The Satan Sleuth Series – Michael Avallone

michael avallone satan sleuth seriesPhilip St. George III, aka the Satan Sleuth, is wealthy, vengeful, sexy, equipped with ridiculous gadgets, and he loves solving spooky mysteries. Yeah, he’s basically a mix of Batman, James Bond and Scooby Doo. This is a series of three novels that I first read about in Paperbacks from Hell. I spent a stupid amount of time and money tracking down old paperback copies, but I saw a few days ago that you can actually buy kindle versions off Amazon.

satan sleuth fallen angel avalloneThe Satan Sleuth #1:  Fallen Angel
Mews Books – 1976 (First Published 1974)
This is the Satan Sleuth’s origin story. A gang of weirdos break into a young millionaire’s house and kill his wife in the name of Satan. He gets super upset and decides to hunt them down for revenge. Luckily for him, the Satanists come back to his house right after he has filled it with Satanist catching equipment. What follows is essentially a slightly less violent version of Home Alone.

This is the most dated book in the collection. Of the four criminals, one is described as “A walking moron, even if she was the best and free-est piece of tail in the world. With the biggest boobs.” She is repeatedly and brutally beaten and berated by her boyfriend for being dim. The Satan Sleuth shows her no leniency despite the fact that she was clearly coerced into partaking in the murder by her brutal and manipulative partner.

Another of the Satanists is “gay as a green goose when the bare asses were down”. He is also referred to as a “Fruitman”, and a “damn pineapple”, and it is insinuated that he gets off on brutally murdering a woman because he is gay. This kind of stuff is pretty distasteful in 2019, but this book was a written almost half a century ago by a man who was approaching 50. It’s hardly surprising.

satan sleuth avallone

Early on in the novel, the hero decides to do some research on Satanism so that he can understand his enemies. He gives his lawyer a list of books on the occult and has him track these down. I recognised a few of the names on the list, but some I had never heard of before, despite their amazing titles. I had to do some sleuthing myself to figure out which were real and which were Michael Avallone’s own creations.

satan sleuth book list.jpg

Possession by T.K. Oesterreich, The Satanic Mass by H.T.F. Rhodes, During Sleep by Robert Crookall, The Magus by Francis Barrett, Timeless Earth by Peter Kolosimo, Gypsies, Demons and Divinities by Elwood B. Trigg, Your Sixth Sense by Brad Steiger and The Satanic Rituals by Anton La Vey are all very real books.

Where the Devil Walks by Marcel Alevoinne sounds great, but the author’s name struck me as rather similar to Michael Avallone. It turns out that Marcel Alevoinne was actually a pseudonym that Avallone used to use to order take-out.

Lucifer, My King by Jean-Anne de Pré also sounds incredible, but I discovered that Avallone used Jean Anne de Pré as a pseudonym for several gothic novels including The Third Woman, A Sound of Dying Roses, Warlock’s Woman, Die, Jessica, Die and Aquarius, My Evil. Unfortunately, I can find no evidence to suggest that a book called Lucifer, My King was ever written

Mark Dane, the author of Beyond our Ken is yet another of Avallone’s many pseudonyms.

This leaves one book, The Blask Mass (sic) by Sidney Stuart. I couldn’t find anything on this one online. It turns out that Sidney Stuart was the name of one of Michael Avallone’s early agents, so it’s likely that book is also a fake.

 

satan sleuth the werewolf walks tonight avalloneThe Satan Sleuth #2: The Werewolf Walks Tonight
Warner Paperback Library – 1974

This one is about a werewolf instead of Satanists. It was not published as part of the UK Mews edition of the series, so my copy of this book and my copy of Devil, Devil (the third book in the series) are both labelled #2 on their covers. I didn’t like this one as much as the other two. Maybe the Brits felt the same and that’s why they chose to leave it out.

satan sleuth number 2Two #2s

The most interesting part of this book was the way it pushes the reader back and forth between believing/not believing in the supernatural. There are times when the text flat out says that nothing supernatural is occurring and other times when it says the opposite. In truth, I’m a bit unsure as to whether this was intentional or just sloppy writing. The time sequence in this one is confusing too, and I can’t help but feel that it would have benefited with a bit of proofreading.

