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The Man Who Missed The War

Posted: Wed 15 Jul, 2009 21:41:27
by Stevie P
The war ended for Dennis Wheatley on the 22nd December 1944. He had written very little, other than war papers during this time and had become practically dependent on his air Force pay as a Wing Commander. He therefore applied to be released in order to write another book. As he had been in the cabinet offices for the previous three years, he knew that he could not write another spy story from fear of infringing the official secrets act. In May 1941, whilst working in his first year at the Cabinet office he had written a paper named ‘Atlantic lifeline’ which was based on his own ‘Raft Convoy Plan’. The U-boat campaign had developed to a point where shipping losses were becoming really serious, and it looked as though, should they continue at that rate for another year, Britain might be starved out. His plan was that each convoy should consist of one hundred 100-foot square rafts – carrying bulk cargoes of grain and raw materials in iron containers – in ten rows linked by steel cables with another cable connecting the ten rows in front, and two sea-going tugs armed with guns at the front corners of the square to adjust the convoy’s direction. Each raft was to have a sail from corner to corner, and there were to be two motor boats in attendance on each convoy to service the rafts. His idea was that the raft convoy could take advantage of the Gulf Stream and assist in bringing thousands of tons of cargo into the country. The Admiralty experts pronounced the plan impracticable. DW never found out why. (An illustration of the plan of the raft convoy is shown in Chapter 2 of the book)
The story that DW wrote was called ‘The man who missed the war’ about a man and a girl who get swept down to the Antarctic on one of the aforesaid rafts. It cost DW his American publishers Macmillan; as they had done very well with his Gregory Sallust books, they refused to take any book that did not continue his adventures.
The dedication in the book is to Iris Sutherland who was DW's "invaluable secretary through the dark days of 1941-42". She generously gave up her rest days from her War office job to deciphering DW's hand written manuscript. His handwriting must have been quite difficult to read, as the 'dust jacket notes' refer to the main character as Philip Vandell, whilst the remainder of the book uses the correct name, Philip Vaudell.
Philip is the son of a Naval Captain (Engineer Captain Ralph Vaudell). The story starts on September 10th 1937. A dinner party is being held at the Vaudell family home. In addition to the family members there are two other guests present; Vice Admiral Sir James Jolly and the Canon & Mrs Beal-Brookman. Philip explains to the V. Admiral his concerns over the governments’ failings in preparing for a second world war which is looking more and more imminent. We need more Planes, not more battleships he insisted. We will also need supplies which will become very short as the war continues. The Vice admiral suggests that Philip comes up with a new idea to assist the war effort. He does just that. His idea is the 'Raft Convoy'. In order to get another opinion on his idea he asks the Canon if he should forward it to the Admiralty. The canon is all in favour of pursuing it. The Admiralty decide not to pursue the idea. However, the spirits have been working in strange ways. The Canon died shortly after the Admiralties decision and Philip was bequeathed a substantial amount of money which enabled him to fund the project himself. Philip sets the plan in progress by crossing the channel to New York. He arranges for the Convoy to be built and manages to organise a deal with a Mr Eric Eiderman who agrees to put goods on the first crossing from New York to the UK. A crew is selected and a date set for the first crossing. A ship is to be used to tow the launch and Raft out to sea before returning back to the harbour. Philip decides to catch up on his sleep until it is time for the launch to start its trip. He is awakened by a vivid dream. The deceased Canon is telling him to wake up and get back on Deck. The crew & Eiderman, do not turn out to be what they seem. Philip overhears them talking German in the cabin below and the last thing he hears is "Heil Hitler".
When he next meets Eiderman a fight breaks out, Eiderman is killed by Philip and Philip escapes from the ship whilst the remainder of the crew are busy or drunk. He unhooks the launch/Raft from the ship and he is left alone in the Atlantic. At least he thinks he is!!! Then Gloria appears. She had been sleeping in the Raft convoy. She is of Irish descent, now living in New York. She naturally wants to turn the raft back to New York. He wants to go to the UK with the aid of the Gulf Stream. This turns out to be the start of a very stormy relationship. Whilst on the subject of Storms; they run into a heavy storm as they are approaching the Irish coast and it sinks the launch. The two of them are now afloat in the ocean and having to live inside the convoy containers. The good thing is they have plenty of food & Water. The bad thing is they have no means of guiding the containers.
Their next stop is when the Raft comes to a halt on top of a sandbank just off the shore of the West Coast of Africa. They are delighted to be on land (albeit sand & more sand)……Until the night arrives, when they are attacked by masses of land crabs. They can’t get rid of them and so try to guide the convoy further south but they get swept further away from the coast and head South West. Philip & Gloria's next stop is in Antarctica. They set up camp and at the earliest opportunity set out to find a whaling station for more shelter and comfort. They are forced to stop their trek through the ice and snow as Gloria injures an ankle and Philip has to head off alone. A rifle shot is discharged at Philip from Prince Fedor Solgorukin who has now established himself as king of a nearby village. The King takes Philip & Gloria to his "Kingdom". It turns out to be a green haven in a valley which is surrounded by mountains and has an excellent climate. It is a sort of Shangri La in the middle of a barren landscape. The inhabitants are a type of pygmy people who are on average ‘three Feet six inches’ tall. They are all totally subservient to the King who rules them with an iron fist.

