The Scarlet Imposter

Stevie P
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The Scarlet Imposter

Postby Stevie P » Sun 16 Mar, 2008 13:24:17

As a teenager I only managed to read the first two Gregory Sallust World War II novels. I can't remember why I didn't continue with the remainder as I enjoyed both of them immensely.
It is now some 40 years on and I enjoyed The Scarlet Impostor as much this time as I did before. In fact, now I'm older I actually understand more of what was going on within the Wartime story line than I did all those years ago.

It was September 6th 1939 when Dennis Wheatley decided that as there was a War on, an up-to-the-minute spy story was the way forward and so he sat down to write the first of the Gregory Sallust WW2 books. He worked most days from 10 a.m until 2 a.m the following morning and thus managed to get the book finished on October 19th.
One hundred and seventy-two thousand words in seven weeks and he considered it to be one of the best books he had ever written. At that time it was also his longest.

By a remarkable coincidence the book contained a forecast of a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.
There were several attempts to assassinate Hitler during the War but these didn't happen until 1943-1944 (So I believe)


In January 1940 the book was published . It had a magnificent press. The critics acclaimed it as "The first great Spy Story of the War"
In August, DW's agent in America, Jane Hardy informed him that the 'Macmillan Company' had taken the book. It received great press in the States and, in due course, they followed it with Faked Passports, The Black Baroness and V for Vengeance.

The story starts in September 1939 with Gregory at Rudd's home (Rudd is Gregorys landlord of 'Black August' &
'Contraband' fame). GS is concerned that the War is a week old and he has no job.

He is soon summoned to Sir Pellinore Gwaine Custs house at 94 Carlton House Terrace, overlooking St. James Park where Sir PGC jibes him at being too old for a commission at 40.
GS respond's "I'm not 40 yet!!" and so, with reference to the age debate that was discussed on the 'Contraband' review (extract below), we can now see the 'age' errors;

"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 WarII series of books which wouldn't start for another 13 years making him 51.
Sir Pellinore acknowledges his own age in this book. He is 69 years old. So he was born in 1870.

Sir PGC tells GS that he needs "a man who is brave, intelligent, unscrupulous. a lone wolf with no dependants to mourn him if he should die unhonoured while taking a great gamble". Sir PGC needs him to find out who the senior Nazi's are who are planning to overthrow Hitlers regime in order to bring a speedy end to the War.

An agent in the Berchtesgaden has already managed to locate a list of the inner Gestapo which is in safekeeping in Berlin. GS needs to get hold of it and then hand this list to the aforementioned senior Anti - Nazi's.

Initially he is to be flown into Germany just north of Cologne and to try and locate an Erika Von Epp who has been giving indications to British agents that there is great opposition to Hitler within the Nazi party.

In his efforts to obtain the list and find the main anti Nazi generals he is led into all sorts of situations in which friends, collaborators and innocent's are killed whilst trying to stay alive himself. He eventually comes face to face with his arch enemy Herr Gruppenfuhrer Grauber, dread chief of the Gestapo Foreign Department U.A.-1.

The term Scarlet Impostor seems to come from the fact that wherever he went and whoever he met there seemed to be a Scarlet hoodoo upon him. I.E. most of his contacts get killed but I also believe that there is the tenuous connection with The Scarlet Pimpernel of which DW was a huge fan.

The bloodbath at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin towards the end is excellent and with several more books in the series to go is only the beginning??????????.. I strongly suggest you read them.

The story finishes on 8th November 1939 with GS being flown back to England, although he didn't realise it until he was thousands of feet above Northern Germany.



The page numbers below are based on the Hutchinson edition of The Secret Missions of Gregory Sallust.


Page 17 - Justerinis are mentioned

Page 17 - GS states "Praise Allah" A strange thing for a British spy to say

Page 21 - Erika von Epp had left a small reversed swastika with one of the officers she met in England during an earlier visit. This means something to the anti Hitler group.
The reversed Swastika is the symbol that the Nazi's used.
The non-reversed swastika is a pre-Christian emblem which had much the same significance in ancient times as the Cross has had since.
It was supposed to signify the power of Light among the Aryan peoples, whereas the reversed kind signified the power of Darkness

Page 31 - Flight Lieutenant Charlton is the pilot who flies GS over to Cologne. He has Grey eyes.

Page 37 - GS smokes Sullivan cigarettes . I've never heard of these. I assume they did exist??

Page 54 - A reference is made to the Siegfried and Maginot lines ? The German & French fortification lines set up by both countries.

Page 73 - A reference is made to a Kursaal. I thought the only Kursaal was the fun fair at Southend!!!!!
Apparently, it is (or was) a building used by visitors at a health resort or watering place and became associated with fashionable leisure centres in a seaside or spa town.
However, The word Kursaal is German, meaning a "Cure Hall" or Spa, and it seems to have been adapted to mean a place of healthy amusement.

