GREGORY SALLUST

 
Full Name: Gregory Sallust
Nationality: British
Organization: British Secret Service
Occupation Agent

Creator: Dennis Wheatley
Time Span: 1934 - 1968
ABOUT THE SERIES

       Gregory Sallust is an agent with British Intelligence.
       He is a man of insistent independance and self-reliance so while he most certainly is one of Britain's ablest operatives in the field, especially during the Second World War, he might well be considered a freelance agent. He likes to go his own way and do things as he sees fit and does not often openly argue with commands he finds in error so much as just ignores them.
       Most of all, Sallust is a man who loves adventure and he seeks it every place he can. He adores a challenge and anything new and intriguing is like a powerful magnet pulling him closer. At times that attraction to danger and excitement is viewed as reckless but since Sallust has so much confidence in his abilities, he would seldom agree and even if he did admit to a spot of rashness, he would shrug indifferently as to say "so what?"
       Born of parents who were in the upper middle class, Sallust became an orphan at an early age and from that he learns a considerable amount of self-reliance. His inheritance was not a huge one but ably managed by his uncle, it would provide him with enough income to allow him as he reached adulthood to not be tied to any particular career, resulting in his ability to pick work that showed the greatest chance for adventure and the least for boredom.
       Before that, though, he needed to grow up and while doing so, he displayed the polite wildness that he would maintain throughout his life. He managed only a couple of years at the upper schools before his style of doing things collided too hard with the discipline of the institution. His uncle then thought some time as a cadet with the Royal Navy might help him out and the slightly more relaxed life onboard an ocean-going vessel did please him. His rebellious nature showed, though, that it was not for him in the long run.
       When he was finally of age, he opted for a year travelling all over the Continent. His inate gift with languages, as well as his desire to get closer to the young ladies he would meet, allowed him to become a native speaker of both French and German, so much so that it would be nearly impossible to know he was not a citizen of either country if he chose to so imposture. This would defintely serve him well as an operative later.
       As the world entered the Great War, Sallust eagerly volunteered and became a soldier with Britain's Third Army. He served well and gallantly for a year or so before a bomb explosion near him put him in the hospital for a lengthy recovery. He did mend totally but would bear a vivid scar over one eyebrow which would forever give him a Satanic appearance. This would add to his mystique over the years.
       After WWI, he served as a reporter for a decade or so as it gave him the freedom to move around the world that he craved so much. He was not on any regular beat but instead got permission to handle special assignments, things that interested him and that he was able to get editors interested in as well. This increased his travels and that increased his adventures and escapades and those brought him to the attention of Sir Pellinore Gwaine-Cust, head of one of England's several Intelligence organizations.
       Gwaine-Cust and Sallust hit it off immediately as the elder saw himself years before in Sallust and also saw a brilliant tool to do the odd job when needed. Sallust admired the older rascal and knew he was being used and loved every exciting minute of it. No matter what job Sallust was officially employed in, be it as a reporter or later as a business fix-it man for a group of industrialists, he was available for ad-hoc missions for the government.
       It would be during the Second World War that he would be of the most value since his experiences and his contacts all over Europe allowed him to move across enemy lines almost effortlessly. The jobs he did to stymie and harass the Axis would become legend.
       And all the while he did this jobs, before, during, and after WWII, Sallust's love of the fairer sex would rival and at times exceed his love of adventure. Even as he would age and his ability to saunter slowed down, he would retain and display a charm that few could resist, if ever they wanted to.

