The Hell-fire Club (The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult)
Sphere books Ltd., 1975
I’ll admit I was a little leery of this book when I first picked it up, since the cover and format make it come across as a rather sensational pulp paperback. However, for $1.29 I was willing to give it a shot, especially since I’d recently seen the episode of the Sci Fi channel’s Ghost Hunters at a friend’s place that featured the Hell Fire caves where Sir Francis Dashwood and others were rumored to have enacted black magic.
All told, it’s a better book than I expected. The author is concerned less about sensationalism (though there is a touch of that) and more about determining whether there actually was any truth to the accusations of black magic and other debaucheries. He does a significant amount of research, drawing on letters and other primary documents from contemporary times, and weaves them together in a nicely organized tale. He also emphasizes the social and political contexts that the Hell-fire Club existed in, rather than trying to get it to exist in a vacuum for his own purposes.
The writer of the introduction insists that the author is wrong, that there actually were Satanic masses going on at the time, though he doesn’t offer much evidence. Still, those who want to believe this is true may dislike this book. Additionally, because it is an older text, and there are newer resources on the topic, readers may want to compare it to more recent research. For an introduction to the topic, though, it’s not bad at all.
A reasonably good read with better research and presentation than a lot of the New Age drek floating around today.
Four pawprints out of five.