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on July 22, 1998
This was the first Dennis Wheatley book I ever read. I now have the full collection. The premise of the story is one of fantasy, however, as the plot unfolds, Wheatley sprinkles in liberal amounts of facts pertaining to the occult, numerism,Devil-worshpping and just plain history to make it credible. I defy anyone who gets to the chapter 'Within the Pentacle' to be able to put it down until at least the chapter after that! Never have I been so scared while reading a book. I have read most of the more contemporay 'horror' writer's offerings, but they pale when compared to this man, who was the master of his craft. If I have one criticism, it's the rather 'snobbish' english, but allow for the fact that the book was written in the days when the upper-class in Britain actually DID talk like that!
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on August 30, 2004
Dennis Wheatley's fabulous supernatural thriller 'The Devil Rides Out' on its publication in 1934 was hailed as the best thing of it's kind since Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' and the comparison is entirely justified. This classic tale of devilry might also be said to have been strongly influenced by the ripping occult fiction of Sax Rohmer as well. Set amidst the dashing world of the wealthy in 1920's England, Wheatley conjures up an amazing yarn of satanic horrors and hidden diabolism lurking amid the shadowed mansions of St.John's Wood and in luxurious West End hotels, of midnight car-chases through the English countryside in Hispano limousines and bottle-green Bentleys - we are transported into a glamorous era of aristocratic manners, exotically beautiful women, regally-appointed apartments, burgundy smoking jackets, fine aged cognacs and Hoyo cigars. The narrative is fast-paced and truly thrilling with many episodes of chilling terror and laden with a genuinely dark atmosphere of oppressive supernatural evil. The eternal Manichaean struggle, the world-old conflict between the forces of Light and the powers of Darkness is epitomised in the battle between the elegant connoisseur the Duc De Richleau and the suavely malevolent Satanist Mocata who has Simon Aron in his clutches. Wheatley researched the occult elements in this book to quite an impressive degree , garnering many details and esoteric data from Aleister Crowley, Montague Summers and the Jamaican occultist Rollo Ahmed whom he knew in the 1930's. 'The Devil Rides Out' is certainly far superior fare to much of todays etiolated, depressing and confused horror fiction and in no small part this is due to the almost mediaeval dualism which pervades Wheatley's mindset.

This is a fantastic read by the 'Prince of Thriller Writers' as he was called in his heyday and as Dennis Wheatley's friend Christopher Lee has eloquently commented, it also conveys a timely warning against injudicious incursions into the darker regions of the occult with their attendant psychic pathologies. Superbly entertaining and a real 'old school' classic of the genre.
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on November 30, 2006
When I first saw the 1968 horror film "The Devil Rides Out" several years back at one of NYC's numerous revival theatres, I thought it was one of the best Hammer films that I'd ever seen, and made a mental note to check out Dennis Wheatley's 1934 source novel one day. That resolve was further strengthened when I read a very laudatory article by Stephen Volk on the book in Newman & Jones' excellent overview volume "Horror: Another 100 Best Books." Now that I have finally read what is generally deemed Wheatley's most successful and popular novel, I can see the Hammer film for what it is: a watered-down filmization that can't hold a Black Mass candle to its superb original. The great Richard Matheson's screenplay condenses much, simplifies more, excises whole sections and changes the central plot entirely. In short, the book is where the real thrills and chills reside. In it, readers once again meet the Duke de Richleau and his friends Rex Van Ryn (an American), Simon Aron (an English Jew) and Richard & Marie Lou Eaton, whom Wheatley first introduced to the world in his earlier novels "Three Inquisitive People" and "The Forbidden Territory." When Simon comes under the power of a group of Satanists and their Aleister Crowley-like leader, Mocata, the Duke must take quick steps to save his young friend from their sinister hold. Wheatley obviously did a prodigious amount of background research before the writing of this, his first of an eventual nine novels dealing with black magic and the supernatural. He throws reams of information at us dealing with witchcraft, numerology, werepeople, vampires, the undead, seances, Egyptology, Kabbalah, and Crowley's "The Book of the Law." The effect of all this detail is to make the reader really buy into the increasingly evil events and suspend disbelief. As our heroes one by one find their skepticism eroded by the book's horrifying events, so too is ours. As in the film, the book's two main set pieces are the midnight Sabbat (more atmospheric and chilling in the novel, taking place on the Salisbury Plain; not to mention more licentious) and the defense of our heroes within the pentacle as Mocata visits on them one evil conjuration after another. The film's oversized giant spider in this scene cannot possibly compare to Wheatley's leprous, sluglike blob creature that leaps, laughs and pulsates. These two passages alone would guarantee Wheatley's book a place in the horror pantheon, but almost as fine are the scenes dealing with Simon's party, the initial materialization of the demon in the observatory, a minutely detailed car chase, Mocata's attempt at hypnotizing Marie Lou and, finally, a breakneck trans-Europe plane chase, culminating in the crumbling tombs of a Grecian monastery, and a showdown with Mocata for the legendary mummified phallus of Osiris--the Talisman of Set--which will enable its possessor to start a world war. Matheson jettisoned the entire central plot point of the Talisman in his screenplay...unwisely, I feel, as it is necessary for increased suspense and a greater atmosphere of urgency. Wheatley has been justifiably accused of racism and bigotry in his writings (55 novels over a course of 39 years), but happily, this early novel of his contains no statements that should grate on modern-day PC sensibilities. At worst, he can be accused of some fuzzy writing on occasion, of having his characters lecture at times rather than speak realistically, and of continuously mistaking the word "aesthetic" for "ascetic." Minor quibbles, indeed, for a book as exciting, innovative and, yes, downright scary as this one. At one point in this longish tale, Rex Van Ryn tells us that his taste in literature tends to "popular novelists who can turn out a good, interesting story." I think that Rex would have been a fan of Dennis Wheatley, based on that statement. Although enormously popular from the 1930s to the 1960s, Wheatley today seems to be little mentioned, but I for one am going to be seeking out more...
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on March 21, 2001
As a late commer to the work of Dennis Wheatley I hope to hunt out more of his books and I urge others to do the same. The Devil Rides Out is a very entertaining read holding back just enough to keep imagination going. Probably the best horror thriller I have read in a long time.
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on September 2, 2014
Considering the tremendous praise this book and its author have received, I was surprised to find its assets so thoroughly tempered by its mediocrities and outright flaws.

