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Julian's Quest

Posted: Wed 26 Dec, 2007 12:10:53
by Stevie P
This was the second book of Dennis WheatleyÂ’s that I became totally immersed into.
Having been enthralled with the first (The Devil Rides Out) I remember going to the Library near to the Bricklayers Arms at the junction of the Old Kent Road and New Kent Road to search for another. I was 15 at the time. The Library is no longer there.

Alas, I remember virtually nothing of the book except the big fire in the desert at the end of the story and I recall making a few notes on a scrap of paper as I wanted to keep a record of these excellent DW stories so that I would remember them in years to come.
It not surprising therefore that I now feel compelled to make amends and read the DW canon and write the book reviews that I should have done years ago.

The Quest of Julian Day revolves around Hugo Julian Du Crow Fernhurst. (Julian Day for short).
At the start of the book Julian is 26 years old and has been forced into resigning his post in the Diplomatic Service, as it seemed as though he had been responsible for passing jealously guarded, diplomatic secrets on to a group of wealthy international criminals. (Do they really get rid of high quality diplomats on the assumption that he might be involved? Guilty till proven innocent!!!)
The accusation was not true and Julian tries to put the record straight by foiling the criminal gang.
The leader of this Criminal fraternity was Sean O’Kieff who was at Oxford with Julian. Sean was a well known occultist and as Julian was “rather interested in such things” decided to sit in on a ritual connected with the Pan cult. “Nothing much really happened although towards the end of the sitting there was an unmistakable smell of goat”
Julian decides to take a break by taking a trip to the East. He happens to be looking in the window of Cook’s when he sees O’Kieff at the counter in the travel agents. He manages to ‘overhear’ that O’Kieff is planning a trip from Marseilles to Egypt. Julian decides to book a cabin on board the same ship but decides to board from Southampton in order to be ready for O’Kieff.
On the second day of the cruise Julian meets Sir Walter Shane (The famous Egyptologist) who is organising a dig to try to discover the remains of the vast treasure of the Persian Monarch Cambyses.
Shane had located two halves of a stone tablet on a previous dig in Egypt which gave details of the location of the Cambyses army and treasure. He took the top half of the tablet back to England to try and obtain funding for the next dig. He and it were now returning to Egypt with the two sponsors, Harry & Clarissa Belville. The lower half of the tablet was still in Cairo with his daughter Sylvia.

You may have already guessed the fact that OÂ’Kieff is also after the same treasure and so when Shane is found murdered on the ship and the tablet taken, a fast and furious race is then on for both parties through large areaÂ’s of Egypt and the Libyan desert to get to the treasure site first.

In January 1938 Dennis Wheatley and his wife (Joan) set out on a trip via Southampton and Marseilles to Alexandria and then Luxor (Thebes). It was here that DW viewed one of the temples in Karnak which contained a statue of the God, Set. When looking at it he felt a definite sense of evil. (TDRO readers may remember the connection with The Talisman of Set.)
In addition to the principal tombs, he visited one that is normally only visited by archaeologists. This being the tomb of Thotmes III, (the Napoleon of Egypt). It was very difficult to reach the Tomb as the entrance is at the bottom of a deep valley into which one has to descend by a rope ladder and the burial chamber lies 300 feet underground. Inside the tomb, part of the stairway had fallen away and in places the roof had cracked however the tomb had been there for three thousand years and so DW decided that the odds of it collapsing on the day he visited it was remote and so decided to risk it.
This tomb is the centrepiece of a fascinating section within ‘The Quest of Julian Day’ (Chapters 19 to 21 inclusive).

In Cairo, DW was introduced to Russell Pasha who looked after both DW and Joan. (In the book Essex Pasha is the Commandant of the Cairo Police).
Russell Pasha introduced DW and Joan to Count Almashley, an Austrian airman who had been engaged by the Egyptian Government to fly to and fro across the Libyan Desert, which is larger than Great Britain, in search of The lost treasure of Cambyses. He failed to find it.

This is a fast moving adventure story which really works. The characters are quite believable and with the exception of a few information dumps on Egyptian history, is a real page turner. I very much enjoyed it, even though I occasionally had visions of Michael Douglas and Katherine Turner in ‘Romancing the Stone’ .

The newspapers enjoyed it as well;
“Excitement is crammed into nearly every page and cleverly crammed, too.”
Philip Page – (Daily Mail).

“Mr Wheatley has never done better than in his Egyptian romance”
D.S. Meldrum – (Daily Telegraph).

“Nobody tells a story with the skill of Mr. Wheatley and the present reviewer can declare with his hand on his heart that he read the book, for all its 422 pages, at a single sitting.”
(Irish Times)

A few additional points;

OÂ’KieffÂ’s eyes were grey.