Things seem to be going well until the King decides that he would rather keep Gloria for himself. Philip can go if he wishes (or even if he doesn’t). This seems to be the catalyst that binds Philip and Gloria together. They declare their undying love for each other. After a huge fight Philip and Gloria manage to kill the king but they are both very badly injured. They rest up in the valley and inadvertently become the new royalty in the village.

One of the major problems that had been occurring in the village up to this point had been the abduction of several pygmies by a huge hound at regular intervals during the year i.e. every lunar month. The pygmies were not the most intelligent people in the world and had just got used to the idea of this situation. Philip and Gloria weren’t so blasé about it. They decided to do something about it and they set off in the direction from whence the dog had come. This led them to find a totally different group of people living in the next range of mountains. They are the Atzlanteans who are descendants of the city of Atlantis. They still believe in giving blood sacrifices to the Gods, hence the abduction of the pygmies by their pet pooch. Philip and Gloria are taken to their underground city where they are told of the history of their race and that they have powers over and above most other people. They can use instant Hypnosis and control the weather by electro-magnetic waves. They are also able to view activities anywhere in the world by using a large screen using blind people with special talents for creating the images on the screen.
On the first night in the underground city Gloria has a dream, she tells Philip that the Canon had told her, “The Atzlanteans are the enemy; just as much as the Germans or the Japs, because they are on the wrong side in the eternal world struggle that has been going on for thousands of years between blacks and whites and although our scientists don’t even know of their existence, theirs know quite a bit about the outer world. They know about the war and they want the Germans to win. It is for that reason we must make them believe that we are pro-Nazi ourselvesâ€￾
One of the Atzlanteans give them details of the state of the war and are shown pictures of decisions being made in the Pentagon, the headquarters of the sixth British airborne division AND of a Wing-Commander Macnamara who has just introduced another Wing-Commander to the General. “He is not a real airman, as he has no pilot’s wings on his chest, but he says he’s come down from London this afternoon. He is one of the Joint planning staff and apparently the General has the same birthday as the Wing-Commander – 1897. No prizes for guessing who that might be....
The Atzlanteans manage to establish when D day is due to take place and they plan to ‘instantly manufacture’ very low cloud over the Normandy coast as the gliders arrive. This will cause chaos as pilots won’t be able to see where to parachute the troops and many will die.......unless something happens to save the situation!!!!

1) Chapter 5 is called 'Desperate Measures' which is presumably where he took the title for his Sept 1974 Roger Brook novel. DW used chapter names for other later publications. The ones that I know are; Chapter 24 of the ‘Black Baroness’ is called 'Death in the Sunshine'. Chapter 21 of ‘The Fabulous Valley’ is also called ‘Death in the Sunshine’. Another example is Chapter 31 of ‘The Golden Spaniard’ which is called ‘Plot and Counterplot’

2) This book, being DW's first after the war, is full of the authors opinions on how and why it took the path it did. He is particularly impressed with Lord Trenchard; a Marshal of the Air Force who fought to keep the Air Force as a separate service and to prevent it being brought under the Army. (Chapter 11). He is also very impressed with General Wavell who defeated an army six times the size of his own and drove the Italians helter-skelter across half Libya. (Chapter 12)

3) This book is the third of three ‘Lost World’ stories. The previous two being ,‘They Found Atlantis’ and ‘Uncharted Seas’.

4) Philip and Gloria have two children while they are in the Antarctic village. John Alphonse and Aurora.

5) For more details of the ‘D’ Day landings as described in this book, I suggest you take a look at Annexe ‘C’ in Craig Cabell’s book ‘Dennis Wheatley - Churchill’s story teller’.