Oh, and this book features another mentally challenged woman with “splendid round breasts” being brutally raped. She is referred to as both “a peacherino” and “prime cut beef”.

satan sleuth devil, devilThe Satan Sleuth #3: Devil, Devil
Mews Books – 1976 (First Published 1975)

This was probably my favourite out of the three. Not only does the Satan Sleuth find himself in the clutches of a coven of evil Satanists, but the ringleader of the coven is named Catharine Copely! Any Satan Sleuth worth their salt will surely recognize the Satanic relevance of the name Copely. Canon Copely-Syle, the strange mix between Montague Summers and Aleister Crowley, is the antagonist in Dennis Wheatley’s classic To the Devil – a Daughter. The Satan Sleuth series was written more than 20 years after Wheatley’s book, so maybe Avallone had read it and decided to pay homage. (If not, there’s some weird synchronicity going on. Copely Woods is also name given by Budd Hopkins to an area of high UFO activity in the Eastern United States.)

The women in this one still have big jugs, but they’re not as dim as the ladies in the other entries of this series. The main antagonist here is female, but unfortunately, she meets her doom after being charmed by the Satan Sleuth’s snake. She decides not to sacrifice him to Satan after seeing him lying naked, unconscious and strapped to the altar. “But this man – this intruder – whoever he truly was – was gifted in every conceivable department. He was superbly endowed. Pan would envied him for his incredible appendage. The principal male tendon was a thing of beauty, even dormant and idle. The Ram’s staff!” Sister Sorrow may not have been mentally deficient, but she was unable to resist a nice juicy cock.

 

Avallone is infamous for the rate at which he wrote paperback fiction. To be honest, I got the sense that these three books were churned out fairly quickly. There’s a few spelling mistakes in each of these novels, and Avallone is remarkably fond of sentence fragments. Really. So many it’s silly. Seriously. Also, in the last book it seems that he’s using the word “cockamamie” at least once every two pages.

When my copies of these books arrived, I saw the following line on the back cover of Fallen Angel and was instantly satisfied with my purchase.
satan sleuth dennis wheatleyDennis Wheatley, for any Philistines reading this, is the author that made me want to start this blog. After having read all three Satan Sleuth novels, I have to say that aside from dodgy writing and less than progressive depictions of women and homosexuals, Avallone’s books have very little in common with Wheatley’s. Black magic is a powerful force in Wheatley’s novels, but the supernatural is always presented as a farce in the Satan Sleuth series. Avallone would later claim that this was the reason that this series didn’t get more attention (source). I reckon he was right about this. By the time I got to the third book, I knew that anything spooky that happened would be explained away later on. This cuts out a lot of suspense. Why did he write his books this way? Well, I reckon that it had something to do with the fact that Avallone, despite what it says on the blurb at the back of Fallen Angel, was not nearly as knowledgeable on Satanism and Black Magic as our Dennis.

satan sleuth avallone occult expert

At one point he refers to the werewolf as a Lycanthrophobe, and when his hero is going up against a team of Satanists, Avallone has him read a bunch of books on ESP, Ancient Aliens and fairies. There’s no rhyme or reason to the Satanism presented in the Satan Sleuth novels either. The Satanists in the first novel are Satanists by name only. Sure they murder a woman for the glory of Satan, but there’s no real spiritual or philosophical motivation behind their crime.  None of them believe in what they are doing. They’re just a bunch of drugged out social outcasts who occasionally say dumb things like, “God sucked. Lucifer was right. Make way for Beelzebub!”

The last book presents a Satanism far closer to the Satanism presented in Wheatley’s novels, but unlike Wheatley, Avallone doesn’t manage to explain why the Satanists are acting the way they are. They’re just bad for the sake of being bad here. There’s a few references to the Church of Satan that suggest that Avallone didn’t really know what he was talking about.

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Anton LaVey’s Satanism deserves to be criticized, but it’s not fair to present his followers as the kind of people who murder and decapitate young women. I’m not misrepresenting things here either. Sister Sorrow, the villain of Devil, Devil is seen reading from The Satanic Bible only a page after Avallone quotes from the Satanic Rituals, LaVey’s companion text to his Satanic Bible. I can’t imagine any way of reading this that doesn’t suggest that the fiends in this book are LaVeyan Satanists.

satan sleuth lavey quote

Satanism exists in so many forms, and it’s such a silly concept to begin with, that I’m not going to hold it against an author if they mix it up a bit. The Satan Sleuth series is far more straight forward than Paradise Lost or Goethe’s Faust. In Avallone’s work, Satan and his followers are categorically bad. I’m fine with this. I wasn’t exactly expecting profound philosophical fiction when I bought these books. These are fun adventure stories, and they work as such.

In Paperbacks from Hell, Grady Hendrix writes that “Avallone planned two more Satan Sleuth novels—Vampires Wild and Zombie Depot—but Warner Books never bought them, so he never wrote them.” This is not true. Both Vampires Wild and Zombie Depot were written, but as of today they remain unpublished. David Avallone, Michael’s son, has confirmed that he is working on having the final two Satan Sleuth novels published later on this year. (David also helped me figure out where some of the books mentioned in Fallen Angel came from. Thanks David!) I’ll be reviewing the final entries in the series as shortly after they’re released as possible!

