Record numbers attended the 2013 Convention. As is customary, a large proportion of the attendees arrived the night before, with the Gs and Bill S travelling down especially from Scotland, and twelve sat down together for dinner on the Friday night.
Afterwards most continued to chat in the private lounge upstairs – temporarily re-named by Ken G’s brass plaque as the ‘Dennis Wheatley Lounge’.
The Saturday morning began with Ken G making the opening address and Charles bringing in Steve Whatley’s wonderful hand-crafted programmes in Dennis Wheatley’s briefcase.
Ken G opens the Convention
And as usual the programmes are brought in in Dennis Wheatley’s briefcase
Steve Whatley’s hand-crafted programmes
There were also very special welcomes for three new faces – Franklin Johnson, Declan Leary and Darren Nugent.
The opening presentation was given by Charles Beck, who gave a short talk on his hunt for Dennis Wheatley’s possessions. He talked about the major disposals – both before and after DW’s death - at the auction rooms, and gave advice to ‘leave no stone unturned’ when following up leads. In one instance (in true DW tradition) he himself had even hired a private detective in Stockholm to try to track down an elusive collection.
Charles talks about the hunt for DW’s possessions
In his hand is DW’s typescript for ‘Vendetta in Spain’, in DW’s original brown paper covering, found earlier in the year in Sweden
Ken G followed with a talk on ‘Decorating in a DW Theme’.
Ken and Mary had recently moved house, and they had converted one of their rooms into a collector’s paradise. Its walls were adorned with DW film posters and pictorial dust jackets, and there were tables with convention memorabilia and figures from ‘Alibi’ as well as a host of other DW memorabilia.
Next steps ? Ken is thinking of building a ‘wiggly wall’ ...
Others were urged to talk about what was on their walls at future Conventions ...
After coffee, Charles talked about the items that were being put on display in the ‘Travelling Museum’. This year, and in response to Franklin’s interest in DW’s World War II activities, he put on display DW’s original pencil drawing of the ‘Atlantic Lifeline’ by which DW suggested food supplies could be ferried from the USA to the UK, and some of DW’s original plans for the post-War re-construction of Europe.
He also showed the group DW’s handsomely bound copy of ‘Of Vice and Virtue’ and DW’s copy of the Arabic edition – both of which had come to light in the last year and had recently been the subject of an article in The Mail on Sunday.
Also put on display were a complete set of DW’s Board Games brought in by Steve Whatley, and a very rare copy of Woman’s Own Magazine for 27th July 1940, with the first publication of his story ‘Love Trap’ – the latter provided by John Runter. To complete the display, Mary G included an innovative homage to DW’s bricklaying activities.
‘The Travelling Museum’ – ‘Of Vice and Virtue’
‘The Travelling Museum’ – DW’s plans for the reconstruction of Europe
‘The Travelling Museum’ – DW’s Board Games
Click to enlarge
The rare wartime copy of ‘Woman’s Own’ and Mary’s homage to ‘Saturdays with Bricks’
Steve Patton, The Library’s chief book reviewer, then gave the Group a preview of his review of ‘The Prisoner in the Mask’, which he put online after the Convention. Dealing with the Duke de Richleau’s early life as Armand, Duc de Quesnoy, it is sometimes, and wrongly overlooked. SP rated it a very good read. Ken G commented that in some respects DW was going through the Duke’s early life, and ‘ticking all the boxes’.
John Runter followed, giving a short talk about Bloomsbury Publishing’s decision to reprint DW’s novels, and displaying one of the new paperbacks. Garnet gave an update on how the books were selling on Amazon – ‘The Forbidden Territory’ and ‘The Devil Rides Out’ were selling well; ‘To The Devil – A Daughter’ less well. John also circulated his printed homage to DW ‘; ‘In Thrall to Dennis Wheatley’, which featured transcripts of his talks at the second, third and fourth Conventions.