First, its assets:

-- Foremost is a convincing knowledge of occult lore. I took to looking up on Wiki many of the things Wheatley writes about here,and found many intriguing reads leading one to another. That feeling of a deep, well-researched background added a great deal to the story.

-- There was also a good deal of detail in the description of psychic states, including a masterly scene in which we see a Satanic hypnotist start in on his work while his victim becomes more and more convinced that, there being no hypnosis going on, this evil fellow is really quite the pleasant and reasonable chap and one should give such a good and reasonable fellow exactly what he wants.

-- Tangible manifestations of evil creatures from the ether are so well done that they come across as though such things were as much a part of the world as anything else.

All of this stuff is first rate!

Some sample mediocrities:

-- A fair amount of the book is taken up with travel. Characters spend a lot of time in between places and events. We get to witness them getting in and out of many cars and planes.

-- Perhaps an even greater amount of time is spent on an utterly unconvincing romance between two cardboard characters who have no business being together.

-- The characters can seem quite relaxed and even jovial in times of the most dire endangerment to not just themselves but worse, to their charges and even children.

-- Characters are constantly speaking nonsense with authority and getting away with it. I'm not saying that goofy explanations for why the unreal is real can't be fun; in horror and sci-fi, it often is, and if not strictly necessary, may be the best that can be mustered and you've just got to go with it. But here it isn't slipped quickly into and out of as our introduction to a conceit necessary for a story to work at all, or as an escape hatch for a story that has painted itself into a corner, but indulged in repeatedly as part of normal dialogue. A great deal of it follows the pattern of outrageous assertion immediately followed by agreement of all and sundry, along the lines of "Of course, scientists now overwhelmingly agree upon the magical efficacy of holy water" or "Advances in mesmeric science have confirmed the indisputable truth of voodoo," followed by, "Yes, of course, my dear fellow." Sometimes it's a steadily more ridiculous lecture instead of an assertion.

Some flaws:

-- A caricature, in virtually every respect, of an American character so ham-fisted he is almost impossible to take seriously for more than a moment. Rex says one silly thing in one or another silly way relentlessly. Ah yes,those Americans. Thank goodness for their broad shoulders and honest hearts, always ready to raise one's spirits or a helpful enormous fist, because they are not a subtle people and don't have much in the way of brains, do they? It is hard to forget this book was written by an Englishman in the 30's.

-- There isn't a well-developed character in the book. Backgrounds for a few are alluded to, but usually only for a sentence here and there that itself often refers to a past adventure that remains undiscussed. Only one is given in any detail, and it's not of a main character. This keeps the characters thin and barely more familiar to the reader at the book's end than at its beginning.

-- A singularly inappropriate and unlikely love story between Rex and a devil worshipper springs up out of nowhere and is embraced by both with such immediate conviction and over-the-top protestations of undying love that it never feels like more than a standard plot device of the most pedestrian kind. This couple has no reason to be together, much less have any confidence in each other. At more than one point this business persuades Rex, to whom a great deal of the confidence, safety, and success of the combined mission of his group of friends has been entrusted, to make inane choices virtually doomed to failure. In doing so he puts so much more than himself alone at risk that he can only come across as at best an oafish, overgrown child with no business in a man's body or in the company and esteem of adults. His romance is handled in such a way that it destroys the credibility of one of the book's main characters.

