How I "met" DW (warning - looooong)

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How I "met" DW (warning - looooong)

Post by Alan » Mon 26 Jan, 2009 12:32:24

Some time ago I think there was a thread up here on how one first began reading DW - always meant to add to it, and never got around to it until now. Anyway, comments welcome, as always...

Pan’s disciple.
How I met DW.

In Sainsbury’s supermarket, in Croydon High Street, I encountered a man that was to seduce me. Who led me into bad ways and evil pathways. Who, with scant regard for my innocence and childish years dragged me into a maelstrom of evil and wickedness.
And I never even had a chance to thank him.

Most look back on their childhood with longing and affection. As for me, you can keep it.
Picture this. A young, (even for his age) snot-nosed adolescent a few months short of his fourteenth birthday. Skinny, shy, frail and bookish. Living in the slums of South-West London. A middling scholar, too slight and uno-coordinated to achieve much on the sports field. Hardly the recipe for an A A Milne style golden age.
Though of course, there were compensations. My six watts per channel stereo, with its four-band radio (even longwave, in those days), and my portable cassette-player if I felt like a change. An Airfix Russian WWII army that had yet to win a battle – but oh, how I loved those T34s! Fevered imaginings as, through the nights, I displayed my affection with the fantasy lady of choice (the blonde on the “Crunchieâ€￾ advert kept me happy for weeks!). The fortunes of Chelsea Football Club, and Stock car Racing at Wimbledon. I wonder what Dave Willis and Foxy Dance are doing now!
Oh, did I mention the books?
Yes, of course there were books. A huge bookcase containing everything from outdated “Smashâ€￾ annuals to “George VI, King and Emperorâ€￾. And with pride of place given to the greatest compensation of all... books of the macabre and fantastic.
I was no literary snob. I’d tackle Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Marvel’s weird comics with equal relish. I had Dracula, but also the Pip, Squeak and Wilfred annual with the tale of the haunted house.
If I had any complaint about my library of the macabre, it was this - it was far too small. Books of the weird and wonderful were – this was the early seventies, before EBay and Amazon – difficult to get. Even at this age I’d read The Hobbit four times, and Lord of the Rings twice. I’d also devour the flickering black and white horror movies, but even as a callow youth I found them ridiculous and tame. Today’s world, where fantasy and horror take up three quarters of any modern bookshop, was a long way in the future. It just wasn’t possible, as I often mused, to walk into a bookshop and be sure of picking up something that would rock your mental world and send shivers down your psyche.
And then, one Easter holiday, everything changed.

And this brings us to Sainsbury’s. I was tagging along with my mother as she picked up the weeks groceries. And on the shelf, amongst the thrillers and comics was an inauspicious little black volume, on the cover of which was a strange mishmash of objects – a voodoo mask (though I didn’t know what “voodooâ€￾ was, of course), feathers, amulets.
To think I almost missed it. And how different my subsequent life would have been.
“Strange Conflictâ€￾ I read. And so to the blurb. The book, I learned, was about a guy called the Duke De Rich-Lee-o and his aristocratic friends, who take on an evil Satanist, on the way encountering zombies, ghoulies and a hair-raising trip to Haiti, wherever that was. And it had a background of World War II to boot – remember those Russian soldiers?
Before I knew what I was doing I’d handed over the requisite few pence, and my guardian angel was smiling.

The Duke De Richleau and Sir Pellinore Gwaint-Cust had gone into dinner at eight o’clock, but coffee was not served till after ten.