Hail to the King!

Towards the end of last year, I wrote a long post about the work of Stephen King. I had read nothing but King for a few weeks prior to writing that, and so I decided to give him a break for a while. He has been showing up in the news recently due to his hilarious behaviour on twitter and for the record breaking new trailer for It, and so I decided to indulge myself with a smattering of his marvelous brand of trashy horror fiction.

it stephen kingIt – 1986

I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time. I remember being thoroughly creeped out by the video box of the 1990 movie version when I was a kid but being a little disappointed when I actually got to sit down and watch It. With the new movie coming out in September, I decided that I had better read the book now so that I can act cool and knowledgeable to anyone who mentions it to me in the coming months.

In some ways, It is a brilliant novel. The characters are great, the scary bits are very scary, and the transitions between past and present are really well executed. I also have personal reasons for enjoying the story of a gang of losers getting into rock fights with bullies, building hideouts in the woods, and breaking into abandoned houses. I was a little older than the characters in the book when I went a very similar, although significantly less supernatural, set of adventures myself.

Several scenes in the book involve the kids breaking into an abandoned house only to meet It in different ghoulish forms. When I was 18, my friends and I broke into an abandoned house and went rummaging through the cellar. When we were down there, we saw a strange light glimmering on the wall by the stairs. This was rather frightening as it was well after dark, and that set of stairs was our only escape route. We grabbed what we could from the debris on the ground (a stick, a rope, a rusty grill…) and prepared to do battle with whatever it was that was coming down the stairs.

We waited in silence for several minutes, but nothing moved and the light eventually went away. Afterwards, as we sat on some chairs that we had fashioned from old breezeblocks, we came up with a story to explain the peculiar glare. It had been the ghost of the former resident of the house, an old woman who was none too pleased with our presence in her home. We wrote a song about it that began:

In the hoose (sic), the times we had.
Our antiques (sic) made the Granny mad.
Her toilet, it was brown and crappy;
in the bin, her vaginal nappy.

shitty toilet
Her toilet was indeed both brown and crappy.

Anyways, there are several genuinely creepy scenes and ideas in here, but It is a very long book, and in truth, it’s a little incohesive. By 1986, Stephen King was the most popular novelist in the world. He could have written complete rubbish, had it published and sold a million copies. I’m not saying that this is rubbish, but I reckon it could have done with a bit of editing. Some bits aren’t really unnecessary to the lengthy plot, and some crucial plot elements (It‘s origin, the Turtle, how some adults can see Pennywise) are given scant explanation. This doesn’t detract too much from the book however; when a novel’s opening scene depicts a clown dragging a small child into a sewer to eat him, one aught to adjust their expectations accordingly. Don’t question the plot’s coherence; just turn your brain off and enjoy the trashy horror goodness.

When reviewing an extremely popular work, I try not to repeat information or ideas that will be available from thousands of other blogs and websites, but I will say that the infamous sex scene towards the end of this novel was damn weird.

I tried to rewatch the old movie version right after finishing the novel, but it’s very long and aside from Tim Curry, the acting is awful. I lasted about 20 minutes before watching a best-bits compilation on youtube. I will definitely be going to see the new version when it comes out.

 

cycle of the werewolf stephen kingCycle of the Werewolf – 1983

This story is packaged as an illustrated novel, but in reality, it’s shorter than some of King’s short stories. It’s about a werewolf on the loose in a small town. There’s nothing in here that you wouldn’t expect from the title and cover of the book. It’s not an unpleasant read, but I don’t think anyone would say that this is King at his finest. I read it on my commute to work one day.

 

carrie stephen kingCarrie – 1974

 King’s first novel, Carrie, is also one of his best. I started it one morning last week and had finished it by that afternoon. Obviously, this is a very popular work, one that has spawned 3-4 movie versions, and I was familiar with the plot before reading it, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it immensely.

This is nowhere near as ambitious as a novel like It, but I reckon Carrie is actually the better book. The reader quickly comes to understand Carrie’s plight and to lust for her revenge, but this book also encourages its readers to consider how they treat the Carries in their own lives. It’s a simple formula, but it’s entertaining and effective.

 

I love Stephen King, but I’ll probably leave him alone for another few months. He’ll doubtlessly appear on this blog again. Oh, and sorry for the recent lack of posts; there should be a few new ones popping up fairly soon.