Attendees (left to right) : Ken G, Nick Dow, Rogerio Silva (Hotel Manager),
The first ever Dennis Wheatley Convention was held on 17th May at the Corus Hotel in Elstree, the location for some of the filming of ‘The Devil Rides Out’.
Mary G, Jean Wilkinson, Duncan West, Steve Whatley, Nat Beck, Vivien C,
Steve Patton, Ken C, Iwan Morelius, Charles Beck (Mally Dow out of picture)
Thanks to our reviewer par excellence, Steve Patton, for providing our official report.
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I was the lucky member of the Coven!!!
I had a relatively short distance to travel to and from Elstree.
Others had travelled from Glasgow, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Central London and.... oh yes, Spain (via Heathrow and unintentionally Scotland). It's a long story !!
The setting for Magic couldn't have been better. The Corus Hotel being the location for the filming of 'The Devil Rides Out'.
Our (so called) Coven of 13 people didn't actually cast any spells or produce any Magic on the day, with the exception of Charles Beck and Nick Dow who produced magical performances in organising and staging a flawless Premiere of The 'Dennis Wheatley Convention'.
The remainder of the circle were unanimous in their praise for the efforts that had so obviously been made.
I left home early as I was anticipating a lot of motorway traffic as it was F.A. Cup Final day at Wembley. As it turned out I arrived early. The receptionist wasn't sure where Charles was in the hotel at that time and suggested I sit in the bar until the arrival hour was due. Never one to turn down an invitation to a bar I agreed. After 25 minutes or so another person arrived in the bar gazing intently at the wood carvings above the fire place. It was then I spotted the name tag on his shirt. My first meeting with Nick Dow was established.
He ushered me down to the 'Aldenham Suite' to meet the others.
Introductions were made (Charles had a theory that all male DW fans would be sporting a beard as the first three men in the room, Charles, Nick and Iwan all had them. I'm sorry to say that I ruined the theory but fortunately the remaining male contingent supported me in being "without beards"), connections were made (it turned out that my grandparents used to live in the same street as Nick Dow when he lived in London), coffees were consumed, second hand books changed hands and the 'Circle' of new friends settled down comfortably in a relatively short space of time.
We watched the CD of 'A letter to Posterity' which was certainly good to see again as it raised a number of interesting points which were discussed afterwards.
A quality Lunch was served in a private room overlooking the Tennis courts which were one of the sets for the 1960 film 'School for Scoundrels' starring Terry Thomas and Ian Carmichael.
Everybody started to get to know each other.
A Team photo (for posterity!!) was taken outside the front of the lovely hotel. The hotel staff agreeing to take pictures of the group with the various cameras thrust at them.
Whilst waiting outside the hotel door I just felt that Rex van Ryn would come screeching to a halt outside the door and Tanith would jump into the driver’s seat and drive off in it.
Upon resuming in the 'Aldenham' we were privileged to hear the details of Iwan Morelius's Lunch with Dennis Wheatley.
Iwan Morelius giving his talk
Having only had a minute or so with Iwan prior to this I was blissfully unaware of his previous history. I am now enlightened and totally in awe of his background. For those of you who weren't there, 'You missed a treat'.
After lunch with Dennis Wheatley and his wife Joan at Cadogan Square Dennis Wheatley presented Iwan with a proof of his latest book 'The Ravishing of Lady Mary Ware'...wow!! DW then said, "Look inside". Iwan did as requested and wow.... it had been signed by DW just for him. DW then said, "Look at the next page" ... ... WOW!!!!!!! The book had been directly dedicated to him - Truly amazing.
He recalled that DW had a fabulous collection of Morocco leather bound books and numerous first editions including Peter Cheyney, Hammond Innes, J B Priestley and others. There was also a special Occult Library.
Iwan is an ex Swedish army officer who will be 77 in November and was a friend of the late Desmond Bagley. He reviews books on a regular basis for all Swedish Publishers and many English and American Publishers. He is founder of DAST magazine (Detective - Agents - Science Fiction- Thrillers) 1968. The oldest magazine in the genre in Europe.
Charles Beck was then next on 'stage'.
By this time a number of excellent DW exhibits and rarities had been placed on display for all to peruse. They included, Frank Pape's original drawing for DW's own bookplate, beautifully illustrated Egyptian Gods and Goddesses drawn by DW's own hand, A very restricted glimpse of the "Lusty Youth of Roger Brook", One of the original draft typescripts for the "Total War" booklet, Some original Art designs for the Jackets of the later Roger Brook Novels and The only known copy of the first gift box containing The Forbidden Territory, Such Power is Dangerous, Black August and The Fabulous Valley. This display proved the backdrop to the top quality presentation of 'Future developments for the website - the Dennis Wheatley Museum'. The DW website which had been admirably established by Bob Rothwell has continued to improve and grow with the enthusiasm and commitment of Charles.
The intention is to add more information on the site relating to the history of DW and his life by adding personal letters that have been passed down, Christmas card lists, Marketing postcards that were available well ahead of their time etc etc. Judging by the attention that was given to these new ideas I'm certain that the site and the DW fans are in for a treat.
There was a vast amount of detail which I found fascinating and judging by the interest shown by the attentive audience to these new ideas I'm certain that the site will go from strength to strength.
Nick Dow viewing some of the exhibits in
We were then treated to a viewing of the 'The Spy in White' which is the title of the film based on the book, 'The Eunuch of Stamboul'. Despite the age of the film (1936) it came across as a very watchable film with James Mason as Larry Destime as the star of the show (Swithin Destime in the book). I particularly liked the character playing the role of the Eunuch.
The group then entered into a general conversation about Dennis Wheatley, the film industry, the details of where the shooting took place in the hotel for TDRO, how we could locate the film The Forbidden Territory etc.
Nick Dow took over the chairing of this section due to his wide ranging knowledge of actors, films and television (not to mention Blues bands and wood carving. He is a veritable mine of information).
Following a 40 minute break we reassembled in the bar for well earned drinks.
Dinner was at eight o'clock, but coffee was not served till after ten. (And yes, that is true)!!!
One of our meals
By this time we all felt as though we'd known each other forever. Well it had been 12 hours!!!
The Convention had been a huge success. Long may it reign.
At 22.30 it was back to the 'Aldenham' for a late night showing of 'The Devil Rides Out'.
It seemed strange to be watching this film in the place it was filmed.
As the opening titles were appearing on the Plasma screen, I turned and whispered to Charles "How many times have you actually seen this film".
"Not enough" he said.
There was nothing more to be said.
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Thanks to all for making it such a wonderful occasion.
Any ideas for next time ???
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This page last updated Copyright © 2002-2006 Bob Rothwell. 2007-2017 Charles Beck.