Halloween Extravaganza: Paul Flewitt: Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer Pt 6

Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer:
A Retrospective
Part 6

The Abarat series was several years in the making, conceived back in the late nineties with a series of epic-sized paintings. Barker had left the paintings hanging around the house, the collection steadily growing as other pursuits took his time. It wasn’t until the death of his father that Clive, surrounded by the paintings, decided that he had to do something with them. He had conceived the bones of the Abarat story as he painted; now he had to create the entire mythology.

Initially intended as a quartet of novels (since revised to five or six books), it is a tale with very familiar themes: the sea, the worlds beyond our own, and the sacred feminine. The difference here is that his storytelling is directed toward children, the creation of an epic story that would enrapture children and adults alike, in much the same way that Harry Potter and the Roald Dahl books had.

It was a story that would occupy him for many years, progress slowed by the need to create more paintings before the story could be written. The paintings would appear in the hardback copies of the books, captivating the reader as they read the tales. The undertaking is such that the work still isn’t finished today, its creation severely hampered by the coma and strokes of 2012 which left Barker significantly weakened (more on that later).

There were also other distractions as publishers and readers alike clamoured for new adult material. Barker had been working on a work entitled The Scarlet Gospels for years at this point, the story evolving and changing over the years before it reached its apotheosis.

Through all of this, for a decade, Barker’s attention was constantly taken by his new obsession: Abarat.

2002 – 2011, although movies and a separate novel appeared during this period, we shall forever think of as the Abarat years.

The Abarat Years (2002-2011)

Abarat, Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War,
and Abarat: Absolute Midnight

Due to the fact that the Abarat series is unfinished, I will here offer only a very basic outline, and not an “in full” analysis of the work, as I have done with previous work in this article.

Abarat is the story of Candy Quackenbush of Chickentown. Candy is bored and ill at ease with her life in the Nowheresville that is Chickentown, where nothing ever happens and the only ambitions achievable are to work in the chicken factory that gives the town its name or to get out.

When she is given an assignment by her teacher to write a report giving five facts about the town, Candy can have no way of knowing how her research will change her life. She cannot know the ties that Chickentown has with the fantastic, being as it was the former harbour and trading town of Murkitt on the sea of Isabella.

Her first inkling of something more exciting than chickens in Chickentown is when she goes to speak to the manager of the town’s hotel, hearing the story of Henry Mirkitt’s demise in that very hotel and the cryptic note and sextant that he left behind: “I was waiting for my ship to come in…”

Little did she know how her life would change when, in a rage after her assignment on Mirkitt is torn to shreds by her teacher and she is sent to the principal’s office, she goes wandering on some scrubland on the outskirts of town. Here she sees a man being pursued through the tall, dry grass, a strange man with antlers on his head and seven heads sprouting from the branches. John Mischief is a thief from the Abarat Archipelago, pursued to the place he calls the Hereafter by Mendelssohn Shape. In desperation, Mischief asks Candy to go to the lighthouse (a strange folly which stands amidst the grass in the scrubland, totally misnamed by Mischief since they were many hundreds of miles from the sea), and play the oldest game in the world. Confused, Candy does as the brothers ask her and sets off for the lighthouse while they distract Mendessohn Shape.

She enters the tower and climbs the rickety stairs, listening keenly for the sounds of pursuit which meant that Shape was following. Only when she reached the room at the top of the stairs did Candy understand what John Mischief meant when he said it was the oldest game in the world. In the centre of the room, there is an inverted pyramid, and a strange ball in the cracks on the floorboard. Now she knows what must be done, but she hears Shape on the stairs. As Shape reaches the top of the stairs, which crumble under his every step, Candy throws the ball at the cup and runs out onto the balcony which runs around the outside of the tower. Shape follows and grabs her, but the balcony collapses and both fall and lay unconscious at the foot of the tower.

Candy is awoken by Mischief and his brothers. Shape is still unconscious nearby, but he’s stirring and there is little time to lose. They take her to see what it is that she has called forth by throwing the ball into the cup. A little way from the lighthouse, lapping up against a jetty, is the sea. Before Shape can catch up with them, Mischief asks her one final favour, to look after something that he brought to the Hereafter with him. He explains that the sea will carry him to the Abarat and safety, but that she must stay in the Hereafter where she belongs. To his dismay, Candy demands to go with the brothers to the Abarat. There is little time to argue: Shape appears and both the brothers and Candy jump into the sea and the currents take them away from the shore to the islands of the Abarat… and Candy’s life is forever changed.