Page 92 - SS Officer = Schutz-Staffel (Nazi Special Police Force)

Page 152/174 & 407 - Info dumps and mentions for Voroshilov - The famous Russian Star on whom 'Red Eagle' is based.

Page 175 - A reference to Voroshilovs building of new munition plants in a
'Forbidden Territory'.

Page 225 - " North West London, in particular, was now almost a foreign colony
owing to this influx of refugees"..? How topical!!!

Page 235 - GS says, "Walk down to the 'Mark lane' underground Station and take a
ticket for the Temple.
I've never heard of a 'Mark lane underground Station'

Page 288 - Colonel Lacroix smiled, "you will find Ribaud in Room 101"
Orwell influences in 1940??? Can't be.!! He hadn?t written 1984 yet.

Page 319 - Captain Jean de Brissac puts in his second appearance in a DW novel.
He was previously involved in the novel 'Uncharted Seas' where his ship became stranded in thick seaweed in the Sargasso sea.

Page 330 - 335 - Captain Brissac is now a Major and assists GS to get through the enemy lines by crawling through the mud and slime in the no-mans land between the Maginot and Siegfried lines. This is a very relistic representation of some of the awful conditions that the soldiers had to endure in the trenches; Waterlogged Shell holes, Icy water, Barbed wire, Verey lights, Shells and bullets whistling past , gas curtains, bayonets etc .

References to Erika's Pagan sympathies -
Page 372 - Erika says to GS - "Ah well, it would be a dreary world if there weren't a few Pagans like us left to defy the conventions with which the timid herd would like to shackle us"
Erika also admits to being born in 1911 - So she is 28 years old.
Page 388 - Erika says to GS - "Lets drink a toast to the Devil's brew that was animated by a spark of Pagan godliness and made us what we are".

Page 423 - GS is presented with the Iron Cross - 1st Class by the Military Governor of Berlin for the work he has put into fulfilling his mission.


Reviews

"The greatest thriller Dennis Wheatley has ever written. There isn't a woman in the world who won't lose her heart to the Scarlet Impostor."
- Denise Robins.

"Even its most sensational scenes seem to be suggesting the uncensored truth"
- Ralph Straus (Sunday Times)

"As long as two-and-a-half ordinary thrillers and contains as many thrills as five""
- Philip Hewitt-Myring (News Chronicle)

"It reads like Dumas dramatising the contemporary files of the Times"
- Howard Spring


General Info.

I wondered why DW selected the name Sallust.
The only major historical name that appears with this name is Gaius Sallustius Crispus, generally known simply as Sallust, (86-34 BC), a Roman historian, belonged to a well-known plebeian family, and was born at Amiternum in the country of the Sabines. This probably had nothing to do with the real reason.... he probably had a relative or friend with this name. Perhaps the Wheatley family maybe able to shed some light on it??
Last edited by Stevie P on Sun 16 Nov, 2008 10:32:00, edited 2 times in total.

Charles
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Postby Charles » Tue 18 Mar, 2008 19:43:45

Dear Steve

As usual I have learned a lot from your review. I don't think I have read this one since I was a teenager .... clearly I will have to give it a re-read.

I had never wondered about the name Sallust before, but you are right - in modern times, it is an exceptionally rare surname, at least in the UK and the USA. A friend of mine who is up on searching census records can only find a tiny handful of people with this name in the last hundred years.

I have asked a couple of our fellow enthusiasts, and they have no idea where the name came from unless it came from Gaius Sallustius Crispus, but why him ?

You've set us all another DW mystery ......
Charles

Alan
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Postby Alan » Mon 24 Mar, 2008 05:59:31

>I wondered why DW selected the name Sallust.
The only major historical name that appears with this name is Gaius Sallustius Crispus, generally known simply as Sallust, (86-34 BC), a Roman historian, belonged to a well-known plebeian family, and was born at Amiternum in the country of the Sabines. This probably had nothing to do with the real reason.... he probably had a relative or friend with this name. Perhaps the Wheatley family maybe able to shed some light on it??

I do recall that in "They Used Dark Forces", none other than Grauber remarks on Gregory sharing the name with the famous Roman historian.

