To the Devil - A Daughter

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Stevie P
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To the Devil - A Daughter

Post by Stevie P » Sun 9 Oct, 2011 15:04:40

I had only read this book once before and that was back in 1973. This was three years prior to the God- awful film version that was presented to the unknowing cinema paying public. In fact I began to think my memory was playing tricks on me as I was watching a storyline so alien to the book that I think I must have subsequently removed all thoughts of ‘To the Devil a Daughter’ from my brain. Did you know that that Michael Goodliffe who played the part of George de Grass in the film committed suicide (due to depression) soon after....I’m saying no more..
The book though is good. Previous reviewers have stated that it is not quite as good as ‘The Devil Rides Out’ and I totally agree with them, but realistically...how could it be!!
The ‘only thing’ that I could remember from my original reading was the line on page 175 (arrow Paperback) where Christina and John were hiding in a ‘Gazebo’ and she was beginning to turn into the ‘nightime friendly Christina’ under the influence of the dark forces. She was trying to coerce John into feeling how smooth the inside of her thighs were!! Well I was 21 at the time :D
The story begins in a house overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and situated between Cannes and St. Raphael. The house belongs to Molly Fountain. She is 45 years old, a writer of fiction and has a son named John who is 23. Molly is puzzled by the 21 year old English girl that lives next door; she only ever seems to go out at night. Molly decides to introduce herself to the girl who gives her name as Christina. It actually turns out to be Ellen Beddows. It turns out that she is hiding away at her Fathers behest as she has enemies who were and still are hunting her.
Ellen tells Molly of her dislike of churches and how animals dislike her and of her Fathers friend the Canon Copely-Syle who also happens to be her Godfather.
John Fountain arrives on the French Riviera in order to see his mother. Molly encourages John to take Ellen out for the night. They visit the Casino and Ellen extremely well on the gambling tables. They then ‘happen’ to bump into the Canon Copely-Syle and the Marquis de Grasse (One of the most evil men in France, according to Molly), who entice Ellen back to their hotel. Johnny has to rescue her from ‘The Capricorn Hotel – St. Tropez’. When they return home Molly surprises Christina by throwing a crucifix to her. Christina instinctively catches it and lets out a scream of pain. This confirms what Molly had thought – Christina was possessed by the ‘Devil’. Molly calls for help by contacting Colonel Verney (or Conkey Bill as he is also known due to his large aggressive nose) to assist with this problem. Conkey Bill (or CB for short) tells them all about Black Magic, Satanism & Witchcraft and how it is still very active and refers to Superintendant Robert Fabian (Scotland Yard) who was famous for uncovering many episodes of Black Magic. http://www.bbc.co.uk/coventry/content/a ... ture.shtml
Christina is again enticed back to St. Tropez. This time to the yacht owned by the de Grasse family. Once again John, Molly and CB go in search of her. John manages to locate Christina on the boat. There is a subsequent fight and Christina shoots the Marquis de Grasse. John and Christina are then taken to a secluded, 18th century chateau further along the French coast. The Satanists plan is to take Christina to England whilst John is locked up in the chateau out of harm’s way until they have finished their planned ceremony. John & Christina manage to escape their captors and hide in a nearby gazebo on the edge of the chateau (ref. My note above). Molly, CB & the police arrive at the scene and then take CB & John catch a plane to England as they want to talk to Christina’s father.
Christina is persuaded to admit that she shot the Marquis so that she is locked up in prison; the safest place to be when Satanists are trying to get her to England. On their arrival in England they first manage to locate Canon Copely-Syle. The Canon is shortish and plump, has hazel eyes, long silver hair swept back from his forehead to fall in curls on the nape of his neck. CB manages to convince CCS that he is a friend of de Grasse and that the abduction had gone wrong. He then tells him that Christina is in prison (Which seems a stupid thing to do!! - CCS now knows that he has to get working straight away to get Christina out). Anyway, CCS accepts CB as a friend and takes pride in showing him his pride and joy- the Homunculi in the crypt. He goes on to explain that on the 6th March he will create life by transferring a virgin’s soul (Christina) by ceremonial sacrifice to the creature before him. It all goes wrong when CCS receives a visitor advising him that CB is an imposter. CCS makes plans to eliminate CB by drugging him and placing him on a nearby railway line. However, CB frantically calls upon the God of Mercy, Peace and Love to help him in his dire extremity. Almost instantly John comes to the rescue by climbing down the chimney. Despite other forces in action they both escape back up the chimney.
The next step is to break into the house of Henry Beddows. They find him sat in the centre of a pentacle. Beddows explains that he has sold his soul to the Devil. He gained great wealth but is now set to pay the price. CB & John convince Beddows that the only way out of this is to abjure himself of the pledge given. In order to do this he has to get the signed pact from under the altar in CCS’s crypt. After another epic battle with the dark forces CB & John manage to locate the pact and take it back to Beddows where he renounces Satan & all his works. The next task was to locate Christina who had been taken from the French prison by the Satanists. The race was on to rescue her before the rite was to proceed on her 21st birthday. The problem was that nobody except the Satanists new where the ceremony was to be held. Henry Beddows bribes Jules de Grasse to tell them. The final battle takes place in the ‘Cave of Bats’ up in the hills behind Nice. (Near to the hamlet of St. Michael’)