The Abarat Archipelago is a collection of twenty-five islands, all of them associated with a different hour of the day and the twenty-fifth hour, the time out of time. The story follows Candy on her travels around the islands, and tells of the changes she goes through and chaos that she brings in her wake wherever she goes. We meet Jimothy Tarry and his army of Tarrie Cats; Rojo Pixler, the nefarious chairman of the Commexo Corporation and his demonic mascot, The Commexo Kid; Mater Motley and her army of Stitchlings; and Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight, whose greatest ambition is to bring perpetual night to the Abarat.

We follow as Candy tries to understand the politics and struggles of the people of the islands, while trying to understand how she herself fits into the fabric of this fantastical world. It is a journey of change, discovery of self, of friendships, and loves found and lost.

The Abarat series is planned to stretch over five books in total, with only three currently published (hence my reticence to write a full summary at this point, but offer only a tantalising synopsis). What Barker has already presented is a work of young adult fantasy which rivals anything written by C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carrol, or Roald Dahl. Once again, Clive Barker proves that even in darkness, there is beauty.

Mister B. Gone (2007)

As implied earlier, Abarat is not the only work that Barker has produced in the Abarat period, although most of his time has been taken by Abaratian works. In 2007, Barker spoke about taking a break away from work on a novel called The Scarlet Gospels, writing a short novel called Mister B. Gone. Clive was living in the darkness of the Hellraiser world with Scarlet Gospels, and felt that he needed some brief respite. Mister B. Gone is still a very dark, sinister book, but not as epic in scale as Scarlet Gospels was conceived as being.

“Burn this book…”

That’s how the story begins, with the narrator imploring you to burn the book that you are reading. It is a demand that is repeated throughout the work, and many people have been tempted to do just that. Read on, though, and you find the history of a minor demon and “vicious little bastard,” Jakabok Boch. We read of how he was raised and abused in the shit piles of the lowest circles of hell, and how he came to inspire the printing of the first book… and how he came to be trapped within the pages of his own.

It would be impossible to give a full and in depth rundown of the entire story, as it is the transcribed ramblings of a tortured soul without a story, per se. It is the collected memories of the demon, Jakabok Boch, and must be read to be truly understood. Mister B. Gone would have worked very well as a Books of Blood story, although a little long in my opinion to have been included in a collection. Some fans deride Mister B. Gone as a throwaway scribbling that should have remained unpublished, but I feel differently. This book creeped me out. I read it in one reading while lying in bed, my wife sleeping beside me, and my baby daughter in the room next door. As the demon becomes more desperate, his demands more nasty and threatening, it feels that he is talking directly to you… whispering in your ear. I admire the book for that quality of writing.

Mister B. Gone was a Halloween release in October 2007, and quite fitting that it was published for that season, being as it was a welcome return to Barker’s horror roots. At the end, Jakabok Boch gives up on his imploring to burn the book, and just leave him on the shelf to gather dust… or pass it onto a friend. I know of several readers who have done just that and mailed the book to random addresses. To my knowledge, there are at least three copies of the book in the mail system, being passed from address to address, although I haven’t read of their whereabouts for several years… maybe they’ll turn up one day. Maybe one might drop on your doormat?

2007 and 2008 were busy years for Barker in the movie world. He worked on three adaptations of Books of Blood stories, with The Midnight Meat Train appearing in 2008, and Book of Blood and Dread in 2009. Barker worked as advisor on The Midnight Meat Train and Book of Blood, appearing on set throughout filming to assist the directors in capturing the story. Both are very faithful adaptations of the stories, with a career best performance from Vinnie Jones as Mahogany in The Midnight Meat Train.

It was a welcome change to have quality, faithful adaptations made from his work. They restored the audience’s faith in Barker as a creator of horror after the thievery and raping of the Hellraiser franchise since Hellraiser 3, but to date these are the last movies to appear adapted directly from Barker’s own work and involving him in production.

Maximillian Bacchus & His Travelling Circus (2009)

Originally written in 1974, The Adventures of Mr. Maximillian Bacchus and His Travelling Circus was finally published in 2009, with illustrations by Richard Kirk. Although he initially denied that the stories were based on anyone in particular, he did finally admit that Bacchus was based on himself, the ballet dancer Ophelia was based on Ann Taylor, and the perfect prince was based around Graham Bickley, who Barker described as “the most beautiful of people, a wonderful looking 18 year old.”

