Daniel P. Mannix - The Hell Fire Club (Four Square, 1961, reprinted 1962; originally Ballantine, 1959)
The rise and fall of a shocking secret society; perversion and politics were its sole interests
Blurb: It was the most infamous club the world has ever known. Its meetings were held in ruined abbeys and elaborately obscene caves Its member were high-placed politicians, landed gentry and famous men of the arts.
Its orgies and revels rocked the nation and caused the biggest riot in British history. The story of the Hell-Fire Club. A story which has fascinated and repelled the world for two centuries.
Erudite commentators have suggested that Mannix didn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, but if history had been presented in such a manner at my school it may well have gained my attention. In many ways, the contemporary range of ‘Horrible Histories’ books aimed at teenagers are very much descendants of Mannix and his work.
"Tis astonishing the lengths Francis will go simply to be nasty"
Black magic, midnight orgies, political conspiracies - if ever a bunch of complete and utter bastards merited a mention on Vault it's Sir Francis Dashwood and his cronies, or so this book would have us believe. i was going to add this to justin's enlightening Daniel P. 'Mondo' Mannix thread in 'favourite authors' but the cover alone deserves its own display cabinet *. A mere twenty pages in but already i'm thinking Peter Haining must have loved this book. Maddix's possibly cavalier attitude toward historical 'fact' sees conversations transcribed verbatim as though Dashwood had a News Of The World undercover team monitoring his every move. This stubborn determination to tell the best story rather than the most historically 'accurate' may well have inspired Haining when he came to pen his hagiographies of Sweeney Todd and Spring-Heeled Jack which share a similar healthy eye for sensationalism.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.