The Dennis Wheatley 'Museum' - The Final Years
The Final Years
DW spent the autumn of 1968 moving his most cherished possessions from Lymington to his newly enlarged London flat. This was a considerable endeavour as it including relocating a collection of over four thousand books and roughly three thousand bottles of wine, as well as many of the other treasured possessions that he had kept in his ‘main’ home.
The next near-decade remained busy, although DW was forced to take things slightly easier in the last few years.
In the years 1969 to 1974 DW continued to write a novel a year. He wrote four more Roger Brook novels – bringing Roger’s career and life to an end in ‘Desperate Measures’ in 1974. Having killed off the Duke de Richleau in ‘Dangerous Inheritance’ in 1965, he reprised him for a further adventure in ‘Gateway to Hell’ in 1970, and he wrote a curious one-off novel ‘The Strange Story of Linda Lee’ in 1972. There were no more Gregory Sallust novels – he had been left to ‘live happily ever after’ in ‘The White Witch of the South Seas’, and the Julian Day saga was never finished – his third outing in 1964 was to prove his last, as he was not as popular with the public as DW’s other principal heroes.
DW’s travels abroad gradually became more restricted, although even in the final year of his life he took a holiday in the South of France.
As Joan became progressively less mobile as the years went by, she and DW entertained less at home, but DW was a familiar figure in ‘Clubland’.
DW was very much at home in the St. James Club, where he dined with the likes of Christopher Lee, overlooked by portraits of the members of the original Hell Fire Club, and with help from his friend Derrick Morley, became a member of Pratt’s and of White’s.
DW remained creative and ventured into other literary areas. Apart from starting work on his autobiography (of which three of the four volumes were only published after his death), he wrote a factual book on comparative religion (‘The Devil and All His Works’), had his books produced in a uniform edition by Heron Publishing (this was the second time his works were to appear in a uniform set – the first had been the ‘Lymington edition’, which Hutchinson produced while he was living on the South Coast), and in 1974 he and George Rainbird, the Chairman of Sphere Books, launched the ‘Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult’ – a reprint of a large number of fictional and factual books on the occult with special introductions by DW.
DW did not forget his friends. He maintained a copious correspondence, and saw them when he and they could – they were getting older too.
Nor did DW forget his fans – he continued to reply to a huge mailbag with his usual courteous charm, and he continued to be interview by the media as the country’s ‘favourite Occult Uncle’.
In 1971 he produced a curious Will in which he listed individual mementos which were to go to his various friends on his death, and towards the very end of his life he put stickers on various of his possessions indicating where they should go.
As Phil Baker remarks, he had a very ‘bags packed’ attitude to death.
When the end came, it came relatively swiftly. Hutchinsons organised a massive celebration of his 80th birthday in January 1977 which left him completely exhausted. He took a holiday in the South of France shortly thereafter, but when he returned he quickly became ill.
He died on 10th November 1977, and was buried in Brookwood cemetery.
In many ways, of course, his legacy lives on.