Contraband

Stevie P
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Contraband

Postby Stevie P » Mon 2 Jul, 2007 19:46:08

This was my first reading of ‘Contraband’. It re-introduces Gregory Sallust following his introduction in the 1934 novel ‘Black August’.
In ‘Contraband’ Gregory seems a little nicer than the egoistic character portrayed previously. He actually seems to care about people in this story.
The book also introduces Sir Pellinore-Gwain Cust as the quintessentially English aristocrat.
Sir Pellinore becomes a very influential character in subsequent DW novels.

The story tells of a group of communist agitators who become heavily involved in smuggling goods across the channel from France to south east England at well hidden landing strips.

Chapter 1 begins, “ When Gregory Sallust first saw the girl it was already midnight on the last day of his holiday.
On page 52 (Arrow paperback) Gregory recalls to Sir Pellinore, “I followed her (the above mentioned girl) because it was part of my job” ???

However, Gregory does eventually get given a job from the aristocrat; to find out who was responsible for the smuggling activities which were threatening the interests of several corporations in the UK.

Gregory takes his ex. batman, George Rudd with him to try to smash the smuggling ring.
George also appeared in Black August as the landlord of 272 Gloucester Road.
The same flat is now rented by Gregory rather than something more expensive as a thank you to George. There is a little footnote in the book ;
* Further particulars of Gregory Sallust, Mr Rudd and his curious caravanserai in Gloucester road are to be found in Black August 15th Edition. Hutchinson (Now3/6.)

Gregory and George find themselves pitted against the sinister Lord Gavin Fortescue. “He lives as a recluse, immensely rich and made every penny out of crooked deals. He hates his fellow men like poison and has sold his soul fifty times over to make his millions…..He was involved in a conspiracy , by means of arson, sabotage and paid gunmen to endeavour to gain control of the entire film industry.” Another footnote;
*For particulars of this conspiracy see:- Such power is dangerous, Hutchinson. (Now 2/6.).
(A little advertising never hurts.)

There are numerous plane chases as well as car chases (a la, ‘Devil rides out’) in pursuit of the baddies and also to catch the girl Sabine who is to be eventually wooed away from the evil Lord Fortescue by our intrepid hero. (also, a la, ‘Devil rides out’).

One of the best chapters is where Gregory and Inspector Gerry Wells from Scotland Yard get caught by the gang of smugglers and are thrown into the shallow waters of Pegwell Bay, Kent. The idea being that the water is too shallow to swim in, a long way from the shore and the sand underneath them will not hold their weight.
As a result there would be no evidence of any ill doing.


A few further snippets;

Does anybody know if Dennis Wheatley was in the Freemasons? There are some obvious Masonic references in this book.

The obligatory referenceÂ’s to JusteriniÂ’s are included (pages 42, 119 and 120).

On page 61, DW has a moan about the pub closing times.
“Its not likely they’ll turn us out as long as we look like buying another drink off them since there are none of these fool early closing laws in France”.

Page 69 refers to the now infamous fishing village of ‘Sangatte’ near to Wissant. Unfortunately the spelling was not so good in the book – Sandgatt ??

Page 102 has another interesting spelling mistake - Mad moiselle. At least I think itÂ’s a mistake.

Page 182 The Limper (one of the characters in the book) had good ‘Grey eyes’.
How often does this subject come up in DWÂ’s books? And why?

Gregory had Rudd as a batman in World War 1 (1914 – 1918) ‘Page 56’, so he must have been around about 20 during the war. Contraband is written in the period 1936 which would add at least another 18 years to his age (38), but he still managed to carry out some astonishing heroics in the World War 2 series of books which wouldn’t start for another 13 years making him 51?? Who cares!!!

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Postby Garry Holmes » Mon 2 Jul, 2007 20:39:36

Re: Gregory Sallust's age. It is interesting how DW paid so little attention to the continuity in the Sallust books. I do sometimes think that DW cared less about Gregory as a character than De Richleau or Roger Brook. He couldn't be bothered to tie up any inconsistencies.

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Postby Alan » Tue 3 Jul, 2007 09:34:23

A really excellent review here, if I might say so. Can't fault any of the opinions, except maybe one (see below)...

