Though I’ve missed some of Clive Barker’s classic stories along the way, I still regard the author as one of the key voices that introduced me to horror fiction. Stephen King, like many other classic horror authors, has a familiarity to him. That’s not say that King can’t scare me – he does! – but I know Carrie, The Shining, and Christine well enough not to connect with the same dread that was felt by readers when those books first came out. Barker was different; he’s never safe, always different. His horror existed in this dark unspoken world. Barker’s directorial debut Hellraiser (based on his novella The Hellbound Heart) is so insane and disturbing that it’s a wonder how the thing even exists – something about Hellraiser seems wrong, like a flicker of Hell caught on film and released into the unsuspecting world to threaten and terrify.
While on the subject of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, I want to express how much I’d love for the author to return to the director’s chair. Hellraiser is undeniably his finest film but the crazy Lord of Illusions and the messy (but fun) Nightbreed both possess a level of strangeness rarely seen in other films. Barker has given horror cinema some of its boldest, most memorable images. He’s an author first and foremost, but his style translates to film well and I’d like to see him work in the art form again.
With The Scarlet Gospels, Barkers returns to his two most popular characters, the demon Pinhead and magician/private eye Harry D’Amour. This time around Pinhead has gone rogue as he seeks more power in the domain of Hell. Harry’s drawn into the mess when he stumbles upon the demon’s puzzle box. Harry would prefer to let the demon go his own way but Pinhead’s having none of it. The cruel demon comes for Harry’s friends and Harry has no choice but to follow after him, chasing Pinhead to Hell if necessary.
Admittedly it’s been a long time since I’ve read a Clive Barker novel. The author used to be one of the must-read writers of horror but after years of toying with other genres (including, surprisingly, books for young readers), the author’s name isn’t brought up with the same regularity it once was. That’s not to say he’s missed a step, though. Clive Barker is still the master of the unflinching, oh no PLEASE NO DON’T kind of horror. Really, sometimes you read his work and you worry about the guy – and then, because you enjoy his work, you end up worrying for yourself as well. The Scarlet Gospels isn’t only good, it’s the sort of book that makes you want to rush back, rediscover the author all over again. What Barker books have I missed? Can I read them all now, please?
The Scarlet Gospels is demonic horror in the vein of Hellraiser, however since it becomes a story of good vs. evil I think that fans of dark fantasy, urban fantasy, and all sorts of paranormal would get a kick out of it as well. Those curious readers unaware of what to expect from Barker are in for a surprise. The book puts its hooks in you within the first couple chapters and they only go deeper from there. It’s a helluva ride.
About the only thing I found a tad bit lacking about my time with The Scarlet Gospels was that the end lacks the same kind of punch found in earlier sections of the book. However, I think I could detect Barker leaving some breadcrumbs for future stories, so I cannot fault him for that. And even if this is the last we may see of Harry or Pinhead, Barker gave his greatest creations a fine sendoff.
My favorite madman of horror fiction has returned with a doozy of a book. The Scarlet Gospels is fantastic.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of books and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
Blog notice: mostly this blog is for sharing my thoughts and talking about my books. From time to time I will also comment on books, films, music, sports, and/or videogames. During these times I may use images of the creative works under discussion. I'm posting the images under the "fair use" allowance, for purposes such as criticism, comments, reporting, teaching, and research. If you have any issue with images used on this blog, please contact me and the images will be removed.
I am not paid for my reviews and I do not take book review requests at this time.