Curled up in my armchair, opening the volume and relishing the exciting, semi-musty smell of a new book, I was already hooked. Here were real men, significant men. They didn’t eat baked beans on toast in front of a flickering black and white telly, and wash it down with sweet tea. They actually changed into special red silk jackets, went in to dinner, and then into yet another room for their brandy and Hoyo De Monterrey cigars. Never mind TV – even the crashing of Nazi bombs outside couldn’t take their attention from the pleasures of the table.
By the time the two aristocrats had finished their plaintive discussion on the North Atlantic convoys and Le Duc had summoned Rex and Simon by tricky magical means, I was as hooked as any drug addict. And this was only the first tremors of the earthquake-shock to my psyche that was to follow.
Why, dreams were not just dreams, I learned. They were actually real memories of your nightly wanderings as your astral slipped out of your body and cavorted all over the universe. That wet dream I’d had about Miss (name-changed-to-protect etc), the games teacher might have been a real encounter. Did this mean I was no longer a virgin? And, furthermore, one wasn’t confined to one’s own skinny, clumsy body. One could become a hornet, a poisonous dragon-fly “of the sort found in the Amazonâ€￾, a whale, or even a glamour-model with extra long legs (as Marie-Lou did. I had no idea what this “cheval glassâ€￾ was, that the Duke advised her to consult, but never mind!). One could go to “The Astral equivalent of Chinaâ€￾. Or back to one’s past incarnation as a concert pianist.
I’d met ghosts before, of course. But they were usually the malevolent revenants that stalked gothic horror, whose sole function was to frighten the heroine. These ghosts – or Astrals, rather – were actually connected to real bodies.
This new world was both amazing and scary. Why, “woogliesâ€￾ were everywhere, and the pretty mute girl one falls in love with might be a zombie animated from afar. Secret orders were not necessarily secret, and if you took one wrong step the “emissaries of hellâ€￾ (such a redolent phrase) would come after you. Even when you thought you were safe at home, eating your ham and eggs and champagne, while the Duke whipped up the batter for the pancakes, you couldn’t be sure you were safe. Even now, your enemies – having tracked you on the astral – might be lying in wait with a bomb.
And these were only the mundane wing of the enemy’s hordes. There were also nasty elementals, shadowy hordes, and evil red lights that turned your limbs to lead so you couldn’t even run away. Dracula had been scary enough, but at least you could keep him at bay with a crucifix and garlic. Even with enough money to buy yourself a house when you landed at Haiti, and enough arcane knowledge to knock up a pentacle, it was still a dangerous world.
And the fact that the Duke and his team were so obviously overmatched by their enemy made it worse still. Why, I’d come to love these people – The wise, kind Duke, heroic Richard, gentle Simon (so much like myself), the seductive Marie-Lou, and Rex, who was, frankly a bit of a pain, but nonetheless just the sort of chap you’d want at your back in a crisis! But what could these five people do against the might of Dr Saturday, who’d seemed such a nice man when one first met him?
I read on by torchlight, under the covers, thankful that there was no school the next day. That night my dreams were filled with circling astral insects, beautiful zombies, and Richard Eaton winking as he served me my Krug champagne!

As soon as my parents left for work the next day, I was back in the Duke’s world, hoping against hope they might win out. But things went from bad to worse... by the early afternoon they were dead (sort of) and in their coffins, and the Duke was helpless and paralysed, at the mercy of Dr Saturday. And there were only a few pages left – not enough to turn the tide. Even Pan, that untrustworthy creature, couldn’t be relied upon for help.
Or could he?
By the last page, I felt like I’d woken up from a night of influenza, or been in a fight with the school bully and won. But there was yet more to come. For the last page is not simply a wrapping up, the adult equivalent of Enid Blyton’s “and then they all went home for tea and hot buttered toastâ€￾ – oh no! We learn that the battle hasn’t been simply the Duke against Saturday, or even the Allies against the Axis. More significant things were at stake here – no less that the very spiritual future of humanity. But as long as Britain stands, the Powers of Darkness cannot prevail. On Earth, the Anglo-Saxon race is the last guardian of the Light...come what may, our island will prove the Bulwark of the World.

