuel tanks for the long flight to the Baltic coast of Germany. It was there, in about two hours' time, that Gregory Sallust and his companion were to be dropped. They were lying on their backs, side by side in the narrow bomb bay. It was pitch dark down there, yet too cold and uncomfortable for any hope of sleep. As the 'plane droned on and the minutes crawled by, many thoughts drifted through Gregory's mind.
He was thinking of the last time he had come in secret to the Continent. It was now May and that had been in the previous August. He had been sent on a mission to Budapest to assess the possibilities of drawing Hungary into the war on the side of the Allies. A number of Hungary's leading magnates had shown willingness to commit their country, provided that an Anglo-American force should land that autumn in France and thus occupy such first-line German units as were not engaged in Russia.
But Gregory had not got back to England until the end of September. During his absence Churchill had persuaded the Americans to accept instead his plan for occupying French North Africa. By then every available division had been committed to Operation âTorch', so the negotiations with the Hungarians had had to be abandoned and in due course Germany had forced Hungary to declare war on the Allies.
The delay in Gregory's return had been caused by his having had the ill-luck to run into his old enemy GruppenfÃ¼hrer Grauber. By the skin of his teeth and with the aid of the lovely Sabine Tuzolto he had got away; but he had had to come home
via Turkey, and a journey down the Danube concealed in a barge is a far from speedy means of transport.
Yet, as he thought again now of those lost, sunny, autumn days chugging slowly down the great river, he smiled. For a few hectic weeks in 1936 Sabine had been his mistress. When they met again in wartime Budapest, no less a man than Ribbentrop had become her lover. That had led to complications. But, as a result of the Grauber episode, she too had been forced to escape from Hungary. Had they not shared a cabin on the barge, they would not have been human.