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The Devil's Paintbrush

3.24 of 5 stars 3.24  ·  rating details  ·  125 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Paris, 1903. Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald, one of the greatest heroes of the British Empire, is facing ruin in a shocking homosexual scandal when he meets the notorious occultist, Aleister Crowley. As they set out into the night on a wild journey through the sinful city, the story of Macdonald’s tragedy begins to unfold – with startling revelations both for the Gener ...more
hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 28th 2009 by Sceptre (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Jenny Macdonald
A surprise of a book - only brought it because the cover intrigued me. Turned into a thoroughly enjoyable read combining real characters Alistair Crowley and a very uptight Major facing court martial for sodomy and one steamy and magical night in Paris. A sad ending that is by no means predictable. Recommended
Ivan
Arnott, best known for his gay inclusive crime novels The Long Firm and He Kills Coppers, has opted for a change of pace with this historical novel featuring the real life characters Major General Sir Hector Macdonald and occultist Aliester Crowley, “The Beast 666.”
Sir Hector rose from the ranks of enlisted men, a hero of many Middle East campaigns, earning the moniker “Fighting Mac.” After decades of service and achieving an international reputation, he shot himself in lieu of facing a court
...more
Derek Baldwin
I'd read a couple of Jake Arnott's earlier novels set in the British underworld, and enjoyed The Long Firm a great deal. But the second one, He Kills Coppers, was a definite downhill step, and so I hadn't bothered with the subsequent couple of novels. Howevere the subject matter of this one, revolving around an encounter between Hector McDonald, a disgraced military hero, and magician Aleister Crowley, sparked my interest. This is well written (though the astral travel scenes in the Sudan didn't ...more
Jennifer
I LOVED this book and am getting my copy back from my dear friend Alvin soon! Arnott portrays a young Aleister Crowley and a theater queen who taught him most of what he knew, also an encounter with an involuntarily outed british army officer. It is SO good, scathing, true, how the h e double toothpicks does this Arnott do it? I am crazy about ALL his books.
Alvin
Another terrific tour de force from Jake Arnott! As with all his novels, the language is better than competent, but never quite magnificent. The plot and characterizations, however, are delightful and amazing. On top of that, the history is fascinating and the social commentary insightful.
Martinxo
War hero Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald encounters Aleister Crowley in Paris, ficitonalised account of an actual meeting. Great fun.

Arnott can write, phew!
Marc Nash
Jake Arnott writes about crims and rent boys. In the same way that Quentin Tarantino really needs to make a movie without a gun, it's about time Arnott extends his palate. And in "The Devil's Paintbrush" he does just that, bringing together dark magician Aleister Crowley and a General of the British Army disgraced by his penchant for colonial youths (age uncertain), to offer a broad sweep of Victorian history, colonialism, new technology and arcana. Props to him for moving out of his 1960's comf ...more
Roisin
I've never read Jake Arnott before and overall this was highly readable. Based on a true story about the Scottish war hero Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald, who meets Aleister Crowley in Paris, involving a manuscript, secret societies, artistic community, war abroad, and immorality accusations made against Macdonald.

Arnott is highly descriptive (accounts in the desert and war) and there may be moments where you have to suspend your belief, but it is a fictional account, so suspend away. Macdo
...more
Jonathan
Based on a real meeting between the rather strange occultist Alistair Crowley and Major General Sir Hector MacDonald in Paris in 1903, after MacDonald had been informed he would be facing a court martial when he returned to his post in Ceylon, for immoral conduct (well for having sex with men). The plot moves around his career, with Crowley encouraging him to remember the key times in his life and thus accept his sexuality and reject society's judgemental attitude. Jake Arnott shows he is a skil ...more
Courtney Williams
I had been really been looking forward to reading this book, having bought it on the strength of its blurb – and, let's be honest, its gorgeous cover, which I first noticed on a poster while on the tube – but I just couldn't get into it. I tried several times, but I never got very far. Despite the exciting subject matter, the storytelling wasn't compelling at all, and I didn't really care about the characters. Perhaps others might find something to enjoy that I didn't, and I am entirely happy to ...more
Kari
I had quite high hopes for this what with the main character being Aleister Crowley but it was very disappointing. It didn't draw me in or hold my attention, and I didn't engage with the characters at all. Crowley was such a big personality but this felt rather bland. Far too much time was devoted to describing military operations in such detail that I tended to get bored and speed read bits. It wasn't worth the effort and has put me off trying another Jake Arnott book.
Katie Grainger
The Devil's Paintbrush had all the elements that I thought would make a fantastic book. Scandal, magic and history are all rife within the story however I just found it really difficult to get through. I wasn't particularly interested in the characters and struggled to get through some of the sections. Interesting idea but just not my cup of tea.
Cliff
Hooray, a well written book. A fictional account of true events. Wikipedia has an interesting piece on one of the main characters, Major-General Sir Hector MacDonald.
Rachel Nowakowski
Didn't have the concentration to finish this. It didn't really hold my attention and I ended up just skipping to the back few pages to find out what happened.
Gareth Evans
Rather a strange book, some excellent passages and some very good writing, but the overall story did not convince and grip me.
Andrea
It didn't captivate me as much as Johnny Come Home, but it was interesting to learn that there really was a Sir Hector MacDonald.
Diana
Really couldn't get going with this one. Had to miss out chunks because it seemed too tedious to plough through.
Sharon


Was ok, not great. Easy read. Glad to move on.
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Jake Arnott is a British novelist, author of The Long Firm and four other novels. In 2005 Arnott was ranked one of Britain's 100 most influential gay and lesbian people; but since 2005 he has been in a heterosexual relationship with the formerly lesbian writer and novelist, Stephanie Theobald. In May 2001 he was included in a list of the fifty most influential gay men in Britain it was declared th ...more
More about Jake Arnott...
The Long Firm He Kills Coppers The House of Rumour truecrime Johnny Come Home

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