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Beat The Devil is based (closely) on the satirical novel by "James Helvick", a pseudonym for the famous radical journalist Claud Cockburn. Cockburn has related that, finding himself in dire need of money whilst living in Ireland, he wrote the novel quickly and then deliberately left a copy of it on a table in the drawing-room of the house of a friend, who had invited him for the weekend. Knowing that John Huston was another weekend guest, he brought other copies and left them in strategic places around the house, too, with the result that Huston began to read it. By the end of the weekend, Huston had arranged the purchase of the film rights.