Snippets

Page 12 - The truth was ‘Stranger than fiction’ A title that DW would use in later years
Page 33 - Christina’s tells Molly that her Father,"bought another house in the best residential district; to me it seemed huge but it was just an eight-roomed house with a garage and an acre or so of gardenâ€￾. It sounds like abject poverty!
Page 62 - Ellen became ‘Distrait’. (This is a new one on me. Apparently it means absent minded)
Page 80 - Re. Robert Fabian - not only was his grandson headmaster of my junior school in Surrey Square School, London but one of his most famous Black Magic cases was in Lower Quinton not too far away from where I live now in Warwickshire.
Page 94 - Jules de Grasse states that Christina is "no more than a hoydenish young girlâ€￾. This apparently means boisterous. (How the language has changed over the years)
Page 106 - Colonel Verney had a slight stoop (Like Simon Aaron): He also had Grey eyes (Like the Duke de Richleau).
Page 208 - The Canon Copely-Syle talks of Aleister Crowley. In fact Canon Copely-Syle was modelled on the Reverand Montague Summers not Aleister Crowley as some believed.
Page 345 Beddows states, “I renounce Satan & all his works". A similar title that DW would also use in years to come -’ the Devil and all his works’
Page 365 –The book states that ‘The Cave of Bats’ was approx 5 kilometres away in the hills behind Nice. (I looked for the hamlet of St Michael in my atlas and found a St Michel.)


I very much enjoyed this book. It was Wheatley story telling at his near-best. It just makes me wonder why a film-maker hasn’t so far got involved in making the film again with the proper story line.
I certainly won’t forget this book again.


Newspaper reviews

“Few authors have such a wide and loyal following as Dennis Wheatley, that prolific writer of thrillers and Chillers.....To The Devil – A Daughter is another venture into the occult with a beautiful mystery girl as a victim of black magic - definitely not to be taken alone at night. “ Daily Sketch

“In this devil-possessed novel, the action moves swiftly to the heights of suspense“ Dublin Evening Herald

Charles
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Post by Charles » Fri 21 Oct, 2011 21:51:40

Great review, Steve - thank you - I really enjoyed it.

Has anyone been out to Nice and looked for the 'Cave of Bats' ? It sounds as if both that and the Red Lion Hotel in Colchester should be put on our itineraries ...

Sadly I was on a train that passed through Colchester last week, but didn't have an opportunity to stop ... I understand the hotel is something of a landmark ...

See you at the Convention !
Charles

shanedwyer
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Post by shanedwyer » Mon 16 Dec, 2013 15:59:21

Yes, great review Steve. And the following made me smile:

The ‘only thing’ that I could remember from my original reading was the line on page 175 (arrow Paperback) where Christina and John were hiding in a ‘Gazebo’ and she was beginning to turn into the ‘nightime friendly Christina’ under the influence of the dark forces. She was trying to coerce John into feeling how smooth the inside of her thighs were!! Well I was 21 at the time

I remember reading TTDAD when I was 18 and experiencing a certain frisson when Molly Fountain stripped down to her nylons in the second chapter. Glamorous older woman, lingerie- at least a couple of boxes ticked for a randy teenager.

Reread it recently and it's still a page-turner. One of DW's very finest.

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