However, I do want to drag out the ol' hobby horse about "Black August" NOT being part of the mainstream Sallust works. As fa as I am concerned, Gregory's story begins with "Contraband" and ends with "White Witch of the South Seas"... the events in "August" would have to have taken place long after Sallust moved out of his flat, met Sir Pellinore, etc, an internal contradiction if the works are on the same timeline.

As for DW and the Masons, I really feel the jury is out. Certainly there is lots of Masonic symbolism in the works, and the philosophy espoused in the books, along with the politics, echo what I understand as Masonic ideals (I'm not a member of the craft, btw). On 'tother hand, it's not unheard of that a writer of thrillers about the occult would make use of any esoteric knowledge, secretive societies, etc that were around at the time. I myself know something of the philosophy simply because some Masonic doctrine available to the general public matches other occult beliefs. It's obvious DW knew masons socially - but hen he also knew a few black magicians without being among their number.

I seem to recall that DW had some harsh things to say about some branches of the craft in the Roger Brook series, which muddies the waters further.

>Gregory had Rudd as a batman in World War 1 (1914 – 1918) ‘Page 56’, so he must have been around about 20 during the war. Contraband is written in the period 1936 which would add at least another 18 years to his age (3Cool, but he still managed to carry out some astonishing heroics in the World War 2 series of books which wouldn’t start for another 13 years making him 51?? Who cares!!!

I don't know how old you are mate, but believe me it's not unheard of for a guy in his fifties to be vigorous and a pretty handy streetfighter, and, for that matter, be one for the ladies. Perhaps having just celebrated my 49th birthday here I have a vested interest :) ... there's a saying here in Australia, "An old dog for a hard road", and old dogs didn't come much tougher than our Gregory. In any case, DW gives a very convincing explanation as to why Gregory is so fit - that he didn't destroy his body playing sport when young.

But enough carping - a most entertaining and erudite piece, to the extent I plan to read "Contraband" again on my next break.

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Postby Stevie P » Tue 3 Jul, 2007 11:38:41

Hi Alan,

I wasn't being age'ist. In fact I'm older than you at 55. It was more to do with the continuity that Garry highlighted.

I just got the impression when I read 'The Scarlet Iimposter' and 'Faked Passports' that Gregory was at his peak. (Not in his fifties).

Its been a few years since I read these books so I can't recall if any indication of his age is given during the World War 2 exploits. Any assistance from any other readers would be welcome.

I totally agree with the Black August comments.

I'm pleased you enjoyed most of it, "Old boy"!!!!! :)

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Postby Alan » Thu 5 Jul, 2007 14:45:38

(Hoisting my pants up to my armpits, polishing up the old zimmer frame and checking my supply of incontinence pads) don't worry old chap - no offence taken. As for Gregory's age, there is (if memory serves, and it may not) a reference to it in "White Witch of the South Seas" which I'm too lazy to look up just now - but then since we don't know what year that novel is set, 'tis little help.

My best guess is that he was a very young man in WWI (I am sure in Britain, as in Australia, many 15 year olds chalked "17" on the soles of their boots, so they could truthfully answer "yes" when asked by the recruitment officer "Are you over 17?"), but even if we assume he was of age, he could have been doing frontline service at, say 20 in 1918 - making him 41 at the outbreak of WWII and 47 by its end - as a stringy, lean type (who tend to age better than the more, ahem, substantially built folk if current medical wisdom is accurate) who is also naturally athletic without having to exercise, it's believable enough he could still be capable of heroic deeds, beating up the Graubers of this world and satisfying a certain lovely countess!

Personally, as per "continuity issues" in DW, I am more concerned about the way characters tend to find the loves of their lives in the "Modern Musketeer" series, only for said ladies to vanish without a trace a few novels down the track. I don't think Tanith is mentioned again after "Devil Rides Out", and whatever became of the lovely Miranda? At least Erica was "written out" of the story, and then convincingly written "back in" at the appropriate points.

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Postby Stevie P » Thu 5 Jul, 2007 19:28:32

Good stuff Alan. I can't fault the logic.

Just one thing, in order to add a couple of years onto the equation.