The book itself is very short, comprised of four stories which connect to each other. We join Maximillian Bacchus as his circus travels across the country to play at a King’s castle. On the way, the circus give other performances and fall into adventures, which Barker tells of in his trademark, darkly fantastic manner. They are each classic fables in the style of the The Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson, and just totally wonderful.

With its illustrations and succinct storytelling, Maximillian Bacchus sits very well alongside The Thief of Always and the Abarat books as children’s literature.

And then, very abruptly, everything stopped.

2012 was possibly the worst year in the life of Clive Barker, the year which began with the ending of a court case that came about through an acrimonious split with long-term partner David Armstrong, and ended with Barker in hospital and close to death.

The court case and all the rumour I will leave alone, as tabloid and salacious as that subject is. I will, however, go into Clive’s illness as it continues to be a source of rumour and speculation among readers. It is strange that Clive’s long time absence from the public stage is still the subject of rumour and supposition, since Barker has been very open about what happened and the impact that his illness has had upon him.

Clive was busy at work on The Scarlet Gospels and the fourth Abarat book when he became ill. He attended what was a routine appointment for dental surgery, a routine procedure that millions of people will undergo each year. For Clive, it became a nightmare. He returned home following the procedure and collapsed unconscious. He was rushed to Cedars-Sinai hospital and diagnosed with toxic shock, which had caused him to have a stroke. He remained in a coma for a while, enduring three more strokes which left him debilitated and extremely weak. Clive being Clive, almost as soon as he regained consciousness he demanded to be unhooked from the machinery that had monitored him and wanted to get back to work.

Barker’s debilitation has been a source of great frustration for him since then. He is left pretty frail and struggled to leave his home in LA for several years. His usually prolific attendances at signings and conventions ceased, and his output of books also stopped. Abarat was hit the hardest, since he could no longer manage the huge canvases that were required of him. Interviews did appear from time to time, and the occasional photograph where he appeared thinner and far more frail than he had ever been.

None of this meant that he had stopped working. Quite the contrary. He still did what he could to complete Abarat (a project that is still ongoing) and The Scarlet Gospels. He was still selecting artwork to create the Imaginer series of books, which collects his visual art in book form. He also authorised the release of several Books of Blood stories in deluxe edition form.

At long last, after six years of absence, Barker made his first public appearances at conventions in 2018. Fans were glad to see him up and around, though were shocked to see him so frail. He has made further public appearances this year, and appeared briefly on a panel alongside Barbie Wilde, Doug Bradley, Nicholas Vince, and Simon Bamford. He may have been down for a while, but Barker is certainly not out.

Amidst his illness, there was much speculation about whether Barker would ever release another book. The general consensus among his hardcore fans was that they wouldn’t expect too much, such was the concern for his wellbeing. It was a welcome surprise in 2014 then, and one that was met with much excitement, when Clive began talking about The Scarlet Gospels on his Facebook page. A release date was soon announced for 2015.

Of course, Barker had been talking about The Scarlet Gospels for many, many years. The writing of this book was ongoing for around twenty years and had gone through many evolutions in that time. He first described it as a sprawling, epic history of religion and mankind… and hell, of course. What was delivered was something quite different: a horror-noir which charted the end of Barker’s most popular creation: Pinhead.

The work was met with mixed reaction from readers. Some applauded Barker’s return to horror fiction, his visceral approach to the work, and intent to shock. Others lamented the patchy quality of writing, with some positing the theory that parts of the story may have been ghost-written (a theory that I do not support). For certain, The Scarlet Gospels isn’t Barker’s best work, but it is still an enjoyable enough story and well worth reading for any Hellraiser fan.

The Scarlet Gospels (2015)

The last true magicians alive in the world are gathered together, resolved to face their doom together. They have been hunted and pursued, most of their colleagues already killed by one who thirsts for their knowledge. They argue over the best way to proceed, to fight or submit, but it is already too late. They hear the tolling of the bells and smell the sickly sweet fragrance which precedes his coming… and then he is there in the room with them. Pinhead.

The Hellpriest finds new and inventive ways to massacre all but one of the gathered mages, tearing them apart and even impregnating one with a demon-baby which is birthed within moments of its conception. The only survivor is reconfigured and remoulded to play Pinhead’s dog for the rest of eternity.

