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 Gregory Sallust is Born 
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This was my first reading of 'Black August' and I really enjoyed it.
It is a very dark look at how society would cope/react if law and order were virtually wiped out due to the collapse of the major world economies.
It is a very harrowing and thought provoking insight into 'mob rule' and how civilised people can turn into criminals which would have been so contrary to their nature. The instinct for survival being the sole 'Raison d'etre'.

This book introduces the future 'famed' Gregory Sallust who initially comes across as cruel, uncaring and arrogant. Fortunately this impression does alter to a degree as our hero swings into action.
Gregory's first recorded words by Denis Wheatley are "Who is cursed with sex?" - Quite an entrance!! (You'll have to read it to know the context)

As the story moves on DW's politics become more prevalent. His fear/dislike of the spread of Communism into the England he obviously loves becomes very apparent.
This was presumably more of a real threat in the thirties.

His religious views are kept very much to a minimum in this book, just a quick statement as follows;
"Gregory nodded silently, forbearing to voice his own conviction that race movements and mass urges, either to sound policies or madness, had for their inception fundamental reasons which allowed no place for a benign or angry God".

Some of the names of the characters really show the age of the book;
Griselda Girlie
Hildebrand Pomfret
Silas Gondeport Harker

They're like something out of Dickens!! Although anybody reading this review with these names might object to my comments. I think they are really nice names!!

The story progresses at a fast pace and gives the occasional snippets that you would be unlikely to know e.g. Ingress Abbey at Greenhithe was supposedly built out of the stones of the Old London Bridge. That's the bridge prior to the one that was shipped off to America. Whenever that was. Could any budding historians let me know when that may have been?
DW was stationed on HMS Worcester which had a regular mooring spot outside Ingress Abbey on the Thames at Greenhithe.

He also likes to mention some of his favourite subjects.
Justerini's are mentioned by Page 47 (Arrow Paperback).
One of his (and my) favourite authors (John Cowper Powys) is mentioned by page 72. (DW owned 31 autographed copies of JCP's books).

Another of DW's favourite subjects was the occult, which although he hadn't published any occult novels up to this point, a particular line in Black August registered with me.
" A black mass of people packed the street from side to side" (page 119).
A somewhat strange wording. 'The Devil rides out' appeared in print later the same year (1934). Were Black Masses and Sabbats on his mind??

At the end of the book an important speech is made from a member of 'fictional' British royalty. The speech covers a couple of interesting points;

1) Hereditary peers will resign their right to sit on parliament by descent alone. This ruling actually came into effect quite recently, I believe.

2) There will be no Prime minister. This office was formed by William of Orange on account of his poor English otherwise the role of 'Prime minister' would still be held by the Head of state!!

The whole essence of this book makes you consider how we would cope when we get out of our comfort zone and into crisis level. How we take for granted the relatively comfortable lifestyle we have and although we moan about just about everything, things could be so much worse, no food, no transport, no shelter, no Eastenders!!!


Last edited by Stevie P on Sat 25 Oct, 2008 10:38:03; edited 2 times in total
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Stevie P, thanks very much for this. Your reviews get better each time and the information snippets are invaluable. Be careful, though, we might start preferring your reviews to the real thing!

Re London Bridge:
Wikipedia :
By the end of the 18th century, it was apparent that the old London Bridge ? by now over 600 years old ? needed to be replaced. It was narrow, decrepit and a hazard to river traffic. In 1799, a competition for designs to replace the old bridge was held, prompting the engineer Thomas Telford to propose a bridge with a single iron arch spanning 600 ft (180 m). The revolutionary nature of this design won praise but it was never used, due to uncertainty about its feasibility and the amount of land needed for its construction.

The bridge was eventually replaced by an elegant structure of five stone arches, designed by engineer John Rennie. The new bridge was built 100 feet (30 m) west (upstream) of the original site at a cost of £2,000,000 and was completed by Rennie's son (of the same name) over a seven-year period from 1824 to 1831. The old bridge continued in use as the new bridge was being built, and was demolished after the new bridge opened in 1831.

This pedestrian alcove is one of only two surviving fragments of the old London Bridge that was demolished in 1831. They have resided in Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets since 1860.

Fabulous Valley next? (Chapter 13, Drink & Ink, gives quite a bit about DW's trip to Africa which he used as background research for this)

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After a short exchange of emails with Charles, I am trying to resurrect a posting I made in this thread a week or so ago. Some glitch meant that my post - and at least one reply - somehow vaporised.

My take on "Black August" (and I'm shortening a somewhat verbose original) is that it is not officially part of the official "Gregory Sallust" timeline, but in fact a kind of "alternate world" novel in which WWII never took place, and sometime in the future (at the time of writing - in fact very much the "past" for us) there was a kind of Fascist takeover of Britain complete with Nazi-style secret police, breakdown of law and order, etc.

If one looks at the character of Sallust it is plain to see. The Sallust featured in "August", while still amoral, cynical, etc, is a far different character from the Sallust of "Contraband" through to "White Witch of the South Seas"... in "August", Sallust is still a journalist, and his move out from his flat full of eccentrics, ditching Rudd as a butler, meeting Sir Pellinore, service as a secret agent in WWII, marriage to Erika, etc, never took place.

The background of "August", too, is very different from history as we know it, (which is where the rest of the Sallust tales, along with the De Richleau, Julian Day, Conky Bill stories all happen) - in "August", WWII never happens, as the Poles manage to defeat the invading Germans (which they might well have done in real life if Britain and France had honoured their original commitment).

I also made the point that IMO "August", while not part of the official timeline, is also a magnificent piece of writing, genuine "Distopian SF" at its best, with a far grittier edge than many of DW's more commercial/mainstream efforts.

