This weeks recommendation is the first novel from Clive Barker in a decade to feature everyone’s favourite Demon ‘PinHead.’ The Scarlet Gospels is a welcome return to the literary pages for the character that offers a more in-depth look at the Cenobite and his motivations and desires, that is equally engrossing and emotional as it climbs towards a climatic confrontation.
Scarlet Gospels is Barker’s first adult novel since 2001, and mixes two of his most famous characters in Harry D’Amour (A private detective from the Books of Blood) and his most famous pop culture icon the High Priest of Hell himself ‘PinHead.’ Im not going to lie about my love for PinHead since the moment I first read ‘The Hellbound Heart’ and have even watched and enjoyed all the Hellraiser movies (Even straight to DVD later ones) but I have never felt that the Hell Priest has been depicted better or more powerful than he was here.
The plot of the book is relatively simple- the Hell Priest has been killing all of Earths magicians and learning their powers and knowledge for a grand scheme of his own devising- until he encounters Harry D’Amour in New Orleans and he escapes his clutches. Its from this point forward that the story twists and turns and reveals the Hell Priests intentions in a delightfully blood curdling and always lavishly depicted manner. The opening section of the book very much focuses on D’Amour and his friends, or the earths last remaining magicians and how they are made aware of the Hell Priests intentions (It’s this introduction in the first chapter that sets the blood curdling and dramatic tone) and also focuses on how D’Amour has a bigger part to play for the Hell Priest than he ever thought possible.
D’Amour and his team of Magicians are brilliantly described and your made to care about each and every one of them through their differences and their uniqueness- as not a single one of them feels like a stereotype of a mere plot device and this is an absolute credit to the complex writing style of Barker. Nora is another key player who is blind lady that can talk and see ghosts, but she feels like one of the most powerful magicians in the book due to her immense knowledge and leadership role within the group- which is why the events that transpire with her are such a shock. Thats not a spoiler as the book itself explains she is kidnapped by the Hell Priest in its own synopsis.
This moment of kidnap is when the book takes its first real huge turn, as the Hell Priest makes D’Amour an offer for surviving their first encounter- and this is to witness what comes next! Now I don’t blame D’Amour for declining this offer, but it does lead to Nora kidnap and the chase that ensues through the very bowels of hell itself on the heels of the Hell Priest and his grand scheme. The journey and ultimate end within Hell are superb, we get to witness the Hell Priests immense power and strength even against greater demons, and the greatest and first of them all- while at the same time get treated to the most visceral scenes and depictions of demons and their killing and mutations.
Barker leaves nothing out in this journey, fleshing out the world of Hell with great detail and paying the small things the right amount of detail to make this possibly the worst, yet most lavish version of hell I’ve ever had the pleasure to read a description of. And its this style that adds the wonder to the tale as this continues for every beast, monster, demon, setting and battle that is encountered that doesn’t stop until the final pages. And while D’Amour may be portrayed as the Hero here I felt more attached to the Hell Priest and his journey towards his final goal- however I sense that was the goal and D’Amour was used as a brilliant piece to get the reader to invest in a demon in a way you wouldn’t feel possible. If you don’t believe me you just need to read this and get to the end- and I’m sure you’ll understand what im getting at.
This book is brilliantly written, contains individual and loveable characters and at the same time is lavishly bloody and intense- which is everything you could ask for from a horror book. If you like you horror literature I can’t recommend this highly enough.