My main reason for posting this is that I think it is an ideal subject for discussion between us all and we both look forward to a lively debate on the subjects raised.
Alan Smith wrote:"The Dennis Wheatley site is, in my opinion, a model of how a literary appreciation site should be set up. However, you did ask for criticism/suggestions, and essentially I find there are only three things which left me unsatisfied, viz:
The fact that the site seems to focus on book-collecting rather than appreciation. I can see the reason for this, and that bibliography is your main interest, but would have enjoyed more discussion on DW's style, influences, plot summaries of books, criticism, etc. Such topics as 'Is "Black August" a part of the Gregory Sallust canon or does it take place in a separate universe' (me voting for the latter), the models for Mocata in "Devil Rides Out", what happened to Tanith after this work (Rex seems rather unlucky in holding onto girls!)...
Bob Rothwell reply wrote:"Many thanks for the kind words re the site, although I would never attempt to class it as a literary appreciation site. That's way beyond my abilities. Fortunately for you writers I am one of the masses that just like to read a good story without getting bogged down by what's behind it and know from within if I feel good after reading a book without having to analyse why. But you did put your finger on where I get the most satisfaction from the site and that is in preserving everything about the phenomenon that was DW.
Having admitted to all that, I am aware that your critiques have some validity for a number of visitors and recognise that I am probably not satisfying those needs. In addition, a section of how people perceive DW's work is needed to accompany all the dry facts. As you hint, the site is properly based on the premise of 'look at my collection' site, padded out with other collectable facts. You may notice that those areas of the site that contain more than pictures have a copyright assigned to someone else who was kind enough to contribute a number of articles and share his knowledge of DW's work. If you do fancy contributing anything, either through the new discussion area or by sending me an article or articles for inclusion I would be delighted, on the understanding that, particularly with the latter, I reserve editorial rights without you getting too much of a humph(!)
My own view is that 'The Library' is probably the place to put subjects like these as others could then make their contribution, and I do believe it is really a discussion subject rather than an article. Of course, if enough material appeared I could then do a collation of the remarks for a new web-page. (See, I'm ducking out of actually writing anything myself!)"
Alan Smith reply wrote:"Glad you weren't offended by my comments. You seemed to have understood that my comments weren't in the manner of "this is a poorly designed site" so much as "This is a great site of its TYPE, but I wish there was such-and-such type as well". Your suggestion that I contribute a learned (!) essay is an interesting one, and one on which I plan to act as soon as I get the latest professional commission out of the way. My problem is that the questions that I have so far raised can really be answered in just a few paragraphs. I can't, for example, imagine doing a 5,000 word work on whether or not "Black August" takes place in the same universe as "Scarlet Impostor"... the point can be made in a few sentences. Of course, when I do contribute I regard the owner of the site as having a perfect write to cut/edit/mutilate as he sees fit. I am not as sensitive about this as the editor who worked on my professional stuff will assert (remind me to tell you the story sometime!)... If you have any ideas as to what would make a good starting point for an essay or discussion-point, feel free to suggest."
Alan Smith wrote:"I also found myself disagreeing with your view that DW's conservative philosophy impacts upon his readability for modern audiences. As an Australian republican with decidedly left-of-centre leanings, an existentialist, an egalitarian, non-homophobic, hopefully non-racist modernist, I don't find myself grinding my teeth when reading DW, as long as I realise that his opinions were normal for a man of his upbringing in the place and time that the stories were written. In much the same way I don't find the "Odyssey" or the King Arthur tales offensive even though they deal with wars between aristocrats with the working class marginalised or exploited... one simply has to accept the concept of different attitudes being prevalent in different times.
Bob Rothwell reply wrote:"Then why does no one want to publish him any more? Many of us agree with you and cannot understand why he remains out of print."
Alan Smith reply wrote:"To be fair, it seems a reasonable point that there is a vast difference in "investment" between the financial cost of publishing and promoting an author and simply reading him. There are many writers from decades ago that I enjoy reading immensely, but if I were the publishing editor of a fiction house forced to compete in today's stimulus-hungry public I wouldn't necessarily be rushing to risk pouring huge amounts of dosh into an author that might not sell. I'd think long and hard about commissioning a run of books about upper-class Englishmen whose adventures take place against a background of the second world war (or the decades immediately preceding and following it), particularly when I knew such books would be publicly burned by fanatical hairy-legged feminists, most of whom haven't even read them! Conversely, I have no hesitation in recommending them to my friends, whatever said friend's political stance.
Another point against a DW revival is, ironically, the very success he enjoyed in his heyday. Every second-hand bookshop I go into has a few dog-eared Roger Brooks or Julian Days knocking around, and anyone who wants to build up a DW collection can do so cheaply Â– there were so many copies published in the seventies that they have no rarity value. If the Prince's works were harder to come by there might be more demand for a run of reprints!
