Gateway To Hell - another review of it.

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gloomysundae
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Gateway To Hell - another review of it.

Post by gloomysundae » Tue 18 Jul, 2006 13:26:00

Dennis Wheatley - Gateway To Hell (Hutchinson, 1970: Arrow, 1972, 1974, etc.)

Begins on New Years Eve with a sumptuous feast at Simon Aran's place. All of the old friends are in attendance save for Rex van Ryn - who has embezzled £1 million from his bank and disappeared in Buenos Aires!

For some reason the Duc doesn't immediately go out gallivanting on the astral, but sends Simon and Richard Eaves to physically locate their missing colleague. After much food and travel (Wheatley seems to fancy himself as Egon Ronay this time around), the duo learn that he's been seeing a film star, Silvia, and befriended a former SS Gruppenfuhrer, Baron Von Thumm. On the romantic front, soft-hearted Si has fallen for the blind recluse Miranda - judging by his track record to date, this guy should never go anywhere near a woman. Anyway, they've figured out that Rex is going to put in an appearance at what is euphemistically referred to as 'The Barbecue' ...

As Simon and Richard feared, the 'Barbecue' turns out to be a Sabbat. Wheatley describes the activities with some exuberance and there is a moment of sheer horror when Simon realises what he thinks they are about to sacrifice but is helpless to intervene. The festivities degenerate into a no holes barred orgy - sodomy, lesbianism, the works - but one girl can take no more and runs screaming from the field of play, straight toward Aron and Eatons' hiding place. They make a run for their waiting car as armed guards close in and - in one of Wheatley's most eerie sequences - the Satanists try and lure them back by diabolical means. It's a close thing, but soon they are free and head off to their new friend (and potential bad hat) Don Caesar's place to get the girl a change of costume. While Richard is negotiating with Caesar, the girl, Nella, is weeping out her story to fellow Jew, kindly Si. She is not a Satanist, but a Civil Rights Worker, holed up in Chile with a colony of like-minded freedom fighters. Unfortunately, two of these Black Power militants had conned her into attending a party - the same night's 'Barbecue' - where she was drugged, raped and threatened with a knife before escaping. When he hears all this, Richard is furious.

"But you're a sight too soft-hearted, Simon. The silly b*tch has brought this on herself. From what you tell me, she is a typical do-gooder, and it's those people who run around carrying torches for this and that who stir up half the trouble in the world. It's interesting about this Black Power thing, though. Such a movement might cause endless trouble. We must get out of her everything she knows about it"

Nella's arguments prove no match for Richard. He predicts Civil unrest in the 'sixties, culminating in a race war, Armageddon ... (the novel is set in 1954, but I very much doubt it was written then ...).

"Without realising it, you have been fighting on the Devil's side. His one objective ever since the Creation has been to bring about disruption. One of his names is 'The Lord of Misrule'. And what could possibly be better calculated to bring about disruption than this Black Power movement? It is Satan's most powerful weapon in his remorseless fight to dominate mankind. Now, you really must tell us all you have learned about it."

Needless to say, "the little schoolmarm do-gooder who got herself taken for a ride" has no answer to this except soppy gurly tears! Women, eh?

"I'm only just beginning to realise how stupid I've been. And thank you both. Thank you for everything."

She's going to be a huge loss to the Civil Rights movement then.

Nella retires to her room for the night. To die horribly.

Simon and Richard languish in jail, accused of the murder of Nella. Fortunately, de Richleau learns of their plight in a dream, bombs it over from Corfu, fabricates a piece of convenient 'evidence' that no one in their right minds would fall for, and the case versus our heroes is dismissed in a couple of paragraph's.
Before long they've been captured by zombies while attempting to take nazi-boy hostage, and herded off to Silvia the 50-a-day film starlet's place where they eat a lot and debate the in's and out's of the Old Religion with their hostess. The Satanists want De Richleau on their side. Their leader, Don Salvador "The Prince" Marino is a miles better Magician than the Duke, and enters the room in a purple mist. He seems to have copped some unhealthy idea's from Charles Manson, because the big plan is to start a race war and the survivors will respect each other more and realise it's in their mutual interests to work in harmony - or that's his cover story from what I can make of it. To tell the truth, I was still reeling from a chapter in which everybody seems to get to recite an essay at each other.

Sylvia stubbed out her cigarette and lit another, then she asked, "Did you know that more than half the foods the world eats today were first developed by Inca agriculturalists? They irrigated great areas which had previously been desert, and grew an amazing variety of vegetables. They had two hundred and forty varieties of potatoes and twenty of maize. We owe to them many kinds of beans, tapioca, peanuts, squash, cashews, pineapples, chocolate, avocados, tomatoes and paw-paws. And, may I remind you, this wonderful civilisation was utterly destroyed by the zealots of the Christian Church."

De Richleau, Simon and Richard are too busy stuffing their faces (or rather, doing "full justice to a meal ending with a savoury of flamingo tongues") to bother replying.

The Duke being resolute in his refusal to team up with the Satanist-spearheaded Black Power Movement, the Prince flies into a rage and has our heroes banished to the Hall of Divination. De Richleau hastily constructs a pentagram from the contents of a stolen salt-shaker, and the friends spend a grim night being tormented by a vast assortment of minor demons in terrible guises. It's all very exciting and the Prince throws in some real shockers to lure them from the circle, including a vision of Richard's wife being raped, but then:

"Half past eleven", muttered Richard, "And we've had no dinner. Although we had a good lunch I could eat a horse."

Right on cue, Vachelli, who "had looked after them in the twenties at the Berkeley", strides in, maneuvering a trolley piled high with "smoked salmon and lobster, jellied eggs, a tongue, a York ham, trays of hors d'oeuvres, avocados, globe artichokes, snipe, pheasants, a duck, a baron of beef, steak and kidney and chicken pies, and a fine variety of puddings."

This all but does for Richard and Simon, and de Richleau has to shout "You fools!" to stop the pair breaking the circle for the sake of a ghostly feast.

Eventually, Rex enters and helps them escape in a plane where they make a start on the tinned goods. It transpires that he isn't really a black, but he's been working undercover all along and he only swiped the cash to convince the Prince that he was sincere. The Satanist is furious at their escape and sends a hurricane to kill them but, when that doesn't work, he kidnaps Miranda instead and threatens her with an unpleasant death unless they fly back to his commune. Only there do they learn of his plans for them: Simon and the virgin Miranda are to be united in Satanic Wedlock and everybody has to give her one on the altar!

Will the Powers of Light intervene, or will these despicable fiends open the way for the Lord of Misrule via their hijacking the namby pamby do-gooders' Civil Rights movement? Can they save Miranda from a fate worse than death?

Well, it's a thing of peaks and troughs as far as I'm concerned, and nowhere near as involving as The Devil Rides Out and Strange Conflict. There's so much build-up to the finale that, when it's dispensed with so abruptly in very Plague Of The Zombies fashion, I couldn't help but feel disappointed, especially as the oozing, leprous pit and its denizens - the best thing in the book - get less column inches than the few million descriptions of what everybody's having to eat (I swear Richard must have a tapeworm: it's the only logical explanation). And if anybody has the luck of the Devil on their side, it's the self-styled 'Four Musketeers.' In the previous books, they only escaped because their enemies got overconfident and messed up their rituals. This time, it's down to the unlikely self-sacrifice of one of the leading Satanists.

The weird thing is, this would probably have made a great Hammer film!

Toohey
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Post by Toohey » Thu 4 Oct, 2007 12:17:43

To tell the truth this is my favourite book of his having read and re-read it three times!

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