The Satanist – Dennis Wheatley

dennis wheatley the satanistThe Satanist – Dennis Wheatley
Heron Books – 1972 (Originally published 1960)

While trying to infiltrate a gang of communists responsible for the death of his coworker, Barney Sullivan, an Irish Lord working as a spy in England, falls in love. Unbeknownst to him, the woman he falls in love with is both a) the vengeful wife of the man he himself has set out to avenge and b) a former lover of his own. One thing leads to another and pretty soon, Satanists get their evil claws on an atomic bomb and plan to use it to bring about the downfall of civilization.

Much like the rest of the plot, the means by which the antagonistic force of the story transforms from Communism to Satanism is complicated, confusing and a bit silly. Just know that it involves a disgusting Indian man with an upset tummy, a pair of psychic twins and week’s worth of casual rape. Sensible, believable plotlines weren’t what made Dennis Wheatley a best selling author though, and, silly as it is, I really quite enjoyed the story. The real problem with this text is the writing itself.

the great ram satanistLike the other Heron editions, this book has a few illustrations thrown in here and there.

At 440 pages, this is the longest Wheatley novel I’ve read to date. It is not generally considered to be one of his better books, although I reckon that it would have been if he had spent a few weeks editing it and trimming it down to the 270-300 page range. As it is, this book is painfully wordy. The story will get to an interesting bit and Wheatley will proceed to dampen the excitement by giving two detailed paragraphs on how the characters had to go back to their apartments to shower, eat and spend a few sleepless hours tossing and turning in bed before rising to action. This really could have been a lot better.

the satanist to the devil a daughter

A few years ago, I reviewed To the Devil – a Daughter by Wheatley. If you look online, you will come across suggestions that this book is a sequel to that one, but that’s not really the case. I know that books in Wheatley’s other series don’t depend on the reader having read the previous entries, but the books in those series at least feature the same protagonists. Both To the Devil – a Daughter and The Satanist feature Colonel Verney as a fairly important character, but he’s the protagonist in neither, and aside from a couple of brief references, the two texts are quite separate. I was a little disappointed with this as I hoping for the Crowleyesque Canon Copely Syle from To the Devil – a Daughter to make a return. Speaking of that which relates to Crowley, The Satanist includes repeated allusions to the “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” mantra of the Devil worshippers. It seems that Wheatley didn’t differentiate Thelema from Satanism. It should be noted though that Wheatley was personally acquainted with Crowley and probably knew more about him than you do.

Like Wheatley’s other novels, The Satanist contains lots of old fashioned racism. There’s a part in here where he describes the revulsion that any white woman is bound to feel after touching the skin of any man that isn’t white. It’s still a bit weird to see words like nigger and chink being used so casually in literature. The two protagonists of the story are Irish, and although they let out a few Bejasuses when they’re excited, they don’t come across too badly. That being said, Mary, the female lead, is a former prostitute. At first I thought this depiction might have been an attack on the loose morals of Irish women, but Wheatley is surprisingly sympathetic towards her. He makes it very clear that she only has sex to get ahead when it is absolutely necessary, pretty progressive stuff for our Dennis!

It’s been almost 2 years since I read a novel by Dennis Wheatley, and after reading this one, I’ll be in no hurry to return to his work. I mean, I will eventually get through all of his Black Magic novels, but I don’t think I’ll bother with much (if any) of the other stuff he wrote.

Speaking as an Irishman: Aleister Crowley’s Saint Patrick’s Day Poem

crowley tiocfaidh ar la up the rahLast year, I wrote a post about Aleister Crowley in which I briefly discussed his strange fascination with Ireland. In the Book of Lies, he claims to be an Irishman, and his title within the O.T.O. was “Supreme and Holy King of Ireland, Iona and all the Britains within the Sanctuary of the Gnosis”. In 1915, he tried to cause a scene in New York by proclaiming the birth of an independent Irish Republic. Thirteen years prior to doing so, he wrote a poem about the Emerald Isle. I’m going to post it here:

“Written at Delhi.”

