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Dennis Wheatley was born Dennis Yates Wheatley on 8th January 1897. By the time of his death on the 10th of November 1977, he had been one of the most prolific authors Britain has ever produced. Dennis was the eldest son to Florence Elizabeth and Albert David and had two siblings. His parents lived in south London where they owned a prestigious wine business making him a privileged middle class child. In his early years, Dennis had no interest for schooling or acquiring a formal education which led to his expulsion from Dulwich College before completion after it was alleged that he formed a ‘secret society’. This explains to some extent his fascination with the occult and Satanism in his thriller novels which must have developed at such a young age.
The expulsion marked the end of his schooling days and he joined the navy. His first station was with the training ship HMS Worchester from 1908 to 1912. At the age of 17, he received his commission in the month of September 1914. In his military service, he was in the front lines during the 1st World war fighting at Passchendaele, Cambrai and St. Quentin. His military service came to an unexpected end after his battalion was gassed in a chlorine attack during Passchendaele and he was invalided from the army.
In 1919, he took over management of his family business wine business putting into uses what he had learnt about wine making for a year in Germany before his commission. In 1926, his father passed on and the family business went to him. As a sole owner, he had little time to complete a big book do he just wrote short stories which would be rewritten into novels at the helm of his career. In 1931, he wed Joan Younger as his second wife after the collapse of his first marriage. The economy recession hit at the same time and by the end of 1932, he was facing bankruptcy promoting him to sell the family business. He was distraught by the financial crises and as a diversion, he started writing.
At the start, writing didn’t pan out as for Dennis Wheatley with his first full length novel lacking the flair of mystery writing. The ‘Three Inquisitive People’ was murder mystery novel described by his agent as week and lacking in cohesion. Despite this, it introduced some of his greatest characters and kicked started a mystery series that lasted for years making Dennis the world’s best seller for over three decades. While his first completed work was with the agent, he commenced on writing his second book featuring his first characters. This was an adventure of a lifetime and suddenly, Dennis was a hit. ‘The Forbidden Territory was a stunning page turner praised by the press and a string of readers who couldn’t get enough of it. Snatched by Hutchinson, the book was translated in many languages for the whole of Europe and reprinted seven times in seven weeks. Dennis stardom writing was put in the limelight and between 1933 and 1940, he continued this thriller series that awed readers propelling him even to greater heights.
By the start of the Second World War, he was at the forefront in war efforts. As an advocate imperialism and strong believer in the state, his strong opposition of communism was already out there via his work. As an editor with the Sunday graphic personality pages, he had a chance to reach the society and continue his Nazi opposition. In the May of 1940, he was commissioned to write the War pages; a series of manuscripts on strategic aspects of the war. His extraordinary creativity on enemy deceit and meticulous strategies impressed the general staff and the king leading to a re-commission and recruitment into the elite joint planning staff working directly with Churchill. He joined the ‘Deception Planners’ tasked with devising the most effective ways of deceiving the enemies and duping them into falling for tricks instead of actual strategic intentions of the army.
His spy novels and the mystery therefore sparked from his time in the joint planning staff. His writing therefore borrowed from the real world incorporating his daily experiences into his writing to produced masterpieces that every avid reader could identify with. Connecting characters to actual events and individuals became his greatest style giving his work life and an aspect of reality. This mystery writing therefore is credited as the birth of super spy movie characters greater than themselves such as the current James Bond of MI5. His occult genre was intriguing. He had a creative intuition of the magical world that gave rise to the greatest works of his life. His occult novels are graphic and provocative thrillers edging towards horrifying encounters of dark magic and devilish encounters.
Dennis Wheatley wrote over 70 books, countless short stories and other publications throughout his life and sold over 50 million copies which is still unmatched record even to date. His print work was therefore adored by millions of fans across the globe which resulted in translation into numerous languages and film adaptations. For film adaptations, a total of four of his greatest book have been turned into movies so far. These are; ‘The Devil Rides Out’, ‘To The devil a Daughter’, ‘The Lost Continent’ and ‘The Haunted Man’. These were some of the greatest works of his lifetime. They were worldwide hits and deserved to be read and seen as a motion picture for their creativity and complexity of their plots. As time progress, there is a possibility of more film adaptations of his work because the whole world deserves to experience the world in Dennis Wheatley views to comprehend the current development in literature and literary styles.
Dennis Wheatley was an avid reader and a great writer of the past century. However, his work has fully disappeared with time as things change and society evolves. The main concern is his strong opinions on matters such as racism and gender equality that can be viewed as controversial today; yet that was the society he lived in. However, they are still entertaining and educative pieces of literature that can be valuable to the society even today.
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