“The greatest adventure writer of his time” – The Daily Mail
Dennis Yates Wheatley was born in South London on 8th January 1897, the eldest of three children of an upper middle class family, owners of a wine business Wheatley and Son of Mayfair.
His schooling was at Dulwich College, from which he was expelled and, as it was decided that what the young Wheatley needed was discipline, as a cadet at HMS Worcester, a Napoleonic three decker training ship moored in the Thames, a training college for potential merchant navy officers.
From school he spent nine months in Germany and then joined the family wine business until WW1 intervened. Although only seventeen he eventually became a 2nd Lieut. in the Royal Field Artillery and after several postings in the British Isles saw service in Flanders on the Ypres Salient and in France at Cambrai and St. Quentin.
In 1918 he developed bronchitis aggravated by chlorine gas and was invalided back to hospital in England. He recovered enough to be declared fit about the time of the armistice but was never posted or formally demobilised and in 1919 he rejoined his father’s business.
Wheatley married his first wife in 1922 and although his income was supplemented by his wife their extravagant lifestyle led to debts which had to be settled by his father. By 1927 he was once more in debt and supporting a mistress when his financial problems were solved by the death of his father and he became sole owner of the business.
By 1931 despite some imaginative marketing the business was almost bankrupt and he and his wife divorced. Later the same year he married his second wife who was to support him in his attempts at writing. His first book, Three Inquisitive People, was set aside by his publishers, Hutchinson, in favour of his next, The Forbidden Territory, which they published first in 1933. He began to concentrate on his writing although he retained an interest in the wine business for some years and also used his innovative marketing skills in a series of ‘crime dossier’ novels.
With the coming of WW2, already a successful novelist, Wheatley submitted a number of papers to the Joint Planning Staff of the war cabinet (an edited version of one, Total War, was published). He was eventually asked to join them, the only civilian given a commission directly into the Joint Planning Staff with the rank of Wing Commander, RAFVR.
After the war he continued writing the several series of thrillers that he had created, Duke de Richelieu, Gregory Sallust and Roger Brook, as well as other novels, an account of his war papers and his autobiography, the first volume of which had already been published when he died on 10th November, 1977.