Some of the chapter names seem to have been partially used for later books i.e.
The birth of a Vendetta, A desperate business, The ancient valley.
The term Plot and Counter Plot also gets used in the text of this story.
Nowadays a lot of authors tend not to name their chapters at all. (Easier, I suppose)

Two of the criminal associates of OÂ’Kieff are;
Zakri Bey an important Egyptian who has a falsetto voice - reminiscent of the Eunuch of Stamboul.
Lord Gavin Fortescue – Whose name has cropped up before in ‘Such Power is Dangerous’ & ‘Contraband’.

(Hutchinson hardback)
Page 204 - Chapter 24 starts – “On each of my dashes along the passage several of the doors in it had been opened a crack but on my appearance they had been shut each time with the rapidity of a row of tickled Oysters”. That’s a new one on me!!!

Page 235 – A reference by Julian to one of the other main characters (Princess Oonas Shahamalek) states, “the fact she was not pure white did not bother me in the least as she was an aristocrat to her finger tips and her abnormally large blue eyes put her right outside the category of a ‘Coloured woman” Iffy statement!!!!

Page 238 – Another statement by Julian about the same Princess - “I had half a mind to follow her and administer the spanking she undoubtedly deserved…” Another iffy statement!!…though not unusual.

Page 317 - A frequently held belief of DW is the afterlife and reincarnation. I have copied these extracts below as I know its what he believed and I certainly gain reassurance in believing heÂ’s right.

“I have never been afraid of death; since it can only be one of two things; either a complete black-out into nothingness or a passing on, as all religions encourage us to hope, into some more pleasant state.
The black-out theory is argued very soundly by materialists but it has always seemed inconceivable to me that life should be quite meaningless and, if it is governed at all, the laws which govern it should be logical; in which case all effort towards mental growth automatically leads us somewhere and, as there is no adequate reward for striving visible in this present life, this postulates another where we shall reap what we have sown. Having once arrived at the conclusion that all the probabilities lie in favour of there being some form of life after death I had long since come to regard death as the beginning of the greatest adventure of all.”

Page 378 - Sylvia Shane states, “I don’t believe that any of us are ever called on to suffer more than we can bear…and although we should avoid suffering by any normal mans we can, we’ve got to take it when its thrust upon us, because it’s a kind of test of our spiritual strength; and if we can succeed in passing we get good marks for it later on……. It would be unfair to judge everybody on just one microscopic span of about sixty-odd years and then award them either a harp and crown or eternal damnation for the countless millions of years which go to make up eternity.

For Bob Rothwell.

My thoughts go out to Sue Rothwell at this time of year.

Posted: Wed 26 Dec, 2007 16:57:44
by Jim
Thanks for this detailed post. I've not read any of the Julian Day trilogy, but I shall certainly move this up on my list.

Posted: Thu 2 Sep, 2010 11:46:12
by Cibator
That's interesting about the Austrian count trying to find Cambyses' treasure by aerial search. I wonder if that's what inspired Captain W E Johns to write "Biggles Flies South", published at much the same time as TQOJD, and also concerned with a bunch of good guys battling a gang of crooks in a hunt for the remains of the lost army. I read it over 40 years ago and remember it as an equally exciting yarn, though far less packed with info about Egypt, ancient or otherwise. And some of the sentiments Capt Johns puts into his characters' mouths (eg, "the oily-faced hog", referring to the chief Egyptian baddie) are no less jarring to the modern reader than DW's!

Posted: Mon 18 Mar, 2013 15:55:31
by shanedwyer
I finished reading this on Sunday afternoon. And what a gem it was too: As atmospheric and as dramatic as any modern thriller. For pace and plotting it was easily as good as Deighton, Ludlum, Forsyth et al. Some absolutely cracking set pieces...the gunfight in the knocking shop; the ordeal in the tomb; the apocalyptic showdown at the end...fabulous!

Furthermore, DW’S masterful descriptions of Egypt’s landscapes and ruins very much gave the lie to the canard that he was a lousy prose stylist. His word-portraits were vivid, lyrical and, at times, as haunting as Shelley’s Ozymandias.

And, in way of a lap of honour, even his trademark info-dumps (here largely concerned with ancient Egyptian history) were delivered with a light touch and were really rather interesting.

Posted: Mon 18 Mar, 2013 18:24:53
by Steve Whatley
I re-read this one about fifteen months ago, and I agree, it is a splendid thriller. And although I found the ending a bit of an anti-climax (certainly by Wheatley standards) , I would nevertheless say that the novel is amongst DW's best.

I can't remember the 'info-dumps', so they must have been well-delivered as you say. Mind you, I never think they're as bad as people make out anyway, with the exception of the Roger Brook series, where I remember being bored nearly senseless by page after page of political machinations, which weren't always entirely necessary for understanding the motivations of the various characters.