BOOKS

Number of Books:11
First Appearance:1934
Last Appearance:1968

       There are really two Gregory Sallusts in this series. A couple of commentators have considered there being three but I go with just the two to make things simpler. Allow me to explain.
       According to what I have read, the author, Dennis Wheatley created what was likely to be a one-off adventure novel. It was titled Black August and though written in 1934, it took place roughly 30 years in the future where a dystopic Great Britain was on the verge of collapse. As one of the people fleeing the cities to the countryside for survival, Gregory Sallust takes on a role of leader, albeit one with his own agenda and not a little self-interest. In his mid-to-late thirties, Sallust is a former reporter who knew that that life was ending so he packed up and left. This novel was a glimpse of a very bleak future and a satire of sorts on the type of man one had to be to survive.
       About two years later, the author had an idea for an adventure taking place in his contemporary times, 1936, with Europe gearing up for war and spies and agent-provocateurs every where. He wanted a strong, resourceful hero to do the dashing about that the story contained and he created him in a handsome, sophisticated, former reporter about to start a new job as a troubleshooter for a band of rich English industrialists. He chose as that man in his mid-30's, veteran of WWI, Gregory Sallust.
       So, two Gregory Sallusts, both in their 30s but one doing so in 1934 and the other in circa 1964. The future Sallust was often a every-man-for-himself kind of guy but the 30s Sallust was far more the heroic type. Both were, the author described, "egoists" but the 30s Sallust was a good guy which is not something one really could pin on the 60s version. Why the two versions? Who knows. Some have offered their takes on it but the author did not, as far as I know, ever explain. There is no doubt, though, that he really liked the name.
       What is known is that 3 1/2 years later when the idea of a British Intelligence agent working behind the lines during the early days of WWII came about, he turned again to his obviously beloved Gregory Sallust (the good one). This relationship would prove a good one (and profitable) such that he released the next book in the now-a-series 6 months later and yer another 4 months after that. A year and a half would pass (Wheatley was busy in the real life war effort) and then another adventure with Sallust in the war came out. Each of these wartime adventures covered a successive period though all took place in the early years which is understandable because they were written in those very times.
       For several years after the end of hostilities, Wheatley worked on other books and other characters, including his Napoleonic spy series, Roger Brook. He was also continuing his Duke de Richleau series and his work dubbed the Black Magic novels. It would be six years after his last Sallust book that he returned to that character, this time for an adventure far away from the dark alleys of wartorn Europe. The Island Where Time Stands Still takes Sallust, a bit older and wiser, in search across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean to China and then back to find the true heir to a island Chinese kingdom. This is the third Gregory Sallust some talk about but I prefer to think of him as the second just a few years later.
       Four years after Sallust's oriental sabbatical, the author returns with him to WWII and the heady years of that conflict with Traitor's Gate, an adventure that spans the years 40-45. Wheatley concludes his Sallust War Year series in 1964 with They Used Dark Forces which also built heavily on his Black Magic leanings.
       Another four years pass before Sallust is called to duty again but this time it is some time after the War, probably some time after the Island adventure. A Sallust in his 60's but still in pretty good shape for his age, gets involved in a hunt for sunken treasure to help a young ruler better his people's lives. The White Witch of the South Seas is the last Sallust recorded adventure but a darn good yarn.

       So the first Sallust is a scondrel who lives 30 years after the second Sallust who is a hero worth rooting for. And that second Sallust (or a third if you go with the other hypothesis) ages nicely and stays active years after the War ends.

       In my opinion, the first book, which I number as '0', is alright but if you skip it until later, I would not blame you. The second book should not be missed as it really gets you knowing the character. And then the 7 War Year books should be read in order. Finally, feast on the two non-spy adventures.

0 Black August Black August
Written by Dennis Wheatley
Copyright: 1934

Taking place in a very unpleasant 1960s Great Britain, the future looks horribly bleak as starving people flee the cities for the country but face horrific struggles there. Gregory Sallust assumes leadership of one such group.

1 Contraband Contraband
Written by Dennis Wheatley
Copyright: 1936

As Gregory Sallust enjoys a vacation before starting a new job, he is intrigued by a beautiful woman in a casino and follows her. This lands him in a dangerous adventure going up against some very powerful and not so nice people.

2 The Scarlet Imposter The Scarlet Imposter
Written by Dennis Wheatley
Copyright: 1940

The 1st of Gregory Sallust's WWII adventures taking place from 09/39 to 11/39 - Sallust is sent into Germany disguised as first a German army general and later as an SS Gruppenfuhrer to connect with an anti-Nazi group wanting to overthrow Hitler and end the hostilities.