Harry d’Amour is drinking himself into oblivion after the end of a difficult investigation. He is reliving his first liaison with hell, and for that he really needed to be drunk.

As d’Amour is drinking away his sorrow and regrets, his partner and guide, Norma Payne, is visited by the spirit of a lawyer who had left behind a house of sin that he wasn’t too keen on his family finding. Beyond this sketchy detail he would tell no more until both Harry and Norma agreed to sign an NDA. Norma admonished the man, telling him that she would sign no such thing and nor would Harry, but the man displayed just enough humanity for her to want to help him. She agreed to set up a meeting between Harry and the dead man, and so Harry found himself in New Orleans.

Harry travelled to the house of the dead man, and in the investigation, discovered a library of the arcane. While in the library, he discovers an ornate box which draws him in. He knows precisely what this is and senses the power within the box, finding himself absently toying with it until the thing is solving itself. He hears the distant tolling of bells as his protective tattoos begin to burn a warning. Soon enough, the Hellpriest’s god appears and attempts to apprehend him, but Harry is well versed in the arcane and utters an incantation which will seal the divide between the world and Hell. Before the portal closes, Pinhead apprehends him and offers him a deal: kill his dog and he will make him an offer he cannot refuse. Unwillingly, d’Amour does battle with the dog and is close to being bested before a phantom comes to his rescue. He flees, leaping through a window and breaking bones in the fall as the house tears itself apart.

D’Amour is helped by the man who has guided him this far, his hurts treated by a voodoo mage. He experiences a day of delirium after drinking some potion that the mage gives him, but awakes more or less cured, although still in pain. He returns to New York to heal his hurts, but is soon disabused of any notion of rest.

He sets off to visit Norma at her apartment to update her on all that happened on his trip to New Orleans, but is stopped by a stranger who shoves a crumpled piece of paper into his hand before disappearing into the crowds. Harry finds a quiet place where he won’t be seen before unfolding the paper and reading the note, knowing that it is from Norma. He reads the words which immediately chill him to the bone: “Don’t go to my apartment. Its bad. I’m in the old place. Come at 3am. If you itch, walk away.”

D’Amour goes to a bar and waits, drinking until the place closes. He takes a cab and heads to the place that Norma directed him to. He knows the place, of course. It is the place where he and Norma first met. He gets out of the cab a block or two from the place, making sure that he hasn’t been followed before heading to the empty office block which was once home to his psychiatrist. He breaks in and heads up to the old office, but finds no sign of his old friend. He searches through the reception area and into the former consulting room. He is about to give up when he goes to the en-suite and finds the message that Norma has left: an arrow scrawled in ash on the window, pointing downwards. In the basement was a gentleman’s club, and that is where Harry heads next.

At the top of the steps which lead to the club, Harry’s tattoos begin to tingle. He flicks on the lights and heads into the place, calling out a challenge. The room before him seems deserted and silent, and he moves further in before things begin flying at him. He runs to the stage, trying to get some height and see who… or what… is attacking him. He threatens the poltergeists with an incantation, and begins to recite the words when Norma’s voice cuts through the air. The ghosts attacking d’Amour are hers, and they are present at her command. She calls them off, but tells them not to stray far in case Harry has been followed. She leads him into the back room and Harry sees that she has been living there for some time.

Norma explains that the lawyer led them into a trap and that she was fooled. “There are highways open that should be closed… and there’s something coming down one of those highways – or all of them – that means you and me, and a lot of other people, harm.”

It isn’t anything that d’Amour hasn’t already guessed, but his first priority is to get Norma out of the cesspit that she has chosen as her hideout and get her somewhere more comfortable. With that in mind, Harry leaves her to arrange her accommodation.

The Hellpriest was busy also, setting his plans into action. He was in the Monastery of the Cenobitical Order and arranging the first phase of his scheme. He had been summoned to the chamber of his superiors for judgement, and it was a prospect that didn’t please him. He turned to his dog and told him that, if the judgement went against him, all of his endeavours must be destroyed. The dutiful servant understood and promised that he would do his duty.

