In the Halls of Evil

Author: T.A. Waters
Lancer Books
The Shewsbury Horror
Cover Illustration: Charles Moll

Since reading Love That Spy, I have been trying to solve the riddle of ‘who’ T.A. Walters is/was. Instead I have stumbled on to a pimple jutting out from the side of the Bond universe.

The book in question is called In the Halls of Evil (apparently also known as The Shrewsbury Terror), and within its pages the character of Sir Miles Messervey is featured. For those not familiar with Sir Miles, in Ian Fleming’s The Man With the Golden Gun, it was revealed that Sir Miles Messervy was ‘M’. Note the additional ‘E’ in In The Halls of Evil spelling of Messerv(e)y.

So here we have a book featuring ‘M’, but just to confuse things, the story (and ‘M’) is located in America. However Sir Miles is still English, smokes a pipe etc., and now is the head of FIRES (Facility Investigating Research Experimental Submarines) – does that acronym even make sense to you? Maybe FIRES is the opposite of ICE, the outfit that Matt Helm worked for?

I have never come across any reference to this ‘crossover’ before, and most likely it was done without any permission from Glidrose (the copyright holder of the literary Bond). Perhaps it’s an in-joke perpetrated by the author, of which Lancer, the publishers of this book, were unaware? Or maybe the extra ‘E’ in the spelling of the name, means they can claim it is a different character.

The story begins with a special agent, Raymond Stuart, arriving at FIRES HQ with a gentleman named Dr. Claudius Nine (Claude Nine/Cloud Nine – get it?) for a briefing with Sir Miles. At reception is Anne, the primary character in this tale, and upon seeing Raymond, she immediately falls for the dashing young man – love at first sight.

After a whirlwind courtship, Anne and Raymond are married. She gives up her position at FIRES, and moves to the village of Morlith, where Raymond lives in his creepy ancestoral home, Shrewsbury Hall.

As you have no doubt guessed, my reading diet doesn’t stray too far from spy stories and thrillers, and as such, I can’t really say that I am an expert on Gothic novels. A simplified overview of Gothic novels would suggest that they take some of the tropes associated with horror stories, such as remote haunted mansions, and a sinister cast of supporting characters, and throw a pretty young, single female into the mix. The young woman is usually naïve, sweet and innocent, and finds herself under threat from some unknown, possibly supernatural, forces. However, despite the setup, rarely are there any supernatural elements involved.

In The Halls of Evil ticks most of those boxes. The primary difference being that Anne is newly-wed when she makes her journey to Shrewsbury Hall – the haunted mansion in the story. But, she has only been married a couple of days after a whirlwind courtship, so she doesn’t really know her husband, Raymond Stuart – and initially he doesn’t prove to be an ally – or for that matter, sexually attracted to her at all.

Anne upon arrival at Shrewsbury Hall and is immediately creeped out by a portrait of one of the former tenants of the Hall, Raymond’s Great Grandmother, Alice Shrewsbury. Both Anne and Alice have the same facial features. As an adjunct here, and I am guessing it was a mistake, from an earlier draft of the novel, that slipped through into the final print – in one sentence, Alice Shrewsbury is referred to as Alice Crowley (I am sure I don’t need to point out the similarities of her name to Aleister Crowley (

In the library, Anne find Alice’s journal that tells the sordid tale of how she was repeatedly raped by a sea God named either Dicken, or Dagon – of course, this creeps Anne out further. So she goes for a walk along the creepy beach, and guess what she sees (or imagines she sees)? the sea God rising from the reef.

I must admit, I found all this stuff rather stodgy, most of the plot in the middle part of the novel concerns Anne jumping at shadows and feeling threatened by an unknown threat. It isn’t the most absorbing reading – and those who are paying attention, may put two and two together – Spy story (FIRES) + Sea God – and guess exactly where this story is going.

I found In the Halls of Evil to be a rather flat and jumbled novel. There seems to be too many ideas going on here, and none of them are really expanded into anything meaningful and satisfying. The actual spy story, is really just a set of bookends – at the beginning and end – to what is essentially a pretty limp Gothic novel.

Now is the T.A. Waters who wrote this book, the same one who wrote The Psychedelic Spy and Love That Spy? To be truthful, I do not know. This story is very different in style to Love That Spy, which was written in a tough first person style. In the Halls of Evil, however is more akin to a Mills & Boon novel – but (almost) with spies.

As another strange adjunct, (the usual tenuous conjecture that I seem to specialise in), when I started reading this novel, the character name Raymond Stuart immediately reminded me of the name Raymond Shaw who was the protagonist in The Manchurian Candidate. But as the names were different, I put it to the back of my mind. But something kept nagging at me. So I went to Wikipedia and looked up The Manchurian Candidate, which revealed this little snippet.

In 1998, software engineer C.J. Silverio noted that several long passages of the novel seemed to be borrowed, almost word for word, from Robert Graves’ 1934 novel I, Claudius. Forensic linguist John Olsson judged that “There can be no disputing that Richard Condon plagiarized from Robert Graves”.

In the book, In The Halls of Evil, Stuart was working with Dr. Claudius Nine. Maybe I am stretching things here a little, but is this a reference that author T.A. Waters had noted Condon’s plagiarism? Mmmm? Food for thought, anyway.

No Comments Posted in Books and Comics
Tagged , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Using Gravatars in the comments - get your own and be recognized!

XHTML: These are some of the tags you can use: <a href=""> <b> <blockquote> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>