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To Play the Devil

Novel by Angus Hall 1971.

Paul Harvard Toombs is reincarnated as 'The Master', a black magician who is gaining in power and influence on the British Caribbean island of New Albion. He is the Hollywood horror star and main character of Devilday, a previous Angus Hall novel which is referred to on a number of occasions in To Play the Devil. He seems confident in his power and is unafraid of any serious opposition. But opposition he has in the unlikely form of Miss Rose West, who commissions Mark Payne, young British author, to write Toombs' biography. Something is clearly going on behind the scenes, but Payne takes the assignment anyway, only to find that 'The Master' is more horrifically serious in his aims than he had imagined.

Angus Hall is a writer of power, his prose is richly descriptive and his plot fluid. As a result, To Play the Devil is a novel that easily sucks in the reader. He cringes from no taboo and some of the characters are realised beautifully. However that doesn't include the main character, Mark Payne, who sleepwalks through the book like no-one since Jeff Goldblum in Into the Night. He does absolutely nothing for himself, being bundled about as a pawn in more than one game of celestial chess. Whilst some of this may be due to his involvement in a battle far larger than he is, it nevertheless makes the reader wonder why Angus Hall didn't choose a more knowledgeable and positive hero. As yet another occult/satanism novel of the early 1970s, this is better than most, but is still far from being a classic.


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