The Satanist

Members' book reviews and comments
Post Reply
Posts: 26
Joined: Sun 16 Apr, 2006 22:00:00

The Satanist

Post by Diamondhairdan »

Well, yet another black magic story from the late great Mr Wheatley, and the loose sequel to 'To the Devil a Daughter.' I wouldnt say that this is up there alongside The Devil Rides Out or Strange Conflict , but it is certainly better than Gateway to Hell. It is one of those that sits outside of his main three characters, yet it features some stronger character development than many of his regular novels - particularly with the lead female character, and the idea of the twins is well written. Minor criticism is the cheesy "plan to take over the world" idea from the bad guy, but if you've enjoyed his contemporary novels (i.e those set in the twentieth century), then you'll love this volume.
Posts: 72
Joined: Wed 21 Jun, 2006 11:46:35

Post by Toohey »

I found it an enjoyable novel, though a bit long-winded. It could have done with a bit of editing. At is at least 1/3 too long but there is a great ending. My main gripe, apart from the length, is the American soldier, his dialouge was pretty cheesy too and nearly ruined the character.
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed 27 Feb, 2008 03:11:57
Location: Etat Unis

A page turner

Post by Esmond »

This was the very first DW novel I had ever read. I can see that paperback in my mind's eye. I had lent it to a friend and needless to say never saw it again. It was so different and so far superior to anything in the genre I had ever read before that I instantly wanted to read more by this author and it took me some 20 years to obtain a further 4 novels. Since I have not read this but once and that some 40 years ago I can't do a review except to say that I do not think if I had read The Devil Rides Out first that I would have been as impressed by this entry. That said it was a great, fun read and I would love to get a copy again.
Even the greatest seekers after Truth have done little more than lift the corner of the veil which hides the vast Unknown...
--Duke de Richleau
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun 16 Sep, 2007 16:22:24
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

Post by parabellum »

Whilst I am not a black magic fan I did quite enjoy reading the The Satanist many years ago.

If I remember right the Black Magic theme did not overpower the plot, it featured a fair bit of DW's anti-communist stance and was his homage to Dumas' The Corsican Brothers.
Posts: 92
Joined: Thu 4 Sep, 2008 11:27:30
Location: New Zealand

Post by Cibator »

I fear I can't rate The Satanist very highly; certainly not by comparison with The Devil Rides Out or Strange Conflict. The trouble is, there are at least two major implausibilities.

Firstly: would a recruiter for the Left Hand Brotherhood really have done as Ratnadatta does, almost casually allowing a potential recruit to witness some of the group's most secret goings-on? (The black imp; the various examples of miracle-working.) This just doesn't ring true. My impression is that those sort of people keep the outside world very much at bay. At least until they've got the person concerned firmly in their grip.

To reveal the second implausibility in detail would be a major spoiler for anyone who hasn't yet read the book. But I'll just state my view that examples of the supposed phenomenon that results in the denouement simply don't occur in real life.

The usual hints of racism are there, whether directly (he goes on a just bit too much about poor Ratnadatta's halitosis) or indirectly, in the mouth of Henrik G Washington ("house-trained coloured boys", yet!). That, plus the grotesque way most of his American characters are made to speak - even Rex in the de Richleau series, sometimes - and it all starts to add up to a bit of a second-rater.

And yet there are some redeeming features as well, in particular the very active and courageous female protagonist, whom even the arch-villain has to admit to admiring. Indeed, one of the most commendable features of DW's writing is the way the women often get to play a crucial role that calls on all their nerve and resource. In this respect he was quite a way ahead of his time.
Fas est et ab hoste doceri
Richard Webster
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon 1 Sep, 2014 11:03:17
Location: Winchester

Post by Richard Webster »

I just read "The Satanist" for the first time. And the only time, I feel. When I started reading it, I couldn't quite remember why it was that I had started it once before, as a teenager, about twenty-five years ago, and never finished it, particularly as I've read so many of DW's book during the intervening period, and I love the black magic ones. And then about half-way in I remembered why - it's just not very good.

But it does start moderately well, and in some ways, you could say that it's a book of two halves. For the first half to two thirds of the way through its very considerable length, this is a perfectly respectable occult thriller of its time (1960). Not in the first rank of DW's black magic stories by any means - not "The Devil Rides Out", or "Strange Conflict", or "To the Devil a Daughter", for example - but firmly in the second tier. On a par with, say "Gateway to Hell" (which I actually have a bit of a soft spot for).

Unfortunately, however, whilst the first couple of hundred pages or so are quite promising - a terrific female lead (easily the book's best feature), a pretty decent male one, Conky Bill (from TTDAD), a satanic coven that meets on Saturday nights in a grand house concealed within a run-down part of London, an interesting little diversion about theosophy, three quite good villains (an Indian spiritualist who's really a satanist, a USAF colonel who's also a powerful magician, and the eponymous satanist himself, an evil, malevolent shape shifter), and an interesting sub-plot involving a pair of twins. So far, so good.

But then, about halfway or so through, DW stops writing a black magic story, and starts writing an espionage thriller instead. And a truly lame espionage thriller at that, on a frankly ludicrous, mad scientist tries to destroy the world theme. So just at the point where one should be reading about covens, and pentagrams and satanic temples and the like, we have instead a stolen plane, the RAF, boffins, something about rocket fuel and the countdown to Doomsday. And it just doesn't work at all. By the time I got to the end, I had stopped caring about the story and the characters, and was just relieved to finish it.

It's also excessively long, although this fault isn't unique to "The Satanist". I love DW's books, but they are often very over-written. He has a tendency of trying to explain everything that's going through a character's mind, almost as if he doesn't trust the reader to work certain things out for themselves, and he's always re-capping the plot. On the plus side, you never lose the plot in a DW novel, because he's always explaining it to you, but it does make some of his books go on a bit. This one certainly does. And the problem with this one is that it gets worse as it goes on. The three promising villain characters I referred to above - none of them go anywhere, they all diminish in interest as the book goes on. I also agree with many of the comments above, including that about very implausible plot twists.

Incidentally, this book is sometimes referred to as a sequel to "To the Devil a Daughter", but this is only true in the loosest possible sense, and by virtue of John Verney (aka Conky Bill) having a supporting role. Johnny Fountain has a brief walk-on cameo, and Molly Fountain and Christina are referred to only in passing. And that's it.

So this was really a considerable disappointment, although it's another one ticked off the list, as it were, there are a few good parts in the early stages, and the female lead really is very good, maybe one of the best female characters that DW ever wrote. It's just a shame he couldn't give her a better story to work with.

Nice cover, though, and the only DW first edition I've got where the artwork continues onto the back cover.

If only the book was as good as this cover!

Posts: 146
Joined: Sun 21 Oct, 2012 15:20:17
Location: London

Post by shanedwyer »

That is a good cover. Very Caspar David Friedrich.
Post Reply

Return to “The Satanist”