DARK WAYS TO DEATH
I have rarely read a novel, the first chapter of which was more colourless, impersonal and lacking in inducement to continue. But don’t be put off by that. From chapter two Mr. Peter Saxon’s story grips the reader and carries him into a positive orgy of excitement and violence. Moreover, although the book was first published in 1968, the author’s excellent imagination has enabled him to create situations highly appropriate to the nineteen seventies.
To begin with we meet a small circle of physically gifted people who term themselves ‘The Guardians’. They are pledged to fight the increasing power of Satanism that is undermining the old decent way of British life. Their headquarters are in Half Moon Street, off Piccadilly.
Of its chiefs, Gideon Cross, Steven Kane and Father Dyball, we see comparatively little as they are mainly occupied by combat with Evil on the astral planes. But Kane’s assistant, Anne Ashby, and his huge black Egyptian cat, Bubastis, play major roles in the story. So, too, does Lionel Marks, a little Jew, who used to be a private detective, and Negley Prescott, a reporter, who will take any risk to get a good story for his paper.
The tale moves swiftly to Notting Hill where Caroline Squires, Sir Bartley Squire’s daughter, is one of those rich young rebels who despise all the taboos of the respectable. She is having an affair with a black ticket collector named Jackie Johnson and her father appeals to The Guardians to save her from rape and worse.
The ‘rape’ is threatened by Jackie’s friends who claim that property, including ‘little white angels’ acquired by any of them, should be shared in common. The ‘worse’ is becoming involved in Voodoo, which has been brought to England from the West Indies and now has devotees in a number of our cities.
Of all forms of Devil worship, Voodoo is the most filthy, degrading, obscene; and the infliction of pain on both animals and humans forms the high spot in all its rituals.
Little Jackie Johnson refers to himself as a ‘small island boy’. He worships Caroline and would give his life to protect her. He would, too, like to have no more to do with those hideous practices brought many generations ago by his ancestors from Darkest Africa; but he becomes a jelly of fear when he is handed a white feather, the tip of which has been dipped in blood, for this is a summons to attend a Voodoo ceremony.
The chief of the Voodoo Satan worshippers is a Doctor Obadiah Duval. He runs a tatty chemist’s shop where he sells drugs and poisons. In a room at the back of his shop there is a trapdoor that leads down into a projected extension of London’s Underground, work on which has long since been abandoned. It is down there that Duval’s negro following assembles to carry out the cruel, lecherous, disgusting rites. Wearing the traditional black top hat and sleazy tail coat of the role, the emaciated doctor there plays the part of Baron Samedi, Lord of the Graveyard.
Steven Kane’s beautiful black cat, Bubastis, has been stolen and as an hors d’oevre to their frenzy of lust, aroused by the rhythmic palm beating of many drums, Duval sets about killing the cat very, very slowly by gradual mutilation. Meanwhile the wretched ‘small island boy’ with his arms and legs deliberately broken, so that he can offer no resistance, is dragged in. So too, half-naked, is the wretched Caroline.
Such is the scene depicted in the latter chapters of this book. Although this is fiction it is an appalling thought that very similar happenings do now secretly take place in British cities.