In March 2016, I was working just around the corner from my house. I came home at lunch one day, and as I was sitting down, waiting for the coffee to brew, I checked facebook. Will Errickson had posted a photo of a book featuring the above image on its cover. Let’s just take stock of the elements in that picture: a skull, some ritual candles, a semi-naked woman and a swastika. Needless to say, I had ordered a copy of the book, the intriguingly titled Baron Orgaz, before I had poured my coffee.
It was only after ordering that I realised that this book was part of a series. Now, as my readers well know, I don’t like starting halfway through, so I spent a few weeks tracking down copies of the preceding books in the series. By the time I had got through the first novels and was finishing Baron Orgaz, I had ordered the rest of the collection.
I’ve hemmed and hawed about publishing this post for a few months. I was considering finishing the entire series before posting, but I have a lot on my hands at the moment, and it’s going to take me quite a while to get through the remaining four novels. Here, then, are my thoughts and feelings on the first half of the Doctor Owen Orient series.
Doctor Orient – Frank Lauria
Bantam Press – 1974 (Originally published 1970)
The first Doctor Orient novel seems to be a little harder to come by than some of the later entries in the series. While quite entertaining, it isn’t, in my opinion, quite as good as the books that follow it. Then again, if you were to imagine the series as one extremely long novel, this would serve as good introduction. You get to meet several of the characters who are going to pop up in later installments.
The most obvious point of comparison here would be the Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley. Both books are about crime fighting occult experts doing battle with a black magician. The Duke De Richleau and Doctor Orient are both aided on their adventures by a motley crew of accomplices, one member of each group being temporarily led down the left hand path. The biggest difference here is that Doctor Orient is far less hesitant to use his own psychic powers than De Richleau.
The antagonist in this novel is a dodgy lad called Sesuj. He tries to use pop music as a form of mind control to bring young people over to Satan. Pretty cool stuff.
Raga Six – Frank Lauria
Bantam Press – 1972
Raga Six impressed me. It kicks off with a pair of weirdoes who seem to be going for fairly similar approach to Susej from the first novel, but this turns out to be a false start. The real adventure kicks off when Doctor Orient starts working for a drug peddler named Cowboy and ends up in exile after a particularly sketchy transaction. He meets a really dodgy lad on a boat to Tangier and has a threesome with this chap’s wife and a model. People start dropping off, and you get the idea that there’s at least one vampire involved.
Given that this is a book filled with sex and the undead, the writing is surprisingly good. The Doctor is a sensitive man at the best of times, and I enjoyed the existential crises that he goes through in this book. I was kept guessing right until the end of the novel too. It took me 5 months to start on Raga Six after finishing the first novel in the series, but it only took me 6 days to move onto Lady Sativa after finishing it. Raga Six might be the best known entry in the series.
Lady Sativa – Frank Lauria
Ballantine Books – 1979 (Originally published in 1973)
This one is about werewolves. It had all the sex, seances and outdated slang that I’d come to expect from a Doctor Orient novel. It contains one scene in which an irritable Doctor Orient unwittingly invites himself to a threesome. Once he finds out that another male is going to be involved, he violently assaults said male and calls him a “Gaylord”. LOL. I was expecting this one to go in a similar direction to Raga Six, but it doesn’t really. A solid entry.
Baron Orgaz – Frank Lauria
Bantam Press – 1974
Nazis, extreme sadomasochism, black magic and tennis… Really, need I say more?
Well, the only other thing that might be worth mentioning is that this very much is the fourth book in a series. While a person might well be able to enjoy the work entirely on its aforementioned merits, most of the main characters have previously appeared and played important roles in the series, so I would strongly recommend reading the first 3 books before this one.
I have these ones too, but I haven’t got around to reading them yet. Not pictured is Demon Pope, the last book in the series.
Overall, the Doctor Orient series is awesome. There are loads of cool little references to actual grimoires and conspiracies scattered throughout these books. The author, Frank Lauria, knew William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, he sings in a rock band, and he’s not a fan of Donald Trump. Also, his books are filled with sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and devil worship. Deadly. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series.
2019 Edit: I finally got around to reading and reviewing the second half of this awesome series.