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Postby Alan » Mon 24 Mar, 2008 06:02:22

>Page 17 - GS states “Praise Allah” A strange thing for a British spy to say

Gregory frequently swore by non-Christian religious icons according to information supplied in the stories. DW says that it was usually by PAGAN gods - perhaps DW had GS invoke Allah's name as many of the pagan deities - apart from Jove - might be unfamiliar to the readers of his time.

parabellum
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Postby parabellum » Thu 17 Apr, 2008 17:20:00

Dear Steve,

Thanks for the interesting review of The Scarlet Impostor. Sorry about my late response – my first ever post to the forum. In particular I am a Sallust fan and consider Come into My Parlour, as DW's best ever. The two interwoven plots (Sallust in Russia and Erika in Germany) and a great finale ensure a page-turner. I also love The Black Baroness (my first DW read) Faked Passports and The Scarlet Impostor.

I note your comments on plots to kill Hitler.

In The Scarlet Impostor DW links the Hotel Adlon affair to arrest the Inner Gestapo with a bomb plot to kill Hitler in Munich. Strangely, there was a real Munich bomb plot and this led to an infamous kidnapping incident at Venlo where British Secret Service agents Stevens and Best were grabbed by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) the S.S. Secret Service.

Walter Schellenberg, of the SD, had infiltrated Stevens and Best’s operations in Holland. Schellenberg was posing as dissident German officer with links to the German General Staff who wanted to do away with Hitler. Schellenberg met with Stevens and Best and it was decided that a second meeting was appropriate.

On the night of 8th November 1939 a bomb shattered the Munich Bierkeller where Hitler was holding the annual Nazi party meeting to honour old comrades killed during his failed 1923 putsch. However, Hitler uncharacteristically left early therefore avoiding the blast. A carpenter named Georg Elser was arrested trying to leave Germany. In his pockets he had a Communist Party card and a postcard photograph of the Bierkeller. It is the subject of much debate and speculation whether Elser acted alone, for British Intelligence or was the dupe of Himmler and/or SD chief Heydrich. There is story that Heydrich manufactured the plot to increase Hitler’s popularity with the German people as the war had entered a period of inactivity – the â€￾Phoney War.â€￾

Hitler certainly linked Elser with the two British agents and ordered their arrest. This was subsequently carried out the next day at Venlo, a town on the Dutch/German border. The bomb incident gets a mention in Faked Passports chapter IV. A good blend of fact and fiction by DW.

Just another couple of points. Knowledge of the Gestapo was very limited in Britain. DW always described Herr Grauber as the chief of the Gestapo Foreign Department U.A.- 1. The Gestapo was developed from Department 1-A. which was the Political branch of the Prussian Police Bureau. Maybe DW had inside information on Nazi organisation? However, Grauber was well known for operating outside of Germany. It was more probable that in real life he would have been a member of the SD, that organisation being a sort of long range intelligence organisation. Later in the war SD and Gestapo were virtually interlinked – membership of one often meant membership of the other. Probably DW never knew the SD existed – until of course after the war when he wrote They Used Dark Forces (Malacou is captured and tortured by a couple of SD men.)

Best regards

Stevie P
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Postby Stevie P » Fri 18 Apr, 2008 12:08:59

Excellent stuff Parabellum. Welcome to the Forum and thanks for the detailed information.
Its good to be able to tie up the fact with the fiction. I'm a big fan of Gregory Sallust although I have to put the Duke de Richleau in number 1 spot.

I will start to re-read "Faked Passports" over the next few weeks. I'll keep an eye out on chapter IV following your comments.

Steve

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Re: The Scarlet Imposter

Postby Cibator » Thu 2 Sep, 2010 11:31:01

Stevie P wrote:Page 17 - GS states "Praise Allah" A strange thing for a British spy to say.

Probably not so strange back then. Islam wasn't perceived as any kind of threat to anyone in those pre-Israel times, and the Arabs, thanks to T E Lawrence, were mostly on our side.

Page 37 - GS smokes Sullivan cigarettes . I've never heard of these. I assume they did exist??

Apparently Sullivan Powell was a well-known London tobacconist's (no longer trading) which purveyed a brand called Oriental. They were eventually banned for having an over-high tar content. E W Hornung's Raffles character was another who favoured them.

Page 235 - GS says, "Walk down to the 'Mark lane' underground Station and take a
ticket for the Temple.
I've never heard of a 'Mark lane underground Station'

There was a Mark Lane station on the Circle/District lines at the time DW was writing of. It was renamed Tower Hill in 1946. Some 20 years later Tower Hill station was relocated a short distance further east, and the old Mark Lane site was abandoned.

I wondered why DW selected the name Sallust.

Wikipedia (source for much of the information given above) has a disambiguation page listing 8 or 10 people who have borne the name Sallust or Sallustius (or even Salluste), but none of them seems to have any particular reason for having influenced DW's choice of name for the character.
Fas est et ab hoste doceri

Steve Whatley
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Postby Steve Whatley » Thu 2 Sep, 2010 16:52:18

Cibator, I take my hat off to you for your excellent research.[font=Courier New] [/font]


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