With a bit of help from America, the Jews and the French and Russian aristocracy, of course! I was too mentally slow (or too young) to realise that the nationalities of the protagonists had been carefully chosen to represent the allies standing against Nazi Germany. Or even pick DW’s other tricks of style. His opening of chapters with monologues full of interesting historical facts, in order to prolong the suspense. His suspension of the story with elaborate descriptions of the meals and wines consumed by the characters. His perfect choice of words, as meticulously chosen as a Haiku poet, all contributing to the clarity of his tale.
I was even too naive to realise that my new literary hero, for all his virtues, had some nasty traits too. Why, the man was a racist, who saw all negroes as eye-rolling Rochesters, who had wogs beginning at Calais (except for the Aristocrats of course, who could be as foreign as they liked), and was unable to portray a member of the working class without a lame attempt at comic relief.
But what the hell. Hadn’t it been the super-bitchenest book I’d ever read? And knowing the propensity of writers to reuse their characters in series of novels, there was always hope there were more to come.
There were!
And from that day to this (I’m in my fifty-first year now, how time flies) I’ve stuck with my new friend DW. I’m pleased to say I never picked up his political views (years later, when I read Three Inquisitive People, I was revolted by his homophobia. I’m hetero myself, and I shudder to think what a gay person reading DW might think of it), and I never subscribed to his “one Englishman (or American, or nice foreign aristocrat) equals ninety Johnny Foreignersâ€￾ view, or his obvious conviction that the working class should know their place, and damn well stick to it! But I always did have reservations about political dictatorships, whether of the right or left, about meddling with Satanism and dark side of the Occult, about remembering there’s a life beyond this one – and these views date from Strange Conflict, and the rest of DW’s oeuvre.
Even when I eventually became a writer myself, anyone whose read us both will see DW’s influence – not, I admit, that I’m fit to pour the man’s Chateau Lafitte!
It’s a strange feeling – to owe so much to a man I’ve never met. Hell, even if our paths had crossed, we couldn’t have entered into a political discussion without us being at each others throats long before we’d retired at ten for our coffee and Hoyos! Yet, despite his faults the man moves me like few others can.
The great god Pan can truly be proud of his greatest disciple.

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Post by Jim » Tue 27 Jan, 2009 11:31:53

Most enjoyable! Thanks so much.

Stevie P
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Post by Stevie P » Wed 28 Jan, 2009 09:37:22


We have some similarities in our past.
I used to live in Wallington from the age of 16 - 20 and used to go shopping at the Whitgift Centre, Croydon quite frequently. I remember buying my first Moody Blues LP 'Days of Future Past' there
I used to get the train from Waddon to Clapham Junction in order to get to work in York Road, Battersea.
I also used to regularly visit Plough Lane, Wimbledon to watch the Don's Speedway team. (Ronnie Moore was the captain).
Prior to Wallington I lived in the "slums" of South East London - Come on Millwall!!!!. Playing on the Bomb sites with my young pals.

Anyway, back to Pan's disciple and how you met DW.

I, like you was reading Lord of the Rings during these times and fell in love with it. It is still the standard by which I judge all the numerous 'copies' in their various guises of this fantasy genre. I haven't read one that lived up to the original.
I thought that Peter Jackson generally made a great version of the three films but the downside is its become too popular now and has lost a little of its 'Magic' as it has been in the public domain so much.
Two other similarities are Nessun Dorma which I loved (and still do) until it was used for of the Football World Cup Tournaments every two minutes.
More recently Jeff Buckley's brilliant version of Hallelujah is being eroded by the constant playing of the very good version of the song by the recent X Factor winner.

Strange Conflict is a great book and you mention the activities that take place on the Astral. I have always wanted to know how true the 'Astral' really is. I know that Nick Dow had horrendous problems which were recently recorded on this site. It's very difficult to believe in something you have never knowingly experienced.
Is a dream that I can control automatically a trip on the Astral?? or is it just a dream.
In fact one of the lines you used made me chuckle. "Even now, your enemies - having tracked you on the Astral - might be lying in wait with a bomb".
Can astral entities pick up solid objects?? This is a separate subject in itself. I would love to know more 'real facts'.

I also didn't know what a Cheval Glass was so I checked this out in my 'geeky way'. It is A tall mirrorfitted at its middle to an upright frame so that it can be tilted.

I loved the posting not just the content but also the way it was presented. Please do more.

Just one point - What are you doing Australia when you could be enjoying the British Weather and Millwall FC. The Ozzies can't even win at cricket these days!!!!!

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Post by Nick » Fri 30 Jan, 2009 19:05:01

Loved the story of your meeting. The obvious affection you have for the Musketeers is shared by so many people. I picked up a copy of Dangerous inheritance at a car boot and in the back cover was a requiem for the Duke written by the last owner of the book, full of tears and gratitude.