O GOOD St. Patrick, turn again
Thy mild eyes to the Western main!
Shalt thou be silent? thou forget?
Are there no snakes in Ireland yet?

“Death to the Saxon! Slay nor spare!”
“O God of Justice, hear us swear!”

The iron Saxon’s bloody hand
Metes out his murder on the land.
The light of Erin is forlorn.
The country fades: the people mourn.

Of land bereft, of right beguiled,
Starved, tortured, murdered, or exiled;
Of freedom robbed, of faith cajoled,
In secret councils bought and sold!

Their weapons are the cell, the law,
The gallows, and the scourge, to awe
Brave Irish hearts: their hates deny
The right to live — the right to die.

Our weapons — be they fire and cord,
The shell, the rifle, and the sword!
Without a helper or a friend
All means be righteous to the End!

Look not for help to wordy strife!
This battle is for death or life.
Melt mountains with a word — and then
The colder hearts of Englishmen!

Look not to Europe in your need!
Columbia’s but a broken reed!
Your own good hearts, your own strong hand
Win back at last the Irish land.

Won by the strength of cold despair
Our chance is near us — slay nor spare!
Open to fate the Saxons lie: —
Up! Ireland! ere the good hour fly!

Stand all our fortunes on one cast!
Arise! the hour is come at last.
One torch may fire the ungodly shrine —
O God! and may that torch be mine!

But, even when victory is assured,
Forget not all ye have endured!
Of native mercy dam the dyke,
And leave the snake no fang to strike!

They slew our women: let us then
At least annihilate their men!
Lest the ill race from faithless graves
Arise again to make us slaves.

Arise, O God, and stand, and smite
For Ireland’s wrong, for Ireland’s right!
Our Lady, stay the pitying tear!
There is no room for pity here!

What pity knew the Saxon e’er?
Arise, O God, and slay nor spare,
Until full vengeance rightly wrought
Bring all their house of wrong to nought!

Scorn, the catastrophe of crime,
these be their monuments through time!
And Ireland, green once more and fresh,
Draw life from their dissolving flesh!

By Saxon carcases renewed,
Spring up, O shamrock virgin-hued!
And in the glory of thy leaf
Let all forget the ancient grief!

Now is the hour! The drink is poured!
Wake! fatal and avenging sword!
Brave men of Erin, hand in hand,
Arise and free the lovely land!

“Death to the Saxon! Slay nor spare!”
“O God of Justice, hear us swear!”


I’d love to hear Bono and Enya do a duet version.

I haven’t read much else of Crowley’s poetry, but this seems more political than mystical. It’s quite vicious. I wonder how much of Crowley’s sympathy for Ireland was sincere and how much was just part of his anti-authoritarian shtick. Somehow, I doubt the Irish public of 1902 would have had much time for him.

Sorry for the recent lack of updates on the site; the books I’m reading at the moment are quite long, but I’m aiming for another two posts by the end of the month. Anyways, I hope you have a pleasant, holy and snake-free Saint Patrick’s day.



Brits out!


Staring at Goats

men who stare at goats jon ronsonThe Men Who Stare at Goats – Jon Ronson
Simon & Schuster – 2004

I saw the Men Who Stare at Goats movie when it came out in the cinema. I remember being a bit disappointed by it. A few years later, I watched Crazy Rulers of the World, the documentary series (part 1, part 2, part 3) that was meant to accompany the book on which the movie was based. I loved it. I don’t know why or how I only got around to reading the book last Saturday, but when I did sit down with it, I enjoyed every page.

This book is far more modern (and popular) than a lot of the books that I review here, so a detailed summary is unnecessary. Suffice to say that it’s a book about secret experiments, projects and forays into the paranormal that went on in the US army and CIA. It touches on remote viewing, telekinesis, UFOs, Project MK Ultra, and the Heaven’s Gate cult. Ronson’s writing style is enjoyable and makes the whole thing very easy to digest.

