He was certainly aware of his cachet. In his novel The Unholy Crusade, published in , Wheatley referred to himself in the same sentence as Fleming, who had died three years earlier. Priestley, A. Cronin, Howard Spring and a few others of that kind. They could be counted on the fingers of two hands.
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- Devil Is a Gentleman: the Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley - Phil Baker; | Foyles Bookstore.
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I mean, real secret agents don't have daggers that spring out of the soles of their shoes, cars that eject flame and tintacks in the path of their pursuers, and all those other silly, amusing gadgets that one reads about in the Bond books. Although he is doing it through a fictional character, Wheatley was never the subtlest of writers: he is going to some length to position his character as having followed in the line of Buchan's hero. At the same time he appears to be belittling Bond, who is not just heroically intrepid like Hannay and Sallust, but completely unrealistic to boot.
However, Wheatley doesn't seem to have known James Bond all that well: drinks vodka martini, of course.
This chimes with research done by Phil Baker into Wheatley's library: although he owned several of Peter Fleming's books, it seemed he owned none of Ian's. That said, he did comment directly on Fleming's work on at least one occasion. Fleming took some elements of his work and dramatically refashioned them into something entirely new. At the most one could call it derivative, but Wheatley was himself a highly derivative writer: Gregory Sallust was built on the shoulders of Bulldog Drummond and the Saint. He added fresh twists to them, and Fleming did the same to Sallust.
Fleming drew on a large and disparate body of material: it was the way in which he collated it that created the magic of his novels. So he might take a dose of authoritative-sounding facts on Russian intelligence from EH Cookridge's Soviet Spy Net and first-person testimony from the defector Grigori Tokaev, add it to a plot premise and the basic structure of a couple of chapters from Wheatley's Come Into My Parlour, throw in his own observations of the international situation, and fashion from it all a rich but distinctive stew.
One testament to Fleming's originality is that his voice is so unmistakeable — wherever the ideas came from, he put them through the prism of his own imagination and transformed them into something else entirely. Wheatley and Fleming's plots, characters and even world views were similar in many ways, but their style and pace very different. Fleming removed pace almost entirely from his thrillers, concentrating instead on the excitement of the different elements: the outlandish villain, the beautiful girl, the extraordinary conspiracy, all pulled together by his unique voice and filtered through the eyes of James Bond.
Wheatley used incidental atmospheric details to make his peripatetic plots more realistic; Fleming used peripatetic plots as diversions to showcase the main action of his novels, which was the atmospheric details. Differences there of course were, but it is high time to reclassify Dennis Wheatley as a major influence on Ian Fleming. He was not simply one of many influences, but a lodestar. Fleming returned to his novels repeatedly, and the seeds of both the character of James Bond and of many of his adventures are contained in them. Posted 06 January - PM. Posted 09 January - PM.
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Posted 12 January - PM. Fleming was quite uninhibited when 'sampling' his material, as can be seen with the 'Thunderball' treatment and plot. But on the other hand one has to concede he really made the material his own with his distinctive style. Surely, today things would most likely go quite a different route and what Jeremy describes would have lead to legal battles maybe even before publication. But take a look at the Alex Rider series. These books are remarkably well made treatments of Fleming's plots for younger readers.
But all the elements are there: a grumpy boss, an armorer providing Bond-like gadgets and so on. But it doesn't just stop at elements there. Whole plotlines are dug out of Fleming's oeuvre, brought up-to-date and used quite shamelessly. Even a scene of the main protagonist tricked into shooting his superior, which is only prevented by a bullet-proof sheet of glass coming from the ceiling. Sounds familiar? You bet.
The Devil is a Gentleman on Apple Books
Yet Horowitz managed to give these his own particular mark. They are doubtlessly inspired by Fleming, which is even frequently noted in the text. Still they are also their very own version of the original. Posted 13 January - PM. I have never dabbled with the Rider books, so found that very informative and intresting. Thanks Trident. I take it you recommend them? Posted 15 January - AM.
Streatham suburbanite who specialised in sin and Satan: THE DEVIL IS A GENTLEMAN by Phil Baker
Posted 18 January - PM. Posted 19 January - AM. It's a shame all that body of work is out of print and a prolific writter such as Wheatley can be somewhat forgot. Pherhaps every authors nightmare? Posted 19 January - PM. I guess that was the mindset I was in with the Rider books, ie its to much of a rip off of Fleming. But as I learnt with the Young Bond books, try not to judge until you have read.