This was my first reading of the book and enjoyed the story as I did the previous two Lost World novels. The relationship between Philip and Gloria was really well observed at times. I did find it to be a bit of a mix of various styles of well known authors of the time including James Hilton’s – ‘Lost Horizon’ and towards the end of the book, H.G. Wells – and his futuristic views of ‘Things yet to come’. DW’s Atlantis theme also reappears from ‘They found Atlantis’. There was even Conan Doyle’s Hound there!!

Posted: Sat 14 Jan, 2012 08:19:13
by Cibator
This has always been among my top ten Wheatleys, possibly because it features another of those admirable and courageous heroines that DW, unusually for the time, so often had at the centre of the action. Gloria (nee Mary Smith) is a right little horror to begin with, but matures over the course of the narrative to become a worthy accomplice to Philip in the trials that face them.

If I can a add a few comments to StevieP's:

The Germans are again shown in the worst possible light when the raft is intercepted and boarded by a party from a U-boat. As well as wantonly looting and destroying the raft's contents, they scribble obscene additions to Gloria's drawings, an act that serves to erase any lingering pro-German sympathies that she might have retained (being Irish by descent, she naturally detests the English). "They can't be nice people!" she wails on discovering the desecrations. "The Germans are not nice people, and never have been nice people!" is Philip's rejoinder. BTW, it's ironic that later on Philip has to pose as an anglophobic Irishman in order to win the confidence of the Atzlanteans.

The couple's firstborn is named John after the late Canon Beal-Brookman (whom I don't recall as being married, but I might be mistaken there) - but where Alphonse comes from I've no idea, unless it's Gloria's father. The canon also appears to Philip as a ghost after the raft has become diverted away from England, to warn him that his voyage has a purpose, but is unable to tell him what that is ...

Philip shares DW's preference for sweet wines, and his dislike of beer and other bitter-tasting consumables.

Gloria and Philip are able to keep reasonably abreast of developments in the war when they discover some old newspapers left in one of the Antarctic whaling huts. Philip is aghast on hearing the Russians are in, until he looks further and finds they're battling the Germans at Stalingrad. He has a dig at Gloria's adopted country on reading about the Pearl Harbor debacle: "your boys were properly caught with their trousers down". (He took a bit of a chance there: time was she'd have clocked him one for saying that sort of thing!)

The scrap with Prince Solgorukin includes a reference to the assassination of Rasputin which perpetuates several myths about the latter's demise. I hate to have to say this, but DW is simply not always reliable on matters of historical fact. I could produce several more examples, but I'd better leave that for now and start a separate thread on the subject when I have the time.

But here and now I will take a well-merited swipe at that business of DW and General Gale being born in the same year. It's baloney, quite frankly - Gale was born in July 1896, as numerous reference works will confirm. So I've always been puzzled why DW makes such a big song and dance about it, not just here, but in The Deception Planners, and (on Gregory Sallust's behalf) in They Used Dark Forces. (Unless DW was being old-fashioned enough to prefer the old form of the calendar, in which the year didn't begin till 1 April, so that his own birth date would have been 8 January 1896? But in that case, his whole theory of numerological influences, in particular those of the number 8, would have been shot to pieces, since 9+6 = 15, not 16!!)

Posted: Sun 22 Jan, 2012 14:50:01
by Jim
Cibator wrote: This has always been among my top ten Wheatleys, possibly because it features another of those admirable and courageous heroines that DW, unusually for the time, so often had at the centre of the action. Gloria (nee Mary Smith) is a right little horror to begin with, but matures over the course of the narrative to become a worthy accomplice to Philip in the trials that face them.
Now I shall have to consider reading this one again--the first time around, it was one of my least favorite Wheatleys!

Posted: Fri 15 Mar, 2013 22:56:41
by Charles
For a nice comment on this review, and indeed some very nice comments about the DW website as a whole, see

I don't know who John Norris is, but I'm delighted he enjoyed this review, and indeed the entire website !

Best wishes as always,

Posted: Sat 16 Mar, 2013 12:52:07
by Jim
John, who lives in Chicago, says this in his Blogger profile:

I am a part time writer and bookseller. Back in 1999 I started an internet bookselling business from which this blog gets its name. It is solely devoted to the sale of out-of-print & vintage crime, supernatural, adventure and other genre fiction. I have also written critical essays and reviews on detective & supernatural fiction for fanzines, internet sites and small press publishers.