The only real criticism I have of the book has to do with the suggestion that the forms of sonic torture used during WACO and the American invasion of Iraq had been derived from the ideas of Jim Channon. In the late 1970s, Channon, the leader of the First Earth Battalion (more on them later), had suggested blasting enemies with loud, unpleasant music to disorientate them. A sizable portion of Ronson’s book explores the potential link between Channon’s ideas and American soldiers’ use of music to torture terror suspects. I suppose it’s not impossible that there was an indirect link between Channon’s ideas and the atrocities committed in Iraq, but I think it’s far more likely that these soldiers had the idea of blasting prisoners with horrible music completely independently of Channon. Playing loud music to annoy people is hardly a revolutionary idea. Also, I’m not convinced that soldiers playing Matchbox 20 in both Iraq and Guantanamo Bay was anything more than coincidence.

jim channon audio spectrumChannon’s arsenal of auditory weapons.

The section on music as torture provides a necessary bridge to the latter part of the book, and things would probably seem a bit disjointed without it. I’m willing to forgive Ronson for including it because it’s an interesting topic even if his conclusions aren’t convincing, and the stuff that appears both before and after this section is fascinating.

After reading the entire book on the Saturday. I spent my Sunday rewatching the documentary series that went along with it. This series covers much of the same material as the book, but there’s enough exclusive information in both to warrant doing both. I did not rewatch the movie, and I don’t think I’ll bother. There’s sections in both Ronson’s documentary series and book on Frank Olsen and the C.I.A., LSD, suicide/murder conspiracy. I’m currently about half way through Wormwood, the new Netflix documentary series about the Olsen case. It’s pretty good.

cia manual trickery and deceptionThe Official C.I.A. Manual of Trickery and Deception – John Mulholland, H. Keith Melton and Robert Wallace
William Morrow Paperbacks – 2010

While waiting for the call on my library hold on The Men who Stare at Goats, I picked up a book that I bought at a library book sale last year for 50 cents. This is the C.I.A. manual of Trickery and Deception. In the 50s, as part of their infamous MKUltra, mind control program, the C.I.A. hired John Mulholland, a famous stage magician, to write a manual to teach their agents how to use sleight of hand to slip poison into an enemy’s drink. It was believed that all copies of this manual had been destroyed, but Melton and Wallace found a copy in 2007. The introduction section was fairly interesting, but I have to be honest, I gave up on the actual manual part about half-way through. The text is painstakingly boring, and the information it contains is really only going to be useful for date-rapists.

first earth battalion army of light

First Earth Battalion Manual – Jim Channon
Unknown Publisher (US Military?) – 1979ish

I’ve already mentioned the First Earth Battalion. The F.E.B. was a proposed army of superhumans that would be capable of transforming both warfare and human existence. It was imagined by Jim Channon, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. According to Ronson, the pentagon paid this guy to spend two years visiting a bunch of new-age institutions and groups in California in the late 70s as part of an attempt to gather ideas to reinvigorate the US army. At the end of these two years, Channon published a manual wherein he described the soldiers of the future as warrior monks, capable of levitation, walking through walls, and cleansing the colon at will. This manual is extensively featured in Ronson’s documentary and quoted from in his book. I knew I’d have to track down a copy.

Doing so was a little more complicated than I anticipated. The first result of a google search for “first earth battalion pdf” looks promising, but I’m not sure it’s the exact document that Ronson was referring to. “The First Earth Battalion Field Manual” (FEB-A from hereon-in) contains lots of the information and images that the featured text contains, but it omits the parts about the different abilities available to various levels of Warrior monks. This document is from 1982. There is another document floating around the net under the title of “First Earth Battalion Manual” (let’s call it FEB-B) but aside from a few pages of new information, this text is mostly the same as FEB-A. It also omits the details of the different levels of Warrior Monks. I think that this one, the shorter pdf, was the text presented to the Delta Force think tank in 1983, but I can’t be sure of this.

warrior monk abilitiesSome of the abilities of a Warrior Monk, as listed in First Earth Battalion – Evolutionary Tactics Manual (FEB-C), as seen in part 1 of Crazy Rulers of the World.

