The Dennis Wheatley 'Museum' - The Post War Years
The Post War Years
Having lived in London all his life, when the War ended, DW moved down to the South Coast.
He bought a house called Grove Place* just outside the centre of Lymington in Hampshire.
Described as a small stately home by those who visited it, it was in a state of some disrepair when he bought it and he spent much of his time there improving it and enjoying his hobby of bricklaying, while his wife Joan attended (with help) to the decorating and gardens.
While DW frequently had house guests – mostly prestigious; army chiefs he had known in the war, aristocrats, fellow writers and other celebrities – he was a very disciplined and organised writer.
His year would be divided into two halves; October to May he would write his books, and the summer months he would travel and relax or otherwise enjoy the fruits of his labours.
His literary output often reaching two or three books in the early days, he settled down after the war to writing one book a year, often preceded by intensive research.
DW was a disciplined writer; he would begin his day with breakfast in bed and read the papers and his fan-mail. When he got up he would do his correspondence – almost every fan would get a personal reply – and then resume work on the current book. He would work until lunch and then take a nap. He would then work from tea-time until dinner and then carry on writing. If the writing was going well, he would sometimes until well after midnight.
He began after the war with ‘The Man Who Missed The War’, a ‘lost race’ romance in which a convoy of rafts carrying wartime stores was floated from America towards Britain – something he had mooted in his War Papers.
This was followed by a Duke de Richleau story (Codeword Golden Fleece) and a Gregory Sallust story (Come Into My Parlour), both set in wartime, and then he made a departure.
Feeling (as he said) that his head was too full of secrets, he decided to indulge his passion for history by writing a historical novel featuring what was to become his third major character – Roger Brook. Roger started his career in 1783 and ended it in 1815, and he was one of DW’s favourite characters. DW had him born in his own home of Grove Place and DW did considerable research to maintain historical accuracy.
DW did not neglect his other fictional heroes – as a professional writer he knew he had to give his audience variety – and during the ‘Grove’ years as well as eight Roger Brook novels and five de Richleau novels, DW wrote five Gregory Sallust novels and sundry other novels, including a couple of relatively unsuccessful forays into science fiction.
When he was not working, DW enjoyed life to the full, although his ‘racier’ life in the 1920s was well behind him. As Phil Baker puts it:
‘Wheatley was now “established” at Grove Place in a more
As well as bricklaying, DW continued his collecting (books, antiques, stamps) and indulged his passions for wine and travel.
DW shared his travels with his audiences, and the backs of the dustjackets of some of his novels of this period have pictures of him enjoying himself in far flung places.
In the days before cheap airlines, he went round the world several times and stayed in a large numbers of countries, and as one of the country’s most successful authors he was continually in the media.
He also did other literary work. He started work in his autobiography and carried out some covert propaganda work for the British government in the 1950s.
Film took further advantage of DW’s novels in the late 1960s. His friend Christopher Lee persuaded Hammer Films to film two of his novels – ‘The Devil Rides Out’ and ‘Uncharted Seas’ (filmed as The Lost Continent). Sir Christopher Lee took the lead role in ‘The Devil Rides Out’ – uncharacteristically playing a ‘goodie’, and the film has now achieved something of a cult status.
DW’s life on the South Coast was not however to last right into his old age. In the mid 1960s there were domestic rumblings when his housekeeper decided to retire, and finding it difficult to find replacement staff, DW decided to sell up and move permanently to London.
His house was sold in 1968 and his final years were to be spent in a luxury apartment in London.
*Sadly demolished in 1969, although a few of the walls that DW built still remain – see the special exhibition on DW’s homes
The quotation in the centre of the text is from ‘The Devil is a Gentleman’ p 429
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