From what I have seen, in the past less effort was made to ensure "continuity" in novels and films - I quoted the example of Laurel and Hardy movies, where the nagging wives of the characters were played by different actresses each time. It may well be that DW used the name "Gregory Sallust" and later, when he wanted to invent a "clubland hero" was either too lazy or too busy to think up a new name and character. Perhaps he didn't realise that 30 years after his death, the cognoscenti of great adventure tales would be discussing his work on a world-spanning electronic medium!
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In my now-lost response to this thread, I wondered if DW ever regretted not changing Gregory's name to something else for the "new" series, and just leaving BLACK AUGUST as a stand-alone novel.

However, as Alan points out, continuity seems not to have been a major concern for this author--he was too busy writing new books to worry about the past ones. Has anybody else noticed how at one point in the series, Erika leaves a coded message for Gregory in a hand of cards, whcih he knows is significant because she hates playing cards? In another book, however, she plays cheerfully...

And for how many years was the Duke "de Reichleau" in (just) one of the books?

It's so easy for us to catch these details in hindsight, reading the novels one after another...
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That point about Erika and the cards is well spotted Jim - having just waded through a long list of "contradictions" in my latest work, sent to me by my editor (bless her) I know just how easy it is to slip up on small details like this. In a series of books written over many years it must be darn nigh impossible to keep such things straight.

I think there has been discussion on the spelling of Le Duc's name here before - maybe it vanished in the "purge".
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I only caught Erika and her cards because I read the Sallust/WW II series in order, and fairly close together. I've read the Modern Musketeers at various times, and still haven't read most of the Roger Brooks. (Also, as an editor myself in a former career, it's the kind of thing I notice..)
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As well as being a Wheatley fan, I am also a great admirer of Sherlock Holmes. The SH fan groups have been having fun with this sort of thing for years, given that Conan Doyle was even less inclined to re-read his old tales than DW was. Maybe it's time that we started trying to find out all of the contradictions and mistakes in his series characters, and then try to explain them!
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just finished this book and loved it. without the usual info dumps it fair cracks along at a fair old pace. i couldn't beleive it was written in the 30s. some it the action must have pretty shocking for those days.
to me its a very strange book for many reasons.
the writing style.
was DW trying out characters? silas could be rex? kenyon could be richard eaton? and of course gregory. i know that story setting had nowhere to go after the end of the book but was he looking for chemistry in a group? trying his hand so to speak.
also gregory sets about building a set of defences for his little "Kingdom" and in true DW style quite a bit of detail is shared with his intrepid reader. all i could think about reading those couple of paragraphs was DWs war work. this was 6 or so years before the war and yet he shows a pretty good knowledge of defending a position. not that i am an expert. did he pick that up in the trenches? or was it a "gift".
but its the political side that really got me. a lot of his veiws from "a letter to posteriety" crop up. not in a way i would have expected either. i felt his veiws were intergrated into the story much beter than in his later work and he didn't over do it with negaive characters being pidgeon holed as the baddies because of their beliefs. i haven't really any idea of the political scene of the 30s but as the book is set in the future then the situation that leads to the collapse isn't to far away from what we have just now in my opinion.
finally, forget jack nicholson, clint eastwood or any of the others, is gregory sallust the first anti-hero? not the kind of behaviour i would expect from a DW hero and i have to say that i agreed with him 100% and i defy anyone not to be rooting for him. DW may be perceived as having old fashion values and ideas but it difficult to tally that after reading this book.
if you haven't read it i thoroughly recommend it. best book i have read in ages, maybe i am seeing things that aren't there but its still a good old fashioned action book.
feel to tell i am talking rot and seeing things that aren't there. would be interested on anyones thoughts.
ken

p.s. wasn't sure on the protocol on whether to start a new reveiw or follow on from steves so feel free to move it charles.
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Your review is in exactly the right place Ken, and I have to say, although it's a long time since I read Black August, I completely agree with your (and I believe Steve's) sentiments - it's not a 'run of the mill' book at all. Even before 'The Devil Rides Out', DW was 'breaking the mould', and very effectively too.

Pity he isn't alive to give us a lecture on how he came to write it. For someone who was then so 'young and inexperienced' to have written such an unusual novel must surely have been very bold ...

All best to all

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Bob Rothwell :
Stevie P, thanks very much for this. Your reviews get better each time and the information snippets are invaluable. Be careful, though, we might start preferring your reviews to the real thing!

Re London Bridge:
Wikipedia :
By the end of the 18th century, it was apparent that the old London Bridge ? by now over 600 years old ? needed to be replaced. It was narrow, decrepit and a hazard to river traffic. In 1799, a competition for designs to replace the old bridge was held, prompting the engineer Thomas Telford to propose a bridge with a single iron arch spanning 600 ft (180 m). The revolutionary nature of this design won praise but it was never used, due to uncertainty about its feasibility and the amount of land needed for its construction.

The bridge was eventually replaced by an elegant structure of five stone arches, designed by engineer John Rennie. The new bridge was built 100 feet (30 m) west (upstream) of the original site at a cost of £2,000,000 and was completed by Rennie's son (of the same name) over a seven-year period from 1824 to 1831. The old bridge continued in use as the new bridge was being built, and was demolished after the new bridge opened in 1831.

This pedestrian alcove is one of only two surviving fragments of the old London Bridge that was demolished in 1831. They have resided in Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets since 1860.

Fabulous Valley next? (Chapter 13, Drink & Ink, gives quite a bit about DW's trip to Africa which he used as background research for this)


Another link to this story is that in to The Devil A Daughter, the likely place for the Seaplane to land in "Hansford" water (in reality Hamford Water) was Beaumont Quay (or Cut). This too was built with stone from the old London Bridge.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaumont_Quay
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