As far as I can tell, the text that Ronson was looking at was a slightly different document to the ones that I have seen. This third document (FEB-C), I believe, was called “First Earth Battalion Evolutionary Tactics Manual”., Jim Channon’s website (or at least a website about him) is marketing a pdf version of this text with the following blurb:

“Evolutionary Tactics is the First Earth Battalion’s Field Manual.  As seen in the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats, the manual was created by Jim Channon for the U.S. Army and first published in 1978. It illustrates high performance concepts and evolutionary ideas. Originally passed on officer-to-officer via photocopy, it has since become something of a collector’s item.

Now you can obtain a rare copy of this manual. Its 150 pages are filled with curious artistic renderings, cartoons, and out-of-the-ordinary ideas.”

At 150 pages, this text (FEB-C) is quite a bit longer than the ones available for free (FEB-A and FEB-B), so I am guessing it contains the missing sections. Unfortunately, I can find no free pdf versions of this text online.

The ambiguity over which text is the original and the omission of certain sections in the free pdfs is perhaps explained by the fact that the original text was largely distributed by photocopying. After having read through the free version online, I have absolutely no curiosity or desire to see the unexpurgated text. The 100+ pages of this malarky that I did read were quite sufficient.

unity through diversityVomit.

This is really very silly stuff. At one point, Channon claims that it is possible that the human race is transforming from a carbon based lifeform to a silicon based lifeform. It reminded me of those horrible new-age alien books that I read/tried to read a few years ago.

Also, having read through this rubbish and researched Channon a bit more, I am rather confused as to the official status of this material. Ronson’s work seems to present it as if it were endorsed by the military, but I can’t find any evidence of this online. The fact that it was distributed through photocopying also suggests that it was never an official army document. That the military gave him money to research this stuff is surprising enough, but I find it very difficult to believe that they would play an active role in publishing this rubbish after having seen it.

Jim Channon died last September, but nobody has updated his wikipedia page yet. He was a bit loopy, but seemed nice enough. RIP Jim.

Reading through all of this stuff, I couldn’t help but think of the X-Files. There’s no evidence that any of the US military’s experiments into the paranormal yielded any positive results, but these texts confirm that US defense and security forces have long been involved in shady, conspiratorial and sometimes mental activities.

Marx and Satan

marx and satan wurmbrandMarx and Satan – Richard Wurmbrand
Crossway Books – 1986


As far as I know, I’m not a Marxist. I encountered a small amount of Karl Marx’s writing when I was in university, but I’ve never read Das Kapital or the Communist Manifesto. I certainly have no interest in defending or attacking Marx’s views, and even if I did, my horror/occult book blog would not be the place to do it. It might seem strange then that this blog is the perfect place to attack a book critiquing Marx, but there you go.

This book, you see, claims that Karl Marx, the man who famously referred to religion as “the opiate of the masses”, was in fact a devout theistic Satanist. Again, I’m not an expert on Marx, but the general consensus is that we was actually an atheist who had complex opinions about religion. The writer of this book, a mad person named Richard Wurmbrand, builds his case against Marx by exaggerating or misreading every single time the words devil, evil, demon, etc., appear in the entire, enormous corpus of Marx’s writings. Richard Wurmbrand probably read Marx’s books, but when you look at this title of this book, you’ll notice that it’s not a biography. It’s called Marx and Satan. To me, that suggests that this book should be equal parts Marx and Satan, or that at least the same amount of research should have been done on both. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Richard Wurmbrand’s concept of Satanism is contradictory, sensational, inaccurate and absolutely stupid. I may not be an expert on Marx, but I’ve read enough books about Satanism to I feel qualified to point out a few problems here.

First off, at several points throughout his book, Wurmbrand notes that his cause is particularly difficult to fight for because of the secretive nature of the Satanists. He uses the phrase, “the highly secretive Satanist church”. Soon thereafter, he quotes from the Satanic Bible. Despite the aforementioned “highly secretive” nature of the Satanic church, Wurmbrand was somehow been able to track down a copy of their Bible. The Satanic Bible, for those of you who don’t know, is a widely available book that has now gone through 30 printings and sold a million copies. I know that this is the book he’s talking about because I have a copy on my shelf. The Church of Satan, the organization that puts that book out relies on new membership fees and book sales to survive. They also run a popular twitter account with 160,000 followers. You could accuse them of many of things, but secretive they are not.