I read somewhere recently that somebody at some time had unearthed some relics of Cambyses' lost army, but I can't remember where I read it, nor whether the discovery was made before or after DW wrote the book. Can anyone help?[font=Courier New] [/font]

Posted: Mon 18 Mar, 2013 18:40:13
by Charles
Hi Steve,

The report you're thinking of was a press cutting from the Sunday Express that was tucked into DW's own specially bound copy of 'The Quest', that I came across during the Christies viewing.

See viewtopic.php?t=332&highlight=sangorski

All best !

Posted: Tue 19 Mar, 2013 00:59:08
by Steve Whatley
Ah Charles, many thanks for that.

At least this proves that I do read your posts in the Library, even if I can't remember all the details.

Best as ever,

Steve[font=Courier New] [/font]

Posted: Tue 19 Mar, 2013 14:35:55
by Charles
I never doubted you for a second :D !

Posted: Tue 19 Mar, 2013 22:56:47
by Steve Whatley
Spoken - I trust, Charles - with a Scottish accent, a la John Laurie as Private Fraser! [font=Courier New] [/font]

Posted: Thu 21 Mar, 2013 21:42:52
by Darren
I'm of the opinion that DW was a fast learner. Most DW opinions are based upon The Devil Rides Out - his most famous work. It's also one of if his first. By the time you get to The Quest of Julian Day - and especially The Launching of Roger Brook 8 years later - his writing technique had advanced and he is a different writer. Don't get me wrong I do love The Devil Rides Out and Contraband but I think his writing from The Quest of Julian Day onwards is far better.

Posted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 02:13:09
by Jim
I recently went to Washington DC with friends, and brought Quest as my book for the trip. I enjoyed it, but I was very much aware it is a novel from another, long-gone world. Although we are constantly being told how urgent the hunt for the treasure is, the characters always seems to be able to find a day for leisurely sightseeing, etc. Also, the cheerful references to all the locals as "Gyppies" is not malicious, but can still be a tad off-putting to the present-day reader. (I was a bit surprised to see all these remarks in the 1980 edition, without a trace of clean-up.)

I have to agree that the "info dumps" in this one were well handled. I also agree that some of the descriptions are quite fine--if I can find the one that particularly struck me, I will post it here later. It was also interesting to read DW writing in the first person. I think this is about the only place he does so.

Now I need to get the other two Julian Day volumes and read them.

Posted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 22:11:50
by Charles
DW's original intention was to write six Julian Day novels, each devoted to the destruction of one of his enemies.

I'm rather sorry that - because the public had less enthusiasm for the Julian Day novels than some of his others - he never wrote more than three. I have a great deal of sympathy for this character, and would love to have seen his story reach a happy ending.

If DW books are ever continued in the way that James Bond books were, I hope this is a gap which will be filled - and well.

Sorry about the temporary glitch to the Library by the way - an unspecified I.T. gremlin.

Posted: Sun 30 Jun, 2013 13:25:11
by Jim
Charles wrote: DW's original intention was to write six Julian Day novels, each devoted to the destruction of one of his enemies. I'm rather sorry that - because the public had less enthusiasm for the Julian Day novels than some of his others - he never wrote more than three. I have a great deal of sympathy for this character, and would love to have seen his story reach a happy ending.
I've wondered if that might have been the plan. I've also wondered about the long gap between The Sword of Fate and Bill for the Use of a Body. And I've also wondered why only the first two Julian Day novels are written in first-person. These are all questions which might have been answered in Drink and Ink, had it been a different book...

Posted: Thu 4 Jul, 2013 19:16:16
by ericmocata
I can't really recall how long it has been since I read this one, but I do remember that I enjoyed it quite a bit. I still don't have all three, though. For some reason, Bill for the Use of a Body seems a bit tricky to get, at least without shelling out some money. I think once I get that one, I will re-read the first then read the other two right after.

And maybe somebody can tell me what exactly is with the cover of Sword of Fate. I am referring to a paperback cover, the one that seems to show a guy with the top part of his head as a tank. Is there something in the book that makes that cover make sense? Is he supposed to be wearing some weird tank-shaped helmet?

Posted: Thu 4 Jul, 2013 23:24:19
by Steve Whatley
Yes, I've always found that cover quite bizarre. I think it has been mentioned elsewhere in the Library, probably as someone's least favourite cover of all the various editions.

I don't think there is anything in the book to explain this - it is a straightforward wartime thriller. The design is probably just some mad marketing man's idea of a cover that will sell more copies.

At the risk of mixing different topics, and possibly repeating previous posts, can anyone think of a worse DW cover?[font=Times New Roman] [/font]