Of course thats just common sense I guess and can be applied to all books and also films etc. So I might just add it to my reading list in the future Trident. Although having only really started to read fiction in 08 with the Fleming books, I have a lot of catching up to do on the fiction front. While it's obvious that Wheatley went to some of Fleming's favourite sunjects, themes and elements years before him, it has also to be said that Wheatley may be forgotten for a reason.
His remarkably 'modern' hero Sallust, his scandalous for the times use of sex and violence, are mixed with a not overly readable style at times. His plots, while every bit as farfetched and fantastic as Fleming's own, meet with an, at times ponderous, at times long-winded, language that's really a bit out-dated today. I would have liked to hear what Kingsley Amis would have had to say about Wheatley's influence on Fleming.
In my opinion this connection would surely deserve a chapter of its own in his 'James Bond Dossier'. His greatest problem, apart from falling out of favour with his contemporaries, perhaps would have been that he was once more too early. But Wheatley doubtlessly not only inspired Fleming but also delivered an early template for the modern thriller genre as a whole. None of the books I've read on Fleming's traces were so much designed on 'effect' and, as you rightfully mentioned, cliffhangers.
No doubt, they are far more readable than my previous picking gave them credit for. It's just that I can see why they had a hard time without the cold-war push and the aid of a multi-million dollar film series to help them along. Another writer almost entirely forgotten today is Peter Cheyney. He had a series of 'Dark' novels set around British counterespionage that featured several different recurring characters, but the most famous character of his is undoubtedly his FBI operative Lemmy Caution, a pulp hero of several successful novels, hard drinking, hitting, kissing and shooting, he's every bit the colourful hero, even saw a number of successful films based on his adventures one particular artsy entry even by Godard!
Where is best place to start with Dennis Wheatley espionage wise? Posted 23 January - PM.
Posted 28 January - PM. Posted 05 March - PM. Posted 24 March - PM. Posted 07 December - PM Spynovelfan will get a kick out of this, since it bears out a contention he's made many times on this forum Posted 05 January - PM Thank you for the link to that excellent piece. Since Jeremy is currently away from the board, I hope he won't mind if I reproduce his article here.
Devil Is a Gentleman: the Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley
Hope you enjoy it. Gripping yarns, to be sure, but the racism was shocking although I suspect that Wheatley would have been surprised by charges of racism and actually saw himself as enlightened in his attitudes to race - certainly, he went out of his way to portray Jews sympathetically. Welcome back, spy. You've been missed. Posted 06 January - PM This Wheatley re- discovery is something spynovelfan has discussed on various occasions with several members and also with me.
But none of them ever sported this particular air of 'Bond' that Wheatley's Sallust does. It's really most peculiar, almost to the point of creepy how much of Bond, how much of Fleming there can be found in the Sallust series. On spy's recommendation I've read as yet only; I intend to go deeper into it! Wheatley was a far more obvious influence on Fleming's particular kind of adventure novel than all those others compared although these others certainly have been influential too, mind you! Where there are minor streaks of Hannay, Drummond or Ambler's various early heroes to be found in Bond, Sallust sports a very pronounced, very close template for the kind of withdrawn semi-outsider character Fleming had in mind.
Reading these thrillers gives really quite an eerie feeling of meeting with an alternate version of Bond. I strongly urge any fan of the literary Bond to give these a try! The real mystery here is, how could the influence of such a successful writer in his time go so completely unnoticed by most fans and critics alike?
I'd really give a lot to hear what Kingsley Amis would have said about Sallust! Doubtlessly influenced by real practices of the Gestapo and SD Wheatley gave a rather realistic and terrifying description that's really quite drastic. Commander Enlisting posts. I think the fact Fleming grabbed a bit from Wheatley proves he's only human. I guess you wouldnt get away with it in this day and age though.
Posted 12 January - PM Fleming was quite uninhibited when 'sampling' his material, as can be seen with the 'Thunderball' treatment and plot. Posted 12 January - PM Excellent article, thanks.