Now, I know that there are many branches and varieties of Satanism, but by quoting from the Satanic Bible, Wurmbrand has clearly identified the LaVeyan brand of Satanism as the one he is discussing. I don’t think that it’s at all unreasonable for me to make that claim. (Why would he quote from a book if it wasn’t directly relevant to the point he is making?) Ok, but this is interesting because after referring to these Satanists as highly secretive, he also claims that “The Satanist sect is not materialistic.” Of course, the Church of Satan is, and always has been, materialistic. On their website, they boast about their “materialist philosophy“. Obviously, their website wasn’t available when Wurmbrand was writing his book, but this materialist philosophy is clearly propounded in the book that Wurmbrand quotes from. So allow me to recap here. Despite Wurmbrand’s claims to the contrary, the Church of Satan is not “highly secretive”, they are not “not materialistic”, and they are certainly not secretive about their being materialistic. I have no personal reason to defend the Church of Satan here. I am merely pointing out facts that are clearly apparent to anyone who has done even the smallest amount of research on LaVeyan Satanism.

But how did Wurmbrand get things so wrong? How did he misinterpret the Satanic Bible in such a remarkable way? Well, to understand that, let’s take a look at the quotations that Wurmbrand actually used:

“The Satanic Bible,” after saying “the crucifix symbolizes pallid incompetence hanging on a tree,” calls Satan “the ineffable Prince of Darkness who rules the earth.” As opposed to “the lasting foulness of Bethlehem,” “the cursed Nazarene,” “the impotent king,” “fugitive and mute god,” “vile and abhorred pretender to the majesty of Satan,” the Devil is called “the God of Light,” with angels “cowering and trembling with fear and prostrating themselves before him” and “sending Christian minions staggering to their doom.”

Well, yeah. That clears things up a bit. Apart from the first quote there, the crucifix symbolism one, none of those quotations are even from the Satanic Bible. The rest are from the Satanic Rituals, an entirely separate book by the same author. That’s not all though. I did a little research and I found the following passage from a 1977 book called Don’t Waste Your Sorrows: Finding God’s Purpose in the Midst of Pain by Paul E. Billheimer.

waste your sorrows billheimer

Compare the Billheimer quote to the Wurmbrand one. Notice any similarities? Billheimer’s book was published 9 years before Wurmbrand’s. Now, I don’t like jumping to conclusions, but it’s entirely clear that Wurmbrand plagiarized Billheimer’s work. He also made an absolute fool of himself in the process. To provide evidence for his critique of Karl Marx, Richard Wurmbrand quoted from books that he himself had never read. In doing so, he not only highlights the fact that he knows nothing about the concept that he has chosen as the topic for his book, he also proves that he is a cheat with a poor eye for details.

So if he didn’t read the Satanic Bible, what texts did he read during his research for his book? Well, at one point in his text, he directs his readers to Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain for more information on occultism in Russia. That particular book was one of the worst I have ever read, but it’s the kind of book that this Wurmbrand guy considers trustworthy.


Two of Wurmbrand’s trustworthy sources

Psychic Discoveries was bad, so bad in fact that I referred to it as both a “horrendous pile of nonsense” and “a load of shite” in my review, but it’s really only guilty of being boring and unconvincing. You come away from a book like that pitying its authors rather than disliking them. If you want the really infuriating stuff, you’ve got to look towards the religious nutjobs. The most popular post I’ve ever done on this blog was about a book called Michelle Remembers. That book made me really angry. It’s about a mad woman who claimed that she had been a victim of Satanic ritual abuse as a child. It has been proven to be complete and utter bullshit on many counts. It’s nothing more than the sinister fantasies of a sex-pervert with a low IQ. Hey, guess what! Richard Wurmbrand bought it hook, line and sinker, and he quotes extensively from that book of absolute garbage. Not only that though; the quotations that he uses are from one of the most cringeworthy and ridiculous sections of the book, the Devil’s nursery rhymes. Anybody who has ever done a lick of research on Satanism would be able to tell that the entirety of Michelle Remembers is rubbish, but even the most gullible Christian should have a hard time swallowing the notion of the Devil singing childish rhymes to a bunch of evil Canadians. It’s not a problem for Wurmbrand though. He unquestioningly presents it as damning evidence in his case against Karl Marx.