Together they made their way to the Chamber of the Unconsumed, where the leaders of the Order were gathered. Pinhead was accused of heresy, of researching human magic. Such behaviour was outside of the system, and the Cenobite Order was built on rigid systems. They had found books which had aided his research and the evidence against him was incontrovertible. The judgement of the Unconsumed was that the Hellpriest be banished from the Order to the Trenches; his belongings had already been taken and destroyed. All Pinhead said in response was “Thank you.”

He left the chamber and walked across the courtyard, pointing to a stand of trees and ordering his dog to wait for him there. Once the servant was outside the gates, the Hellpriest went about his business. He went to a row of buildings which stood under the wall and entered the last one in the row. Here is where he had done his work and laid out his plans. In an upper room was a birdcage filled with origami cranes, the identity of a Cenobite priest written on each one. He wrote out the last few names on the last few cranes before placing them in the cage with their brethren. He whispered the incantation he had learned and watched as the cranes became animate, their wings flapping against each other. He let the first few cranes free, watching to see how they would act. After a moment of testing their new found freedom, they set off to do their duty. The Hellpriest released more cranes, not all of them for fear of being discovered, but soon enough the cage was empty and the endeavour was underway.

He climbed up to the top of the walls and looked out over the city, where there was a revolution underway. He watched as the city walls came under attack from people with rudimentary petrol bombs. After a few moments drinking this sight in, he heard screams from much closer at hand. Now he turned his attention back to the monastery, where his work was being done.

He walked back across the courtyard and made his way up the steps to the cells, where he found the priests, priestesses, abbots, deacons, and bishops in states of extremis. Most were already dead, but one or two were still in the process of dying. He was well satisfied with his work until a brother he knew called out to him, calling him a traitor. This one was obese with dark glasses, and he accused the Hellpriest of his treachery and murder. Pinhead denied involvement, but the fat Cenobite didn’t believe him and caught him by his vestments. Only then did a convulsion rip through the Cenobite and he expelled blood from his mouth in a torrent, soaking the Hellpriest in gore. He turned and left the scene, making his way across the courtyard to the gates.

He was almost out of the monastery when the Abbott who had meted out his judgement called out to him, accusing him. Pinhead turned and once again denied involvement, but the Abbott called him a liar. The Hellpriest took hold of the man and began tearing his vestments away from his body. The Abbott had ordered the inquisitors to come and take the Hellpriest, and time was too short to complete the atrocity that he was currently committing. He dropped the Abbott and left him to his guards, leaving the monastery, and heading to the forest to meet with his dog.

Harry d’Amour went to visit his tattooist, Caz, in hopes of finding Norma a more comfortable place to stay. He tells Caz about his trip to New Orleans and the trap that had been set for him there, and how Norma had gone into hiding. The big man listened to all of this, promising to find a place for Norma to lie low in Brooklyn. Harry agreed to Caz’s plan and returned to Norma with food and brandy.

Harry is sleeping, Norma talking to the spirit of a man named Nails, when Caz arrives at the club with Lana, a friend of both Harry and Caz with more protective tattoos on her body than both men combined. She was a magnet for the supernatural, and had agreed to have Norma stay with her and keep her under her protection.

On the way to Lana’s house in Caz’s van, Harry’s tattoos were worryingly quiet. They were less than a mile from their destination when he screamed at Caz to stop and jumped out of the van. He looked down to the corner of the street that they’d just turned into and saw what could only be a mirage: standing on the corner, as if waiting for the bus, was his saviour from New Orleans, Dale. Harry called him and approached, and the man explained that his dreams had told him to be on that spot, at that moment. Suddenly, Harry’s tattoos flared up and he dropped to his knees. Something was coming, something big, and all of his tattoos were screaming against it.

When the sensation in Harry’s tattoos subsided, the introductions were made between Dale and Harry’s friends, and they became aware of a vibration in the air which rose to a fever pitch as they listened. There was a force in the air which blew out windows and cracked pavements. Without further discussion, the group armed themselves and waited for what was coming.

A doorway of fire opened up in the street before them and the Hellpriest appeared with his pet dog. Pinhead approached d’Amour, making him an offer to be his witness as he carried out plans that he had been making for most of a lifetime. He would be denied nothing, and the Hellpriest’s gospel would be one of total honesty… all d’Amour had to do was witness and write down the events that occurred from here on. Of course, Harry’s response was a “fuck you,” but Pinhead was not here to be denied. Even as d’Amour pumped bullets into the Hellpriest’s head, his dog had quietly circled the group and now held Norma Paine, a curved blade held to her belly and threatening to gut her if d’Amour made the wrong move. Still, Pinhead was wounded and bleeding his acidic blood onto the floor. The Hellpriest whispered an incantation which turned his blood into vicious darts which flew at d’Amour and caught his arm. D’Amour wrapped his jacket around his arms and charged at the demon, grabbing his arms and forcing them downward. More blood-darts flew from the Hellpriest as he roared in revulsion and rage, destroying Caz’s van and causing it to explode.

