My Top Ten Essential Occult Detective Tales

On twitter yesterday, author Peter Bebergal ( Too Much to Dream, Season of the Witch) asked “What are your top ten essential stories/novels of the (occult detective) genre?”

This was in response to two tweets:

Occult detective fiction has always struck that perfect balance for me. There’s nothing quite like a metaphysical whodunit. Seabury Quinn’s Jules de Grandin stories are a great place to start. Not my favorite, but a fine representation of the genre.

Another great example would be Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris’ The Adept series. Adam Sinclair is the quintessential occult detective. These five books, six if you count Lammas Night, are among my most treasured.

Compiling a list of my Top Ten Essential Occult Detective Tales is no mean feat. It’s like being asked to choose a favorite child. At least in this instance you get to pick ten of your favorite kids. So let’s to it then, in alphabetical order…

The Adept
Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris
Sir Adam Sinclair

Ancient Sorceries
Algernon Blackwood
Dr. John Silence

Brood of the Witch-Queen
Sax Rohmer
Robert Cairn

The Devil Rides Out
Dennis Wheatley
Duc de Richleau

Falling Angel
William Hjortsberg
Harry Angel

Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits
Garth Ennis and Will Simpson
John Constantine

The Last Illusion
Clive Barker
Harry D’Amour

Aleister Crowley
Simon Iff

The School of Darkness
Manly Wade Wellman
John Thunstone

Robert Weverka
William Sebastian

Book - SpectreAdmittedly, Spectre, a novelization of the failed Gene Roddenberry tv pilot, is difficult to track down. It’s listed on amazon for over $1000, just under $100 used. I add it to this list because it’s near perfect as an occult detective novel and superior to the source material  Considering my fondness for Robert Culp’s performance in the show, that’s saying a lot.

I had wanted the book for years, being a huge fan of the pilot from the moment I received the Lincoln Enterprises newsletter announcing its May 21, 1977 airdate.

Unfortunately, I missed out on the book, but a couple of years ago, my lovely wife Kim snagged me a secondhand copy (paying way too much for it, some $40 I believe), but it was everything I wanted it to be and more.


If you happen upon it at a reasonable price, do not hesitate to buy it. It’s well written and a loads of fun. It’s not worth three or more digits, mind you, unless money is no object to you.

Of the list I compiled above, if I were to choose a single short story that best represented what an occult detective is, or should be, I might lead you to The Last Illusion by Clive Barker, originally published in Volume Six of The Books of Blood. It has that hard-boiled feel, and early Barker was magically delicious. If you just can’t wait, another Harry D’Amour tale is available online for free at the following link: LOST SOULS.

If I were going to direct someone to a single anthology, the Weiser Book of Occult Detectives, edited by Judika Illes is a no-brainer.

The best occult detective collection is Manly Wade Wellman’s Complete John Thunstone.

As for the best occult detective series, I would argue that The Adept series by Kurtz and Harris would surely be the books to turn to.


All are easy enough to track down on amazon. Katherine Kurtz is certainly one of my favorite authors and I reread Lammas Night frequently. Prolific comic scribe Cullen Bunn tweeted, in response to my Adept post, “It’s been so long since I read them. I should probably revisit them.” I couldn’t agree more.


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