Towards the end of the book, he also mentions the whole “if you play Stairway to Heaven backwards…” thing. I couldn’t understand why he did this in a book about Karl Marx, but he did.

I haven’t really said much about the central idea of his book, but I really don’t feel like I need to. I have successfully shown that Richard Wurmbrand was completely oblivious to both the nature and realities of Satanism and argumentative writing. There is absolutely no direct evidence for the claims that he makes. He never read some of the source material on Satanism from which he quotes, and I have no real reason to presume that his research on Marx was any more thorough. Other sources that he chose to include in his book are completely bogus. Throughout the book, Wurmbrand comes across as gullible, arrogant, hysteric, and paranoid; the guy was clearly mentally ill. He had had a tough life, spending 14 years in communist prisons (There’s a poorly animated movie about this on youtube if you’re interested), so it’s understandable that he wasn’t a fan of Marx. I hope that the process of writing this book was therapeutic for him.

Well, there you go. Marx and Satan, what a wonderful way to celebrate 3 years of this blog. I’ve reviewed 177 books so far, and I have no plans on stopping soon.

Thomas Carnacki, Ghostfinder General

carnacki ghost finder hope hodgsonThe Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder – William Hope Hodgson
Wordsworth Books – 2006 (First published in 1910)

This is a collection of short stories about a detective who specializes in the paranormal. The original edition, published in 1910 was limited to 6 stories, but most later editions include all 9 of the Carnacki tales that survive. Did Hope Hodgson write more? It seems as if he intended to; some of these stories contain references to other adventures that were never documented.

While I was reading the first story, I realised that the Duke De Richleau from Dennis Wheatley’s novels must have learned some of his techniques from Carnacki. I afterwards read the introduction to this Carnacki collection and saw that the editor had noticed the same thing. (Wheatley later confirmed the influence of Carnacki on his own writing by including the detective’s adventures as the fifth installment of his Library of the Occult series).

These tales reside in a bit of a strange place in the land of horror fiction. Most of them are fairly straightforward ghost stories, but there are these little descriptions here and there that seem more Lovecrafty than M.R. Jamesy. The last story, The Hog, was frustratingly drawn out, but it portrays a universe that is not only apathetic towards human life but actually hostile to it, and it’s little ideas like this that make this collection worth reading. You’ll be reading what seems to be a run of the mill ghost story and then come across a line or a paragraph that’s worded in such a way that it not only conveys the characters’ terror but actually imposes it on you.

While not absolutely brilliant, this is rather enjoyable stuff. Carnacki’s unique ghost finding arsenal is made up of an interesting mix of rituals, strange grimoires and modern technology, including an electric pentacle! I’ve mentioned similarities to the works of James, Lovecraft and Wheatley above, and I reckon that if you like the work of those authors (and who doesn’t?), you’ll probably enjoy this too. I also got a serious bang of Bulwer Lytton’s The Haunted and Haunters off some of these tales.

This book is perfect for reading on the bus into work or listening to while making dinner. The first 6 tales are available as an audiobook at I know I’m often a bit nasty about the lovely people on that site who dedicate their time to creating these audiobooks for free, but holy God, this one was something else. Two of the Carnacki stories are set in Ireland, and one of them features several lines of dialogue from an Irish character. This dialogue is written phonetically so as to give the impression of an Irish accent. Hope Hodgson was English, so he was probably familiar with Irish accents, and if you were to read the aforementioned dialogue aloud, it would sound fairly accurate. Unfortunately, the guy who read it for the audiobook tried to put on an Irish accent while he was reading the phonetic transcription of that accent. The result was an accent so stupid sounding that I had to turn to the physical book to finish the story. I simply couldn’t understand him. It was like a guitar player putting a guitar through two of the same distortion pedal. Add to that the fact that this lad’s Irish accent is a mix of Sean Connery and Count Dracula. Check it out:

Embarrassing stuff.

