Alexander Peters - The Devil in Suburbia (NEL, April 1972)
They reject all that is good and honourable; For the Devil Worshippers any ends justify the means. There is complete abandon under the watchful eye of the horned devil; a revival of the pagan tradition of glorifying evil for debased personal satisfaction.
Look at the man sitting opposite you in the railway carriage; look at the faces who pass in the street; look at your next-door neighbours — they could be the Brothers and Sisters of Midnight.
The author has done his homework. The Devil in the Suburbs quotes liberally from The News of the World which, although "frequently condemned as flippant and sensational because of its generous helping of spicy court cases," had long lead an aggressive campaign versus everything evil, and the advent of "the permissive society" ensured there was plenty to keep the fearless reporter occupied.
"Black Magic is blooming in Britain as never before and this is certainly tied up with the present "anything goes" way of life - indeed it is now the new "in" thing.... Perhaps, though, the most sinister aspect of Britain's black witches is that a great many hippies and "way out" youngsters are willingly joining them for kicks. Even university students and school pupils are among those interested. The two big attractions are undoubtedly nudity and sex."
Not that those so-called "white" witches are any better. Mr. Peters is astonished that society's morals have lapsed to the point where these kinky sex-mad let-it-all-hang-out degenerates brazenly advertise their wares in such so-called "with it" magazines as Fate and New Dimensions.
'COVEN LEADERS - when the weather is extra cold, Track suits would be ideal for your members. All sizes, most colours, quantity discounts ...'
Fortunately, some practitioners of the "old Religion" still retain a degree of moral scruple. During the course of his investigation, Mr. Alexander meets the Tooting High Priestess, Mrs. Eleanor Bone, who shares his concern that, thanks to sensationalist media coverage, witchcraft has begun to attract "the kinky," ever seeking out fresh diversions. Her Sheffield counterpart, Mrs. Patricia Crowther, bemoans the fact that many who contact her Coven do so in the mistaken belief that she will fix it for them; "To win the football pools .... to have triplets; to gain power over others; to marry Elizabeth Taylor; to be loved by Cliff Richards; to be an astronaut ..."
Chapter five introduces The Brother of Midnight, seekers after bestial pleasures, who quarterly gather in a Highgate Cellar to indulge in Satanic orgy. While names are withheld, the High Priest should be easily recognisable as he wears a goat mask and has "a fat little body." It would be wiser not to speculate.
My one disappointment is that, at a measly 96 pages, Mr. Peters' terrifying expose is a swizz even by NEL standards. Nevertheless, file under: almost as great as Devil Worship in Britain.
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.
At the time of publication of this book, the News of the World was a broadsheet, and I can remember the steady stream of 'black magic' stories along with the usual 'vicar runs off with blonde divorcee' type scandals. When the paper became a tabloid I think a lot was toned down; there were certainly far fewer of the scandal pieces. Actually, given the number of vicars that seemed to be enamoured of blonde divorcees, it's a wonder the C of E didn't issue warnings to its clergy about keeping away from them. Seriously, though, it's hard to know how much truth there was in these stories of black magic covens; just how much was exaggerated or plain made up? It reminds me of the accounts of satanic abuse that were everywhere in the 80s, and we know how accurate most, if not all, turned out to be. Still, you don't have to believe the contents of these kinds of books to be entertained by them.