John Runter talks about Bloomsbury Publishing’s new venture, and a copy of John’s own ‘In Thrall to Dennis Wheatley’
Finally in the morning session, Duncan West led a discussion about ‘Why DW had fallen out of favour’. Among suggestions as to why DW was now a relatively obscure author while Agatha Christie remained well known were DW’s bad luck in not really breaking into TV and films – unlike Christie and Ian Fleming ; that he could perhaps have written more Black magic novels, as these were the most popular; and the fact that his heroes were often aristocrats, whereas the modern trend was to have the bottom rather than the top end of the social scale as heroes.
Lunch was then served in the Beaufort Room.
After lunch, updates were given on the search for Cardinals Folly (Steve P thought we had gone about as far as we could without new leads), Clinton House (last seen the burnt out shell was still standing – just), and Garnet gave a further update on Amazon sales of DW, based on stats he had researched at lunchtime.
Ken G made the intriguing suggestion that our next quest should be for ‘Stillwaters’ ... he already had some leads that were worth pursuing ...
Steve Whatley and Jean Wilkinson then talked about their Field Trip to Traben-Trarbach - deliberately taken on the one hundredth anniversary of DW’s stay - and profusely illustrated with the photographs they had taken.
They had managed to identify a number of houses and other features mentioned in DW’s memoirs.
These included Julius Kayser’s house (now an annexe of the Romantik Jugendstilhotel Bellevue), Fritz Kayser’s house (where DW lived), and possibly the house of his mother-in-law, Frau Haussmann.
Most prominently, Julius Kaiser’s winery, where DW worked in the mornings, still remains, now converted into a Buddha museum.
DW fans will also be excited to learn that Steve and Jean identified the Tennis club and the Gymnasium (grammar school - ? since rebuilt), and drove up to Grevenburg castle, which DW had climbed up to on the afternoon of his first day’s work at the winery.
A more detailed Field Trip Report will be added to the website later.
Steve Whatley and Jean Wilkinson talk about their field trip to Traben-Trarbach
Julius Kayser’s Winery, now a Buddha Museum
Darren Nugent followed Steve and Jean, and took attendees on a tour of a hitherto completely unexplored realm – the composers and the music from the movies that had been made of DW’s books.
Darren also explored the connection between ‘Heavy Metal’ – now a huge genre, and DW.
‘Heavy Metal’ originated with ‘Black Sabbath’, whose bassist and primary lyricist Terry Geezer Butler, was a massive DW fan. Without DW, maybe we could argue the genre might not have been born.
The formal proceedings were wrapped up with a discussion about future Conventions and Future Field Trips. Plenty of ideas were put forward.
It was agreed by acclaim that Ken G should arrange the next Convention – so ideas to him, please – if necessary, forwarded via the website.
The formal proceedings over, Ken and Mary gave conventioneers another treat – cocktails in the ‘Knightsbridge Room’.
Reminding us of Rex Van Ryn’s famous quote ‘make em small, drink em quick, four gives an appetite and heres to crime !’, Ken offered an amazing choice , including moscow mules, cosmopolitans, manhattans, martinis, and a ‘Dennis Wheatley’ (pour the following over ice in a tall glass : 40ml of Bacardi, 15ml fresh lemon, fill with cranberry juice – delicious !)
Dinner was served, as tradition and DW demand, at eight, this time with a picture of DW – supplied by the indefatigable Steve Whatley – overlooking us.
It was followed by the usual toasts, including the special toast taken out of DW’s unpublished will of 30th June 1971 given by Ken G, and with Steve W giving a toast to friends absent and present.
As ever, it was a memorable occasion.
As a further treat, Bill regaled the party with another virtuoso performance of banjo music. It was a pity Nick had to leave early – otherwise we might have had a duet !
After dinner a few hardy souls gathered in Ken and Mary’s room to watch a film – this year, Peter Cushing in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.
A contented group dispersed on the Sunday morning.
This page last updated Copyright © 2002-2006 Bob Rothwell. 2007-2022 Charles Beck.