-- Women in this book spend a lot of time all aflutter with "Oh me, oh my! Surely you shall protect me, for I love you so!" kind of dialogue. Rex and his new-found dream girl are not the only gushy couple who speak to each other in purple language, but in both, the women are given the unfortunate burden of smarming out the treacly worst of it. If these are not the worst-written women characters I've ever read, they're memorably close to it.

At one point I wondered whether the author might be writing the women's dialogue and the corny and ridiculous romance so poorly as a sort of joke or quiet rebellion, like a Hitchcock movie tacking on an improbably chipper ending after its disorienting surprises and terrors, as in The Wrong Man or Shadow of a Doubt or many others. Was he writing them so poorly, giving it his very best effort to do so, in as contemptuous a nod as he could give to a publisher's toadying to market demands for romance? Satisfying it in letter but most decidedly not in spirit? If so, then the book's unintentional comedy becomes pretty funny indeed, as the romantic set-up and dialogue are so bad they could be used as how-not-to's in a textbook for fiction writers. Every time you think it has gotten too daft, Wheatley one-ups himself and takes it to the next level. Readers without a love of camp or a great deal of patience for baloney need not apply.

-- The ending takes a long time to deliver little. Nothing at all unexpected happens, to the extent that everything of any import is exactly what you would expect to happen. It is a summary wrap-up spread over a great deal of text involving a lot of travel details and travel planning. Most of the book's real tension and emotion take place far earlier.

-- The book could easily have been a hundred pages shorter and lost little or nothing for it. So much time spent on traveling and a romance both preposterous and grievously gooey means the book's momentum regularly slams back into first gear after finally starting to pick up a little speed. For a 300 page book, it felt far longer.

Would I recommend this book to others? For horror completists, yes. Much of the occult portions are outstanding, sometimes reminding me of the best of Montague Summers. Unfortunately, the book has its wonderful and scary bits buried in a sea of attenuated prose and hogwash. And its stock characters often reminded me of books I loved as a kid, in which lightly drawn, cornball characters found themselves serially embroiled in new adventures, like The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, and Doc Savage. But those books were more fun, had the good sense to be shorter, and weren't meant for adults. The comparison is unbecoming enough to recommend against The Devil Rides Out as a good choice for the average adult.
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on May 5, 1999
One of the greatest horror books of all time. A great story, but where it really excels is in its characterization. I'm surprised the Duke de Richleau is not more well known. The only bad thing is the sort of deus ex machina at the end. Still highly reccomended.
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on February 22, 2015
The Devil Rides Out was originally published in 1934 and falls within the Gothic tradition of Black Magic and Occultism. Today it would fall into the the genres of horror/fantasy with a creaky gothic plot. This isn't to say the story wasn't a good one, however the characters, belief systems, and resolutions are all a bit dated.

The adventure is quite good on many levels but its troubled race relations will be jarring for many readers and so it is important prospective readers need to be made aware of this before diving into the book. Because this book was published over 80 years ago some cultural contextualization will be necessary. Once the reader does this, much of the story and its belief systems become easier to swallow.

That said, the book was okay but not great.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommended for those who like these early horror/fantasy narratives and can read beyond the dated cliches of the period.

Still, not a bad read.
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on June 28, 2014
While I have watched (and, enjoyed) the Hammer movie based on this book, I had only recently had its author come to my attention. I was surprised to find that in the 1930's-50's, Dennis Wheatley was the Stephen King of his day: famous, successful, prolific...and GOOD.

The Devil Rides Out is an adult novel: it touches on themes of lust and eroticism one wouldn't expect from a book of this period, is very mature in its depictions of dealings with the 'dark arts', creates fleshed-out characters of unusual complexity, has ripping good action and surprisingly sophisticated plot twists. The stakes are high, the odds are against the heroes and heroines, the action is global and the enemies are not to be taken lightly.

My sole criticism is the casual racism that was de rigueur for upper-crust Brits of this period. However, it adds verisimilitude to the characters, and is an accurate depiction of the time in which it takes place.

For any fan of adventure, horror and/or period pieces, 'The Devil Rides Out' is a wild ride, indeed!
I highly recommend it.
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on August 4, 2013
I have read 2 Dennis Wheatley novels and have loved both. I love when you end up reading everything by an author and thirst for more. You will not be disappointed, so well written and suspenseful and his flair for the dark side is so entertaining.Perfect for a night by the fire or just a rainy day.
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on September 13, 2014
I first read this fine novel 40 years ago and to this very day, I find it to be a true exercise in horror. The characters are well developed, the premise and plot exciting, the content scary, leading to it's logical finale. It along with "Salem's Lot" by Stephen King are in my opinion, the most imaginative and fear provoking ever. If this book is ever made into a movie a second time and although the first movie version with Christopher Lee was great, I hope that the second version is even more faithful to the book.
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