While my edition of the book gives 2006 as its publication date, I believe it’s a bit newer than that. The Wordsworth Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural used their ugly old covers until at least 2010. The only complaint I ever had about this series was the awful cover art, and I have to say that these newer editions look much, much nicer. I’ve reviewed 9 of this series in total, and I have another 10 on my shelf. I’m sure I’ll acquire more at some stage in the future too. I love these books. They’re always cheap and nearly always amazing reads.

If you’re interested in reading more about Carnacki, check out this far more insightful post on this collection.


Unholy Forces of Evil!

lords of chaos coverLords of Chaos – Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind
Feral House – 1998/ 2003

I thought I’d better review this before the movie comes out. It’s a book about the Norwegian heavy metallers who went mad in the early 1990s and burned a load of churches and killed some people. I hadn’t bothered reading it before because I presumed (fairly accurately) that I knew the story already. That being said, this book was written in 1998, and I didn’t become interested in this kind of crap until about 5 years after that, so it is quite likely that some of my knowledge of the history of Norwegian Black Metal came indirectly from this text. If you were unfamiliar with the story of “the bloody rise of the Satanic Metal underground”, I’d imagine some of this book would be fairly shocking.

The first third of the book, the part that outlines the history of the Black Metal movement, was pretty good. Regardless of whether you know the story or not, some of the interviews in here are very entertaining. At one point, Varg Vikernes seems to suggest that he murdered his friend because one of their mutual friends had been snooping around this lad’s bedroom and found “a dildo with shit on it”. There’s lots of cool pictures in here too (Unfortunately, none of them are of said dildo).

After that, the book gets bogged down in fairly boring chapters about pyromania, the Church of Satan and right wing extremism. The pyromania chapter seems like filler (Varg agrees), and the Church of Satan chapter is clearly only included because the author knew LaVey. The stuff on the fascistic elements of black metal is quite tedious. Lots of people have claimed that the focus on far-right politics in this book tells more about the author’s political interests than those of the entire Black Metal scene, and I reckon there’s some truth in this idea. Moynihan is a notorious edgelord.

I initially read the 1998 edition, but when I found out that the 2003 reissue contained a chapter on Varg’s theories about Nazi aliens (and more), I had to track that one down too. It was worth it. It’s interesting to see how much things had changed in those 5 years. Now, 20 years after the book was originally published, almost 30 years after the events it describes, Black Metal has turned into something bigger than any of its progenitors could have reasonably imagined. Let’s be honest though; most of it is cringeworthy muck. It’s such a conceptually ludicrous genre that there’s no real room for mediocrity. Any Black Metal band that isn’t exceptionally interesting is going to be embarrassingly shit.

And even some of the most important bands within the genre are surprisingly crap. I remember the first time I heard Burzum. My friends and I had recently heard tell of these crazy Scandinavian bands who killed and ate each other, and we spent the best part of an evening downloading a Burzum track over a dial-up connection. We were all pretty excited when the download reached 100%, but our excitement dispersed as soon as we heard Varg’s feeble shrieks over the thin sounding guitars. We all thought that this was one of those mislabeled mp3s that were so common on Kazaa at the time (you’d download a song labelled “Pantera and Metallica” and end up with a country blues track), and it wasn’t until we had downloaded a second awful track that we could confirm that yes, this weak sounding garbage was supposed to be the most evil music on the planet.

Fortunately, this book does a decent job of highlighting the insular (and puerile) nature of the genre’s origins. Black Metal (or the second wave of Black Metal if you want to be pedantic about it) started off as a small group of teenagers (and immature young adults) who got carried away with a game of unholy one-upsmanship. Don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted that they burned the churches, but after reading the interviews in this book, I got the sense that the real motives in some (if not most) of these crimes were peer pressure and the teenage desire to show off to one’s friends. Hey, whatever though; it got the job done.

fantoft church burned vargBoys will be boys!

