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3. La-Bas (The Damned) by JK Huysmans

In the course of his research for this novel Huysmans became genuinely entangled with black magic groups. One of the few virtuous characters in La-Bas, a tireless master exorcist called Dr Johannes, was based on a priest, the Abbe Boullan. It only later emerged that this priest, who convinced the writer he was an all round good-egg, was also fond of performing rites involving orgies, incest and bestiality. The novel itself is remarkable: a trawl through the Satanic underworld of fin de si├Ęcle Paris complete with evil old cults, dark garrets, unspeakable rites and mad perversions. The prolonged and graphic descriptions of child murder make American Psycho look like Peter Rabbit. A must read - but not after you've just eaten.


4. The Private Memoirs and Confessions Of A Justified Sinner by James Hogg

James Hogg's masterpiece. The macabre story of a Calvinist who fervently believes that he's pre-ordained for heaven whatever happens - and consequently convinced that he can commit any sin he likes while on earth. Hideous, wicked and thoroughly entertaining.


5. Spying In Guruland by William Shaw

In the early 90s William Shaw took it upon himself to join half a dozen of the stranger British new religious movements, including the delightfully named Chrisemma, the cult of two people called Chris and Emma. I'm pretty jealous of the guts William Shaw demonstrated in getting so deeply involved with so many crazy cult groups and his descriptions of the rigours of life within the Hare Krishna organisation are unforgettable. I don't envy him all those insanely early mornings, however.


9. The Satanic Bible by Anton S LaVey

So impressive was Anton LaVey's shaven-headed appearance as the leader of the Church Of Satan that Roman Polanski employed him to play the devil himself in the film Rosemary's Baby. He was a smart writer too. Skip all the strange stuff in the bizarre Enochian language and concentrate on LaVey's startling and lucid essays. They're surprisingly funny and diabolically clever.

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