3 Faked Passports Faked Passports
Written by Dennis Wheatley
Copyright: 1940

The 2nd of Gregory Sallust's WWII adventures taking place from 11/39 to 03/40 - To rescue the beautiful Erika from the grasps of the SS, Sallust sneaks back into Germany, this time as a Wehrmacht colonel. He finds his way to free her involves visiting Hermann Goering.

4 The Black Baroness The Black Baroness
Written by Dennis Wheatley
Copyright: 1940

The 3rd of Gregory Sallust's WWII adventures taking place from 03/40 to 06/40 - As Hitler's forces move against Norway and then France, Sallust is all over western Europe in search for the Black Baroness, the French aristocrat in league with Sallust's old nemesis, Gruppenfuhrer Grauber.

5 V For Vengeance V For Vengeance
Written by Dennis Wheatley
Copyright: 1942

The 4th of Gregory Sallust's WWII adventures taking place from 06/400 to 06/41 - Nearly killed and being nursed back to health, Sallust is almost captured while in Paris when that city fell to the Nazis. He joins with others to fight the Vichy government and the occupiers from the inside.

6 Come Into My Parlour Come Into My Parlour
Written by Dennis Wheatley
Copyright: 1946

The 5th of Gregory Sallust's WWII adventures taking place from 06/41 to 12/41 - Sallust is in the Soviet Union as that nation decides to strike back at Germany. Also there undercover is his nemesis, Grauber, who is hoping to finally destroy Sallust.

7 Traitors' Gate Traitors' Gate
Written by Dennis Wheatley
Copyright: 1958

The 6th of Gregory Sallust's WWII adventures taking place from 03/42 to 10/42 - In early 1942, Hungary had not yet entered the War and Sallust is finding some well-desired peace in Budapest, at least until the Nazis come calling and he must protect his friends from the invaders.

8 They Used Dark Forces They Used Dark Forces
Written by Dennis Wheatley
Copyright: 1964

The 7th of Gregory Sallust's WWII adventures taking place from 03/43 to 06/45 - Against his better judgment, Sallust becomes involved with a Jewish Black Magician to try to destroy Hitler with arcane powers to end the war.

9 The Island Where Time Stands Still The Island Where Time Stands Still
Written by Dennis Wheatley
Copyright: 1954

Gregory Sallust is one of those pulled into a search for the true heir to the throne of an island Chinese kingdom. The road to finding that person is long and treacherous, taking the group deep into China and back across the Pacific.

10 The White Witch of the South Seas The White Witch of the South Seas
Written by Dennis Wheatley
Copyright: 1968

The aging Gregory Sallust is relaxing in Rio, never expecting to become part of a treasure hunt to obtain the financing needed by the young Rajah of a South Sea island nation. There are many who want the treasure for less noble reasons.

MY COMMENTS

       It was a good thing for me and my appreciation of Gregory Sallust that I first encountered him in Contraband in the very early 70s. Had it been with Black August, which I did not know about until some time later, I would never have tried any more of the Sallust books. The 60s Sallust (as I call him above) was a self-serving jerk and in a world long before the Internet's dissemination of information it would have been hard to understand the two Sallusts. I remember when, a couple years after reading the first book I came across the second, I was big time confused. That confusion would be compounded when I came across They Used Dark Forces.
       I mentioned in the Books section that one could take or leave Black August and that still holds but if you have no coin to flip, opt for leaving it. You will not like that Sallust at all and the whole "future" England is really depressing (intentionally so but still!).
       Definitely read the WWII books if you have any interest in modern history at all. These are terrific doorways into what things were like before most of us were born but still recent enough to be important.
       Wheatley, now often denigrated as a pseudo-racist, definite sexist, and lover of Satanism, really was none of those things, as far as I can see from reading his books. His occasional derogatory statements of Third World countries is no more or less than was normal back then. He had an enhanced appreciation for the female sex which I feel is understandable but he does tend to throw them into situations where their clothing gets ripped apart. A lot. As for Satanist, I do not know if he believed in such things or not but he did grow more intrigued with it as he aged and he used that interest in his books.
       But despite his "faults", Wheatley is a dynamite story teller and well worth reading.
       And Gregory Sallust, the nice one, is definitely worth getting to know.

GRADE

My Grade: B+

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