If Wheatley was alive today......

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Nick
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If Wheatley was alive today......

Post by Nick » Thu 13 Sep, 2007 12:22:04

He would be a very old man, however... A bit of harmless speculation during my lunch hour makes me wonder about the following.
If DW had been born in 1956 instead of 1896, what sort of fiction if any would he be producing for todays market. Would he have abandoned the modern musketeers for a new set of charactors fighting the forces of evil from the middle East? Would he ever have become a writer at all, and bearing in mind the state of the British Publishing industry would his work seen light of day.
I know that these questions can never be answered with any certainty, however if any body cares to add an opinion or two I can carry on my lunchtime day dream for a while longer

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Post by Alan » Sat 15 Sep, 2007 05:50:47

Speaking as some one born in 1958 who is a DW fan, and whose style has influenced me in much of my writing, I suppose I am in as good a position as anyone to answer. Of course, these are opinions only, as Nick points out, and we can never truly know for sure.

I am taking the position that though this hypothetical DW was born in '56, he still has the same conservative politics and pro-monarchist views that the real DW held.

>f DW had been born in 1956 instead of 1896, what sort of fiction if any would he be producing for todays market.

Probably popular occult and adventure fiction along the lines of Stephen King, Dan Brown, Dean R Koontz, etc. The irony here is that it was partly DW's success that led the modern boom in occult fiction - if DW had been born in '56, it might not have happened and we wouldn't have much occult fiction today! Maybe DW would be one of the few writers in his field, and have the same impact as he did when he was writing.

I think he'd also be doing a lot of high adventure, a genre that never really dies...

>Would he have abandoned the modern musketeers for a new set of charactors fighting the forces of evil from the middle East?

The idea of a group of well-off friends fighting evil is not really a concept that dates... Perhaps Le Duc would be a high ranking professional rather than an aristocrat, Mary-Lou might not be a princess etc, but the concept would be the same. The names "Rex" Simon" "Richard" and "Marie" are not particularly "old fashioned" today, though DW might, purely arbitrarily, have used other names - most writers simply pluck names from those of old schoolmates, etc.

DW's work has always contained various "asides", mini-discourses giving his views. I'd imagine some of his characters would be the mouthpieces for lucidly argued, immaculately reasoned essays as to why modern political correctness and genetically-neutral language actually do much more harm than good. De Richleau could not smoke his Hoyos (smoking seems to be ranked alongside child molestation and murder these days) though, ironically, his characters could probably shoot up on heroin occasionally to give them street-cred. One of the characters (probably Simon) would have well-developed computer skills, and Rex would be into Jetskis, Absailing and racing motorbikes (in fact Rex's character probably transposes best of all into the 21st century). Marie-Lou and Richard would still be a happily married couple, probably still living at Cardinal's Folly (lots of couples today love living in old houses), with Richard probably being a veteran of the first Gulf War and the Falklands, and Marie-Lou a successful businesswoman in her own right.

As Nick speculates, the bad guys would probably come from the middle east, or some of the less approved Asian regimes, or even be disgruntled ex-communists seeking a revival of their ideals. The musketeers might also brush up against the various cults like the Moonies or Scientologists.

Much of the conservatism would be absent - modern readers would not, as in DW's heyday, take it for granted that the poor should know their place, that one Brit equaled twenty johnny-foreigners, or that men would rush to the colours in the event of war.

For his time, DW was pretty progressive as far as sexuality in his writing was concerned, and given the more progressive climate of the last quarter of the 20th century, I'd imagine the Satanic manifestations sent to tempt the musketeers out of whatever pentacle they are sheltering in might include voluptuous naked women. There would also be some pretty explicit bedroom scenes. It's debatable whether DW would still have his homophobia (even today, many ultra-conservatives are anti-gay), if he did he would downplay it, probably ignoring the subject altogether.

>Would he ever have become a writer at all, and bearing in mind the state of the British Publishing industry would his work seen light of day.

Generally speaking a writer who can tell an entertaining story, and writes and plots as well as DW would have as much chance as most modern writers of getting into print (don't ask me how I managed it, as I fail to qualify on both counts)... DW would probably write with one eye on the film industry, and we'd see some superb movies based on his stuff. Imagine Kate Beckinsale as Marie-Lou, or Anthony Hopkins as De Richleau!

Of course, if he HAD been born in '56, DW's life would probably have taken a totally different course. His wine business might be thriving, and he wouldn't think of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and we wouldn't have him at all.

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Post by Nick » Mon 17 Sep, 2007 09:29:39

What an excellent and entertaining reply! I can see why you are a published writer. Do your stories start off as daydreams, (I wonder what would happen if......) or do you take a more workman like approach as Wheatley did with copious reading before setting pen to paper, and research your subject to make it as realistic as possible.
You will detect a slight note of envy here! Most of my published work is about specialist subjects in technical magazines. I did win a prize for English composition at school, and as I recieved it I had a copy of DRO in my pocket as I remember, however the ability to write fiction has always eluded me. But the daydreams are fun...

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Post by Alan » Tue 18 Sep, 2007 06:17:05

Well Nick, I've written for fun most of my adult life, primarily because I delight in the creation of imaginary worlds... Thus I'm from the "daydream" school rather than the "meticulous research" side. I got into print when thousands of much better writers than me can't, simply because my partner is the Senior Publisher of a well known Australian company specialising in books for the education market, and they needed a novel in a hurry! So don't feel envious of my talent, LOL, only my ability to be in the right place at the right time. You've certainly exceeded me as far as winning prizes... never won one in my life (except the above mentioned partner, a prize well worth winning!)