Steve mentioned my problems on the Astral, fortunately there has been no repeat attack, but my wife and I have been pestered by Imps, moving things around and hiding them, and generally causing mischief, however this has stopped over the last few weeks (and the Dogs have stopped barking at nothing in particular). My wife has made me promise not to open myself up on the Astral again and unwittingly invite them in. Incidently the cold blast from disembodied evil, is something you have to feel to believe, its like a cold shower working its way from top to bottom of your body,and destroys scepticism for ever. Enough about me.
Will you be coming over to this years conference, or is that out of the question? Thanks again for your memories.

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Post by Alan » Sun 15 Feb, 2009 13:52:12

(sorry for late reply – have just got back to Brisbane and my email connection)

Stevie P, good to know I’m not the only Cockney Sparra posting here. I know Wallington quite well (or at least did, up until 1973) – it was always quite a posh suburb in those days. What time did you live there?

My mum has mentioned Ronnie Moore and the Dons, so I guess it was maybe a few years before my time that you used to go to Wimbledon.

I agree with you about LOTR – although for me, the commercialization began long before, when I saw my first “Gandalf livesâ€￾ badge! In Croydon High Street there was even a disco called “the Hobbits’ Gardenâ€￾! There was also a really atrocious cartoon movie of the book, but it deservedly bombed (Very Disneyesque, with the Hobbits playing lutes!) – actually, like you I felt Jackson’s version was pretty good, but whatever happened to Tom Bombadil?

As for the astral being “trueâ€￾ – well, it certainly seems logical, but like most occult things it is hard to prove one way or another. Certainly, pace DW, I don’t feel that every single remembered dream is a memory of an astral journey… I’m sure the subconscious plays a role too. My own view is that there certainly is a world beyond this, though as a novelist DW surely wasn’t above changing some of its properties to make a better story.

A dream that you can “controlâ€￾ is what’s knows as a “lucid dreamâ€￾ – great fun, as you can murder your enemies with impunity, drive around in a luxury car (or ride a white swan if you prefer), live in a fifty story glass house or do whatever you wish – but whether or not every lucid ream is a genuine astral journey I can’t say. I have heard that one way to get onto the astral and remain that all important consciousness/memory is to enter it via a lucid dream.

As for astral entities picking up solid objects, what I was referring to (I can see on rereading I didn’t make this very clear) was that the Japanese and German spies who threw the grenade into Cardinal’s Folly were very definitely physical, in their real bodies, but that these only represent the physical wing of the bad guys – who could also call on (in “Strange Conflictâ€￾) an elemental vampire capable of interacting with the physical. DW’s contention is that the spirits of people, whether or not in earthly incarnation, can’t physically interact with our world (see “Ka of Gifford Hillaryâ€￾), but that elementals can. I tend to give credence to this, and I’m sure Nick will back me up – see his recent postings!

As for what I’m doing in Oz? Sometimes I wonder myself… But being in love with a lovely lady here, I certainly won’t be coming back to Blighty any time soon. I do, however, have a sneaking hope that one day England will return to winning the ashes on a regular basis!

Thanks for the info on the cheval glass!

Nick - >in the back cover was a requiem for the Duke written by the last owner of the book, full of tears and gratitude.

I first read this book a few months after I discovered DW, and like the previous owner of your copy I was shocked and horrified. I was too unsophisticated at that time to write my own eulogy – any chance of posting it on the site?

Ironically, the Duke himself would probably think it all a lot of fuss about nothing, since he regarded death as just tossing away an overcoat! Incidentally, he “diesâ€￾ (in a sense) in two books – can anyone say what the other one is?

As to the convention... Ah, I only wish! But certainly I’ll do more reviews… glad my meanderings are appreciated.

Stevie P
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Post by Stevie P » Tue 17 Feb, 2009 19:12:33


I was only in Wallington for a couple of years 1971 to 1972. My dad was working for Lombard North central as it was then and he was offered the chance to relocate to the Shirley, Solihull branch in 1972. So I went with them.

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