I have a thousand things to say on the topic of Black Metal, but this is a book blog so I’ll keep them to myself for now. Initially, I wasn’t even sure if this book belonged on this blog, but all things considered, I reckon it contains more than enough Satanism to warrant its inclusion. The Satanism of early Black Metal is the most childish, boneheaded and ultimately best variety of devil-worshipping Satanism that exists.

I’m entirely sure the upcoming movie version of this book is going to provide limitless angry responses from the Black Metal community, regardless of how good it is. I’ll probably download it to see what all the fuss is about.





Twisted – Sue Hollister Barr

sue hollister barr twistedTwisted – Sue Hollister Barr
BMI – 1992
Twisted is, perhaps, the worst novel I have ever read. It is boring, disjointed, stupid and pointless. In an interview, the author herself referred to this novel as a “fucking piece of shit” and admitted that it’s padded with “formless, utterly embarrassing mush.”

This is a book about a group of hippies who find themselves travelling across America in a van together. On their voyage, they realise that they were all family members in a past life. The Carnes, the family they belonged to, were particularly dysfunctional, so dysfunctional, in fact, that their issues start to bleed into their next lives.

Here are the problems with this book:

  1. The plot makes no sense. The characters are thrown together in a frustratingly lazy way. I get that the author wanted to capture the care-free, happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the flower-power generation, but the idea of a group of 10 random hippies abandoning everything in their lives at the drop of a hat to form a band and travel cross country is dumb and cringey. As the book goes on, it becomes apparent that they were actually drawn together by some paranormal force, but that makes no sense either. Is it the wickedness of the Carnes or their family ties that brings them back together in their next lives? Either way, the reader is expected to swallow a remarkably narrow version of reincarnation.
  2. There are far too many characters in the book. They’re all dull, dislikable stock characters; there’s the junkie, a token black guy, the crazy one, the witchy one, the gay one… Also, each of the 10+ main characters has at least two alter-egos. The only remotely enjoyable part of the book was when they die.
  3. “Far out! Like, the dialogue is totally excruciating, man.”
  4. The author seems unsure as to what horror is. Some scenes are surprisingly gory, but this is basically a shitty thriller that is confused by the ridiculous paranormal element of the plot. Yes, there is an element of the supernatural here, but it adds absolutely nothing to the suspense of the story. I honestly believe that this book would have been much more tolerable if it was a more straight forward murder-mystery. The author has acknowledged that she was not a horror fan at the time of writing the book and that she only wrote this book for money. She admitted, “When I was teaching writing, I would tell my students that the one genre I couldn’t cover was horror.  I morally objected to it.  I thought it was sick and I’d never read it.” Ugh. How annoying! I am absolutely convinced that I could write a far better horror novel than this.
  5. Twisted is poorly written. Not only is the plot stupid, it’s also poorly executed. The narration goes back and forth in time and flips between the perspectives of the 20+ characters. The stuff in between the murders is horrendously tedious too. Absolute garbage. The author has admitted that the publishing company demanded an extra 50 pages to be added to the book after she had submitted it. I honestly believe that her first submission was probably a lot more enjoyable.
  6. The cover is pretty cool but very misleading. There is no angry green twisty man in the book. Also, the tagline “The Sins of the Father Never Die” is dumb.

I actually feel a bit bad about this review. I don’t have any qualms about attacking the work of non-fiction authors because non-fiction should be able to withstand attacks, but attacking the product of another person’s creativity (that is being presented as such) feels a bit mean, and as far as I can remember, this is the first time I’ve really done so on this blog. Then again, this book was so bad that I feel that I would be doing the world a disservice by not expressing how terrible it is. The fact that the author has also admitted that the book is awful makes me feel a little better. As a matter of fact, she was so unhappy with it that she actually self published a new, apparently much-improved, edition of the book a few years ago. I definitely won’t be checking it out, but it probably is better than the edition I read. The edition that I have comes from BMI books, a scam company that was apparently created so that the publishing house could get out of paying the authors any royalties, so if for some reason you were curious about reading Twisted, I would suggest buying the new edition.

twisted new cover

The new edition also has a much improved cover; the angry green face on the original edition has transformed into a surprised shoelace. Priceless.