The Hellpriest was not as adept at the use of this form of magic as he had thought – there were too many variables in the situation and it was throwing his calculations off. Knowing that this encounter was not going the way that he had hoped, the Hellpriest called his dog and retreated… but not without a prize… He took Norma Paine back to Hell with him. D’Amour was rendered immobilised as the associations with past experiences overwhelmed him and for a moment he was unable to act. Caz screamed at him to move, to do something, and at last Harry sprang into action. He sprinted toward the portal that Pinhead and his dog had disappeared into and followed, the doorway disappearing as he entered.

Harry’s friends follow him through the doorway, and they find themselves in Hell. Upon their arrival, the friends feel distrust toward Dale, since he appeared just before the Hellpriest. They begin to walk toward civilization, but Dale stops and tells them that something wonderful is about to happen and they will trust him. Just then Lana begins speaking with a voice that isn’t her own, and it soon becomes apparent that it is Norma. The Hellpriest has beaten her severely, and she is close to death, but she tells the friends where she is and how to get to her. Too soon, Norma’s body calls her spirit back… apparently there is more that she must do in the world of the living.

From there the story becomes a pursuit to rescue Norma. They follow in Pinhead’s wake as he travels through Hell to the sanctum which holds the body of Lucifer, the Morning Star, who Pinhead believes to be dead. There, Harry witnesses as Pinhead violates what he believes to be the corpse of the fallen angel, ripping away the armour which he believes gave the devil his power and wearing it himself. As he is leaving, the devil awakes and, realising the violation wrought upon him as he slept, goes after the Hellpriest.

Meanwhile, Norma is dying. Pinhead has violated her and she has only moments to live. Harry finds her with his friends, lying on a beach, and promises to see Pinhead dead before he bears her body back to the world. Pinhead also finds them, and renders Harry blind as Lucifer appears and attacks the Hellpriest.

A battle ensues with both demons unleashing their power upon each other and tearing Hell apart. The friends rush to escape as the ground opens up around them and both demons lay each other low. Lucifer tears the armour from Pinhead’s body and destroys him utterly before turning his attention to the realm that he made for himself so many generations past.

The book ends with Harry blind and moving into Norma’s old apartment. He is emptying his office and one of his friends find the puzzle box that he took from the house of the lawyer in New Orleans. He takes the box from the man and hides it once again, keeping it safe from inquisitive hands. Now, Harry will take over from Norma as the interpreter of the dead.

And so to the future…

Barker has already announced that he has a new novel close to completion: Scarebaby. He has said that this will be another return to horror, and that it is the scariest thing that he has written in a long time.

He has also announced that he is developing two new television series: one based around his Books of Blood stories, the other a Nightbreed television show. Of course, these are in development and may never be made (there have been a few series pitched for both books in the last twenty years), but the signs are hopeful.

Clive has also attended more conventions and has further appearances planned for conventions next year.

It seems that Barker still has the energy and will to create new worlds, while revisiting the old favourites from time to time. What will he create next? Only time will tell, but what I hope this (rather long) retrospective proves is that he has already cemented his place as one of the most influential dark fiction authors of our time, as well as the greatest imaginer of the last thirty years. I’m sure there are many writers who feel, as I do, that we owe him a huge debt of gratitude for showing us that there are no limits to our own imagination.

“You have to trust your own madness…”
Clive Barker

Thank you for joining us through this 6-part retrospective. I hope you have enjoyed the work that author Paul Flewitt has put into this. Thank you, Paul, for sharing this with us.

Paul Flewitt is a horror/dark fantasy author. He was born on the 24th April 1982 in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield.

Always an avid reader, Paul put pen to paper for the first time in 1999 and came very close to inking a deal with a small press. Due to circumstances unforeseen, this work has never been released, but it did give Paul a drive to achieve within the arts.