What I would love to see is the books one day republished with introductions that bring up the "negative" points about DW's work and then provide palliative explanations. It can be pointed out, for example, that his novels were written at a time when patriotism and Anglocentrism were not a vice but a positive virtue, and that when the world is threatened by an evil fascist power, anything that raised the spirits of the outgunned and outnumbered people standing against this menace was a necessary evil. Or that when writing for an audience that regarded (picking examples at random) homosexuals as slimy, unpleasant people (see "Three Inquisitive People") or Orientals as shifty, sly usurpers ("Quest of Julian Day"), any professional writer is forced to bow to public opinion!
What I would also like to see someone do one day (and damn it, I'll do it myself if I ever get around to it) is to write unofficial "sequels" to DWs work, in the same manner as "fanfics" devoted to "Dr Who", "Star Trek" "X-files" etc. There are also a number of official "sequels" to much loved works such as "Gone With the Wind", "Wind in the Willows" and such. I'd love to see the Duke and his team take on the dark side yet again, or read a transcript of a missing file where Gregory Sallust put it over Grauber and Mr Wheatley never got to write of it!"
Alan Smith wrote:"In any case I see DW more as an old-style liberal aristocrat rather than an out-and-out quasi-fascist. It's true that he obviously regards an Englishman as the epitome of creation and worth ten orientals or Europeans, but for a guy writing his most significant stuff during WWII this is hardly surprising. In any case, reports of his anti-semitism and Anglocentrism have been much exaggerated. In at least one story (? "Codeword Golden Fleece") he says very nice things about Jews in general, reviling only the "stay-at-homes" without initiative. And it should be remembered that perhaps his three most interesting characters, and obviously those for whom he has the most affection are a Jew (Simon Aron), a Frenchman (The Duc De Richleau) and a Russian (Mary-Lou Eaton). There is also Stefan Kuperovich (a Russian who has fought for communist armies) and in at least one of the Gregory Sallust novels he even has a trade-union leader acting with bravery and fortitude when being tortured by Grauber!
I also found myself disagreeing with your implication that DW would have no appeal to modern audiences. In fact, in the black magic novels in particular he was way ahead of his time. "Strange Conflict", for example, is essentially in the same caste as modern cyberpunk novels with its concept of an adventurer in a virtual world, leaving his body asleep behind him, the Roger Brook stories are as readable as anything by Bernard Cornwell who seems popular enough, while the Sallust spy tales are as "gritty" as anything dished up by modern authors.
Bob Rothwell reply wrote:"<In any case I see DW more as an old-style liberal aristocrat rather than an out-and-out quasi-fascist.> Hear, hear, but try telling that to a jury of modern PC liberalists. I don't know how it is with you, but the UK has gone crazy with its "minorities are to be protected at all costs" attitudes. We are still reeling from when my wife went with her daughter and 2-year-old grand-daughter to a local swimming pool and my wife was banned because she had a camera which could have been used to take pictures of scantily-dressed toddlers to be sold on for pornographic purposes! With a government that supports these ideas and encourages minority groups to re-write all the nursery rhymes in case they offend, or produce pamphlets for schools that take great pains to inform 13-year old girls how to tell the difference between lust and love before they hop into beds with their boyfriends, or promote suggestions to Christians to remove crosses from churches in case the other faiths find them offensive, etc. etc., DW has no chance of getting past today's censors!"
Alan Smith reply wrote:"Agreed. Please don't get me wrong... I regard racism, sexism, homophobia etc with revulsion, but some of the manifestations of modern "political correctness" make me squirm. In some ways I can see the point of banning cameras where there are groups of scantily-clad toddlers, on the grounds that it is better for fifty people to be inconvenienced than for one paedophile (using the modern, incorrect usage of the word) to be able to exploit children. But to ban bibles in hospitals, or the flying of the St George cross verges on something out of Samuel Butler's "Erewhon"! It is interesting that much neurotic "political correctness" is not due to pressure from the supposed victims of discrimination but as a guilt-reaction from their previous exploiters. For example, a spokesman for the British Islamic community expressed his disgust about the banning of the Bible in Leicestershire hospitals and made it quite clear that for the Holy Word to be available in no way offended Islamic sensibilities (Incidentally, if those who banned the Bible had taken the trouble to study Islam they would see that Moslems hold Christ and Christian writings in great esteem). We have now reached a stage where to compliment a female work colleague on her attire is regarded as akin to rape or to promote a better-qualified Caucasian above a person of darker skin is regarded as racism. (Example Â– the editor of the novel on which I am currently working objected to having one character Â– an indigenous Australian- described as having good eyesight, which apparently is an offensive racial stereotype. Ye gods!!!)"