George Rudd was Gregory's Batman.
How long would it be before a new recruit would have an Officers servant?
Possibly not long with all the deaths in the 'Great War'

The note below I picked up from the net to prove your point about the 'Babes in arms'


"Inside the office there was a Recruiting Sergeant and an Officer, as well as a Medical Officer. I was really scared, but the Sergeant asked me what I wanted, I looked so young. Then I said that I wanted to join up, and he looked at me as if I should still be in my cradle. I suppose he was not far wrong! He asked my age and I boldly said "18 years." He looked at me with a smile, and asked "Does your mother know that you are 18?" Then he said "All right, son,18 it is." He took my name, and passed me over to the MO who had me strip naked, examined and passed me. The Officer then made me take the Oath of Allegiance and there I was, a soldier at 15 3/4."
George Parker - A Tale of a Boy Soldier

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Postby Garry Holmes » Thu 5 Jul, 2007 19:49:47

I'm sure that Tanith is mentioned in one of the novels after DEVIL RIDES OUT. It basically just says that she died shortly after the events of that novel. Rex had married her (presumably his son in DANGEROUS INHERITANCE is from this match). As for Miranda, this is one of the problems of retroactive continuity. You write your last book, then you decide to write the 'book before last'. We ought to be glad that there aren't more continuity errors. I still think that DW was quite ruthless about writing Erica out in THE ISLAND WHERE TIME STANDS STILL. He only revived her because of the outcry from his public.
I believe that DW is quite an inspiration to old farts everywhere. Sallust and the Musketeers are still having adventures into late middle age, and De Richleau is still fighting evil into his eighties. Go for it, Granddad! (Is it coincidence that Rex named his son after a form of surgical support. I think not!)

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Postby Alan » Mon 9 Jul, 2007 08:41:27

>Is it coincidence that Rex named his son after a form of surgical support. I think not!)

LOL!!!!! I remember finding this utterly hilarious when I first read "Dangerous Inheritance" at age 14! The rest of the book - with poor old Greyeyes dying - was something of a traumatic experience to me.

All in all, though, I'd have loved to have known Fleur in her twenties. Imagine a gorgeous, refined lady, who comes as a package with Rochard and Marie-Lou Eaton as parents-in-law.

Can you recall where Tanith is mentioned? A shame she died... shades of Dornford Yates, who would marry his characters off in happy endings, only to have the new spouse and any subsequent offspring killed off in a convenient plane crash between books so that the whole romantic search could begin anew.

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Postby Michael Karnstein » Mon 31 Dec, 2007 08:48:21

I enjoyed Contraband as it was a throw-off from the cruel and cold-blooded Sallust war novels I had read previously. Nothing wrong with them, but Gregory is indeed more humane in this one, and the story is a good old English crime/adventure story. Interesting and enjoyable in it´s difference from the other Sallust novels.
Dante knew nothing about hell.

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Postby Stevie P » Sun 2 Mar, 2008 11:12:01

In a somewhat belated response to Garry Holmes enquiry (July 2007) on Taniths death - I realised that I found out the answer in my review of "The Golden Spaniard" so I have copied the paragraph to this review to complete the question that arose.

The Duke recounts that Tanith (Rex’s wife) of The Devil Rides Out fame died three years ago since giving birth to her 1st child – little Robin. (This story takes place in mid 1936 which would make it mid 1933 when Tanith is supposed to have died).
TDRO was written in December 1933. ThereÂ’s something wrong with the maths!!!

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Postby Jim » Thu 6 Mar, 2008 05:07:34

It's funny, since DW was so careful about *real* history when he wrote, that he should have been so careless about the details of his characters' lives, and so "sloppy" with the continuity.

On the other hand, I don't imagine he envisioned a discussion group of people cheerfully picking apart his works forty years (and more) down the road...

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Postby CharlesAdmin » Thu 6 Mar, 2008 19:00:32

Picking up on Jim's point, let's hope DW would have been really delighted.

Who knows, one day there might be a University with a course in 'Dennis Wheatley studies' .... I'm sure he's worth a PhD or two ... now there's a thought for retirement ... ... ...

All best !


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