This volume is a compilation of three of Dennis Wheatley's books, namely The Devil Rides out, To The Devil A Daughter and Gateway To Hell. Each book contains more Christian mythology per square centimetre than a monk's canon, which makes sense as for sheer fantastic occult entertainment the Holy Book remains singularly unmatched. Just witness the original yarn itself: survived for over 2,000 years and nominally as popular as ever.
Possibly like others I came to be interested in the book through my copy of the film version of The Devil Rides Out The Devil Rides Out [VHS], which was superbly shot and released in 1968 as part of the Hammer Horror productions. We watched that deliciously devilish dark denizen of filmdom as friends some twenty years ago before a copy made its way into my collection. It was subsequently when searching for the source book that it transpired that the popularity of the mid-twentieth century author Dennis Wheatley has waned and the book transposed to the out-of-print realm. In 2011 the 1934 book was reprinted, as one tome, alongside 1953's To The Devil A Daughter and 1970's Gateway To Hell. This nicely bound and hardcover edition features a foreword by the author's grandson, Dominic Wheatley. It is 700 pages long. Incidentally, or one should say coincidentally, another of Wheatleys books was recently filmed. The Haunted Airman stars Robert Pattinson. So what about the three-in-one book?
Having watched the film twenty years ago it became one of my favourite films as it had it all, thrills, superstition, Christianity and the devil, demons, sacrifice and a young damsel in distress, or rather, a damsel being sacrificed and one finds the same in the book that `inspired it.'
There is some deviation between the first part of the book and the film, but despite that the horror movie is both true to the book and as much fun and fast-paced. The book, however, is much more Christian and consequently more superstitious. Indeed, a deviation is the heavy Christian preaching, with the book of course being longer, more elaborate and involved, but when the settings coincide the two versions are remarkably similar.
Despite the hero being a female called Molly To The Devil A Daughter is somewhat autobiographical. Wheatley uses some of his own experiences and participation in World War II to write the book. Our heroine has war experience, had a husband in WW2 and even uses her experiences to become an author. Since the reader is just being introduced to the character of Molly Fountain there are lots and lots of description of her, her disposition and her past.
There are many silly plot holes. A call gets traced back when they could have called from elsewhere, a friend is a spy and readily shows up in France, the police can discover anything and then powers fail at the right time of course, but worst of all one can see the resolution coming for some time. While the book has a little too much talk instead of action, the plot and the dramatic turn of events make for fun reading. Not so much fun for some might be the proselytizing as on page 304 where Godless is equated to being rudderless.
To The Devil A Daughter begins as an action book, descends to the lair of Satan. It lifts off to the astral planes of science fiction before turning in a little anti-commie performance.
Gateway To Hell reintroduces the characters of the Duc, Richard and Simon from The Devil Rides out. All three are older yet still fast friends. This time Simon is wiser and on the other side of the table of events. South America is a focus. Both President Peron and his wife Eva are in for some special scorn. This book is especially full of superstition, coincidence and drinking, although one senses that amidst the sinister tumult the arguments for God, Jesus and white magic are tempered by some realism and counterbalance - even from the Duc whose astral powers are clearly further developed. What happens with the bride's eyes is most dissatisfying example of lazy storytelling.
The book has its share of flimsy reasons to resolve matters and transpires weakly somewhat in this regard, but still packs a hell of a good read past the dogmatic doctrines of Christ and his apostles. Read page 612 for an instance.