And thanks for the kind words :D

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Post by Toohey » Wed 26 Sep, 2007 09:08:38

I do remember reading about the 1st Bond novel that Fleming wrote; it was set in Kuwait but was never published as it was thought that this would put a strain on Anglo-Kuwait relations. To date that one has never been published either, though DW would probably have got himself into some bother if his villains were all from the Middle- east. Imagine burning effigies of Wheatley?

I would however love to read about his heroes battling the Scientologists! Would he have given them the powers they claim to have but mysteriously cannot show? Those who have reached OT level 8 can apparently levitate & have powers of telekinesis. Would make for interesting adversaries for the Duke. L. Ron Hubbard vs. the Duc? IÂ’d love to read that one, especially if the Duc stabbed L. Ron through his bloated black heart.

I would hope though that the books he wrote were a bit tighter and more economical.

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Post by Garry Holmes » Fri 28 Sep, 2007 23:22:29

Le Duc vs. L Ron. Yeah!
To be honest, looking at the number of books with 400+ page count around today, a contemporary DW would feel no need to be tighter or more economical. In some respects, the writer who reminds me most of DW is Frederick Forsyth. Given the amount of research that DW liked to do, I could imagine him working that 'specialist thriller' market quite profitably. If you look at writers like George Macdonald Fraser and Bernard Cornwell, he would also feel at home in the 'historical adventure' genre. In certatin respects DW was ahead of his time in the sort of books that he wrote, especially the Black Magic ones. If he were working now, I imagine that he would be producing broadly the same stuff. I'll bet that his publisher would be begging him to stick to one genre, though!

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Post by Jim » Sun 30 Sep, 2007 23:15:42

I've noticed that American mystery writer Jane Haddam has become quite verbal about politics in her more recent novels, and I'm sure she's not the only one out there. Readers may agree or disagree, and can skip over what they don't like. It was ever thus, and I suspect those who read DW for the thrills in the 1950s skipped a number of pages in their turn.

As others have suggested, length and historical details seem to be no barrier to current publication or popularity. I don't know how the sexual stuff would work for the broader market nowadays. Glen St John Barclay says, in ANATOMY OF HORROR, "Wheatley may well be the most aggressive and consistent male chauvinist in fiction." Would he have to mend his ways?

"One can only be impressed by the fact that rape is actually the normal form of relationship between the sexes in Wheatley's stories." (Details are provided: books and characters. Mr Barclay may not like DW's work, but he's read enough of it to be able to say why he doesn't like it. He also rates THE HAUNTING OF TOBY JUGG above THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, and calls STRANGE CONFLICT "the worst of his stories of the occult.")

Here's one I never knew: "Wheatley's description of the various physical assaults made upon the heroine [in TO THE DEVIL--A DAUGHTER] have secured for him the distinction of having published a book in 1964 that is still expurgated in most of its published forms in 1978."

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Post by Toohey » Mon 1 Oct, 2007 09:38:17

Or would he have wrote Richard Allen type books? All blood and sex stories set about the youth of the day? I remember reading them in my (mis-spent) youth and they didn't hold back. The skinheads in those books were just mouthpieces for some pretty vile opinions. Yet, for those of us who read them they were great page-turners.

Would they Satanists have been shaven-haired & booted terrace louts?

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Post by Nick » Mon 1 Oct, 2007 12:23:31

Do you know I can't help thinking that The Wheatley charactors would lose their timeless quality if he were writing today. The 'Letter to posterity' TV discussion put it very well when it was suggested that when you enter Wheatleys world, you enter a world of safe values that bring rewards, and find your place in a world of gourmet food where a group of chums sort out a problem over a magnum of champagne. It's the same world where Holmes and Watson sit opposite each other by a roaring fire. (Aren't they there now!...of course they are!) The Duc and Simon went into dinner at eight o'Clock...of course they did! Where else would they be? and how are we to keep safe from the powers of Darkness if they go away and leave us?
What of the heroes in this day and age? No such timeless quality, and heroes must have faults and show fear and behave badly. (OK Holmes was a cocaine addict fair enough but even so....) Far from being a French exile would Msr le Duc be a Tax exile now? Would he have sold his river place at Pangbourne because it was constantly vandalised and burgled?
Do we want this sort of modern reality in our reading or is that why we love DW as he is/was? Would Wheatley still hold the same values or would have emigrated in despair as his beloved England falls into ruin?
Well this diatribe has convinced me of one thing. I really AM a grumpy old man!!

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A dennis Wheatley moment...

Post by Alan » Mon 1 Oct, 2007 13:08:26

Actually, "reality" in the sense Nick means was never far from DW's "Modern Musketeer" stories. Didn't Richard go bankrupt and Marie-Lou have to have a nasty surgical operation (told in flashback) in "Dangerous Inheritance"... And didn't Simon fall for (and probably married, "off stage") a blind girl, and Rex get involved in shady business dealings in the South American book whose name I always forget? And as far as Gregory Sallust goes, his sexual prowess fell away in later middle age (It's in "White Witch of the South Seas", I swear... look it up!)

On a totally different subject, I am experiencing a real kinship with the typical DW character right now. My beloved had just returned from a trip to Europe, taking in France, Spain and London, bringing with her a bottle of cognac and all sorts of nice cigars for me. I sit here drinking good liquor, puffing away at a fat cigar, feeling just like the Duke. Hmmm, just received a dinner invite... wonder which of our friends has fallen foul of some satanist or other now!

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Post by Nick » Tue 2 Oct, 2007 08:48:50

Can't Remember Richard going Bankrupt, or Sallust in need of Viagra, I'm sure you are right though. I suppose I must have a selective memory and ignore the bits I dont like (Holmes and cocaine again....) I had my last smoke in 1978 Well I was a professional singer back then, but when I read of your well being and contentment with cigar and liquor in hand I must admit to a pang of regret and jealousy. Never mind I am a signwriter nowdays so I'll help you draw out your pentacle!

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