In the early 2000’s, Paul concentrated on music; writing song lyrics for his brother and his own bands. Paul was lead singer in a few rock bands during this time and still garners inspiration from music to this day. Paul gave up his musical aspirations in 2009.

In late 2012, Paul became unemployed and decided to make a serious attempt to make a name for himself as a writer. He went to work, penning several short stories and even dusting off the manuscript that had almost been published over a decade earlier. His efforts culminated in his first work being published in mid-2013, the flash fiction piece “Smoke” can be found in OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes: A Tribute To Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.

2013 was a productive year as he released his short story “Paradise Park” in both J. Ellington Ashton’s All That Remains anthology and separate anthology, Thirteen Vol 3. He also completed his debut novella in this time. Poor Jeffrey was first released to much praise in February 2014. In July 2014 his short story “Always Beneath” was released as part of CHBB’s Dark Light Four anthology.

In 2015 Paul contributed to two further anthologies: Demonology (Climbing Out) from Lycopolis Press and Behind Closed Doors (Apartment 16c) with fellow authors Matt Shaw, Michael Bray, Stuart Keane, and more.In 2016, Paul wrote the monologue, The Silent Invader, for a pitch TV series entitled Fragments of Fear. The resulting episode can be viewed now on YouTube, but the show was never aired. The text for the monologue was published in Matt Shaw’s Masters Of Horror anthology in 2017.

Paul continues to work on further material.

He remains in Sheffield, where he lives with his partner and two children. He consorts with his beta reading demons on a daily basis.

You can find more information on Paul Flewitt and his works here…

Amazon ** Facebook ** Twitter ** Instagram

Halloween Extravaganza: Paul Flewitt: Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer Pt 5

Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer:
A Retrospective
Part 5

And so the new millennium dawned; that moment that Barker had written about, both directly and indirectly throughout the 1990’s. The new decade brought a fresh impetus and a new focus for Barker as he eschewed the epic for quicker, more linear books. This is hardly surprising, given that much of his time from here on would be dedicated to the Abarat series of books for children and young adults. Abarat is a much more ambitious project than it would at first appear on first glance. Each book incorporates illustrations which exist as canvases that Barker created himself. Some of these pages are huge, and take many hours to paint. The books are written around the paintings, so one cannot exist without the other. It is the work which still occupies Barker today, and 19 years on is still incomplete.

He did not turn his back on writing for adults. 2000 brought us Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story. This is one of Barker’s most straight forward works, and bears some relation to Weaveworld. Where one is about a world within a rug, the other contains a world contained within the tiles of a mosaic. Really, though, Coldheart Canyon is a scathing critique on the machinations of Hollywood, and all of those who circulate in its world. Fans do not escape Barker’s cynical eye here either, with a comment on the dangers of toxic fandom. The book is also coloured in some way by the death of his father in 1999, a man with whom Barker had an often difficult relationship, but the grief he felt from his loss was profound. After his death, Barker rewrote swathes of the book and made it something a little less scathing than it was, if that could be believed.

It was also this event which spurred Barker on to write the Abarat series, without a contract or any guarantee that there would be any publisher interest in it. Life, Barker had concluded, was too short.

Coldheart Canyon (2000)

The story opens with a man at the vet with his sick dog, Dempsey. The animal has been with the man for many years, and is his only true friend in the world. The animal has been with the man through his triumphs and his tribulations, and now the man must be with him. The vet has no choice but to operate on the dog, but he doesn’t make it and the man is devastated by the news. He sits in the vet’s office and people pass by not recognising him, a situation that would bother him on any other day.

Todd Pickett is a blockbuster action movie star on the wane. His all-American good looks are in decline, with wrinkles beginning to line his face. He is being overtaken by younger men, 21st century boy toys who are taking his roles and appearing on billboards that once were his. There is a way back to the top for Pickett, the head of Paramount assures him. He has taken the man’s advice and the business card of a surgeon that he recommended highly. Pickett was desperate to get back to the top, to get his fix of adulation that only life on the red carpets can offer, and so he has been for cosmetic surgery. Sadly for Todd, the surgeon wasn’t the professional that the mogul asserted that he was. Chemicals used in the surgery have reacted badly and left Pickett scarred, and so he has to retreat into the hills. Pickett’s agent locates a house in the hills above Hollywood where her client can escape to recuperate, while he plans whatever future he may have.

