The story of this engaging novel begins on the 23rd of November 1898 E.V. in London. However, the characters travel very far indeed from the British city - actually they move only about an inch. What is important is not the matter of distance but rather dimension. Mr. MacIntyre has written a science fiction novel, at least that is how both I and the book store classified it for the sake of convenience, and it is charmingly written in a style that was common in the late 1800s, although it does tend to move a bit faster than books that were actually written during that period in history.
When I was told about the book it was suggested to me because the historical characters that interact with the protagonists [an unnamed man who tells the story in the first person and a woman who ... well ... I would rather not give it away] are so true to life. I found that to be somewhat inaccurate. The book is, after all, satirical and therefore it is only natural that the characters are actually caricatures. This is evident in the portrayal of MacGregor Mathers, his wife Moina, William Butler Yeats and others, and ... you guessed it ... it is true also in the portrayal of Aleister Crowley. The Crowley caricature plays an important role in the novel but it is rather uneven and inconsistent - recklessly brave one moment and cowardly the next, generous, helpful and considerate at times then selfish, inconsiderate and dishonest at other times. Still, all in all, the Crowley caricature is not so bad, and it is certainly entertaining, furthermore, as always seems to be the case, no matter how badly, inaccurately or superficially Crowley is portrayed in a novel something of the real man always seems to come through, despite the inadequacies of the author.
When Crowley first enters the picture on page 62 he is described thusly:
"He was a broad-shouldered man, clean-shaven and lantern-jawed, and scarcely twenty years of age. He wore an open-collared shirt, and a large flowing four-in-hand cravat, tied into the clumsiest of all possible bow-knots. His mouth was a glistening obscenity in the centre of his face. The thickened lower lip dangled pendulously, his grotesque tongue surmounting it like some moist-coated leech. His teeth, I observed, had been carefully filed into points. I had never previously beheld any man who looked quite so satanic."
As I have said, this is a caricature of the man. Photographic evidence proves that Crowley was quite a handsome young man. The filed teeth story is a favourite of certain types like John Symonds, however, Alan Burnett-Rae, author of Aleister Crowley: A Memoir of 666, met Crowley and later wrote:
"Much has been said about his teeth, which apparently he had filed into points (a la vampire), but I did not notice this detail, only that they were widely spaced, suggesting the black keys on a piano board."
Alan simply reported the facts unlike the large number of sensationalistic writers who insisted upon elaborating to the point of inventing a fiction.
The lady who told me about this book, and I am grateful that she did, please do not misunderstand me, also erred in believing that Mr. MacIntyre showed that he knew quite a lot about Crowley, the Golden Dawn, et al. It is a common mistake. I have just finished writing a novel that deals with Native Americans, the Civil War and the Old West and when I rattle on a bit [you may have noticed the tendency] people assume that I am an expert in these matters and extremely knowledgeable. It is, like most uninformed assumptions, an error. People are generally too quick to accept someone with a handful of facts and a confident manner as an "authority" and an "expert". When my book is published I am quite sure there will be many more people praising my "vast" knowledge, but at the same time I am sure [and I actually hope!] that the real experts will write to point out my mistakes. Well, Mr. MacIntyre also made some mistakes. Nothing really awful. And really, since it is a satire such mistakes are inevitable and perhaps even desirable. However, those mistakes do inform one with at least a modicum of knowledge in these matters that the author knows a little, read a few books, and from miscellaneous bits of fact and fancy stitched together a nice little story.
On page 63 Crowley is asked his name and he answers,
"My name is unimportant ... I have taken many names: Baphomet, Therion, Adeptus Minor, Frater Perdurabo. The world will one day know me as the Great Beast. My earthly family's name was Crowley, but I attach no importance to such mundane cognomena. I am a student, sir, of the arcane and other-worldly."
Actually, Baphomet and Therion were "names" that Crowley took much later in his life, while Adeptus Minor is a title, a grade on the Path of the Wise in some systems such as that of the Golden Dawn.
Crowley is not always depicted well, or accurately, but it does not spoil the novel and I thought The Woman Between the Worlds was great fun. Once more it gives me pleasure to recommend a book.
[Encyclical Letter, Samhain 1994 E.V.]