Recently I received some correspondence from Chris Hunter in Moonta, South Australia with a very moving tale of how he had 'met' DW. This has prompted me (with Chris' permisson) to reproduce the tale here in the hope that others will also follow.
I must say I have a lot of admiration for aficionados. Passion is the key element and you certainly have that in abundance. Great site. I am writing to you from a small South Australian town called Moonta. It is the only Cornish town built in Australia and was founded in the 1870's as a result of the copper discovery here. It is very picturesque and an ideal setting for a DW novel. A good location for a haunting.
Considering European settlement is relatively new in Australia, this place ranks as one of the older towns. Now if you want real time of ages material you have to enter the dream time of Aboriginal Australia, and then you can bounce back 30,000 years or more without a problem. I wonder what Dennis would have made of that?
I grew up in New Zealand although I was born at Lytham, Lancs., in 1948. Both my parents were New Zealanders, my father being a fighter pilot in the RAF during and after the war.
He was part of an empire squadron flying out of Burma during the conflict. After returning to NZ and a brief spell as administrator of German Samoa, post war, he received a permanent commission in the Queen's squadron in the RAF, and that is how come I was born at Lytham all those years ago. Yes, I'm getting around to my main topic. Dad was posted to Germany and there flew the early jets. Of course, we followed, and my older brother and I became bi-lingual. Everything was going just swimmingly until tragedy struck. My mother developed terminal cancer, became very homesick, Dad resigned his commission, and we all shipped back in 1952, which is the year Mum died. Now what has Dennis Wheatley got to do with all this. Well my father was an avid DW fan and as a youngster [pre TV] I got onto him as well. I remember [like you Bob] freaking myself out with The Haunting of Toby Jug in particular. I can remember Dad telling me how much he liked that particular novel when he was younger, so I guess it was an early edition. Now for another tragedy. Several years ago , Dad and his second wife shifted from the old family home.
They got rid of most of the books. First world war Biggles and God knows, most of my Grandfathers books too. Recently I returned on one of my rare visits and called on my step mother [Dad died 5 years ago]. She is very frail and waving her hand toward the vastly reduced bookshelf said, " You'd better take what you want before you return to Australia." Now as it happens very few of my mothers possessions have survived and I had often rued the fact that I had nothing really personal to remember her by. Her jewelry finished up with my step sister, and other items with my older brother. I found myself attracted to a plain black hardcover with faded gold lettering on the spine.
Obviously without a dust jacket, I drew it from the shelf. You guessed it; 'The man who missed the war.' I idly flicked open the hard cover, and written neatly on the reverse; Lloyd, Love from Helen, April 1946.
And opposite, in my fathers writing; F/Lieut L.T. Hunter. I had my heirloom. A further coincidence being that my stepmothers maiden name was Hutchinson. I presume my mother was aware of my fathers interest in DW. But perhaps there was just one further clue. My middle name is Douglas. Doug James was also a fighter pilot in the war and he and wife Iris are my God parents. They travelled on the same boat with my father, pregnant mother [me], and brother when they returned to England pre Feb 1948. Doug and Iris are still alive [NZ] and were obviously great friends. Wheatley dedicated the book to an' Iris' Sutherland VE day 1945. Could this have influenced my mother in its purchase? I guess I'll never know, but it makes interesting speculation. Of course, I read the book. Somehow it had eluded me in my nonage. And when I reached the final page, and then the final line, and ultimately the final word, I found myself strangely suspended in time, and Chris Hunter, Vietnam Veteran, father of three, tough guy in general, quietly shed a tear.
Well there you have it Bob. A Dennis Wheatley story from the land down under. If I come across anything in my travels connected to DW I'll let you know. I was an old 'Shadows' fan too by the way,
Gulp! Follow that..........