The house is perfect for Pickett’s needs, and has its own storied history. It was first owned by forgotten silent movie star, Katya Lupi, and had hosted some of the biggest, most notorious parties of the time. It was precisely what Todd needed, a secluded mansion where he could get over the tragedies that had beset him. He moves in, his agent tells him she no longer wishes to represent him anymore… and the story begins.

In the basement of the house, there is a secret. During the pomp of her fame, Katya and her own manager return to her homeland of Romania. As she visits with family, her agent, Zeffer, visits an abbey in the area and looks over some artifacts that the abbot has for sale for his client’s new home. All he sees among the brick-a-brac is rubbish and banality, but he takes the tour and feigns interest. The abbot sees that the man is looking for items more interesting and takes him down into the bowels of the abbey, showing him still more object d’art. Zeffer is growing bored, but when he enters the basement room he does see something that piques his interest. Hidden by the proliferation of detritus in the room there is a treasure: a tiled mosaic which decorates the walls, ceiling, and even the floor. Zeffer cleans a portion of the wall and sees art of precision, erotic beauty which is captivating and precisely what Katya is looking for. He makes the abbot an offer, but the man is reluctant to sell. The art has a terrible story attached to it – a story of murder, betrayal, magic and curses. Undeterred, Zeffer offers more money and the abbot is finally persuaded. Work begins to map the walls and number the tiles as they are removed from the room. Diagrams are drawn to ensure that the wonder is recreated to the finest detail when it is installed in Katya’s pleasure palace.

When Todd moves in to the place, he is disturbed from his sleep by the sound of movement in the place. He investigates, but finds nothing. In the cold light of day, he wanders around the grounds of the mansion and explores the place. On those explorations he comes across a summer house and steals inside. He finds that the place is being lived in, and resolves to evict the tenant as soon as he can find them. That night, the tenant pays him a visit. She steals into the bedroom and introduces herself. Not only is Katya Lupi alive, she hasn’t aged a day in the decades since she was a star. In the days to come, she shows Todd the wonders of her palace… and the horrors, too. The grounds of the house are haunted by the spirits of those who had partied there, and they have carried on the revelry. Around every corner Todd sees the stars of the golden era of Hollywood, all engaged in some erotic pursuit. Once the exploration is complete, Katya shows Todd her secret… the Devil’s Country. She takes him down to the basement and shows him the mosaic room. Todd steps into the room, the door is closed behind him, and the magic takes hold. Instead of a room, Todd finds himself in another world with different skies above him and strange ground under his feet. The place invigorates his senses, and soon he is hooked. Before Todd leaves the room, he is Katya’s completely.

Tammy Lauper is the president of the Todd Pickett fanclub, his number one fan. In her home she has a room dedicated to his image, with posters, signed photographs, and a life-size stand-up of him. She updates her followers on Pickett’s work and even his private life. It is a role which often puts her at odds with the actor’s PR people and management. Now is no different as Todd’s disappearance hasn’t gone unnoticed and Tammy calls his people to get some information on his whereabouts. She is stonewalled, blanked, and her calls are ignored. With nothing else to do, she boards a plane and flies to Hollywood to see what is happening for herself. She investigates around Pickett’s associates, and eventually finds her way to Coldheart Canyon and the dream palace.

She parks a little way up the hill from the mansion’s gates and shimmies over a wall, delving into the dense overgrowth of the grounds. Soon she encounters monsters, the ravening offspring of ghosts and animals. She is chased through the gardens and finally reaches a clearing where she is surrounded, sure that she is about to meet her end. Instead, she is rescued by Zeffer. He has lived in the grounds of the mansion since the “death” of Katya Lupi. With some persuasion, he agrees to take Tammy to the house. He hesitates at the threshold, but she persuades him inside. They search the house, but there is no sign of Pickett or Katya.

Zeffer is tremulous, afraid in case his former mistress returns. Tammy takes a few moments to collect herself (which includes a huge slice of cherry pie) and Zeffer tells her the story of the Devil’s Country. The story went that Duke Goga loved hunting, and one day he came across the son of Lilith running through his woods. Mistaking him for a goat, he hunted the child and caught it, killing him with his sword. As the child lay dying, his mother arrived… closely followed by his father. The devil saw what had become of his son, and condemned Goga and his men to hunt forever. They would hunt the Devil’s Country until they caught his son and returned him back to him. Those were the men that Tammy had seen on her visit to the Devil’s Country, and they were always so close, but never quite caught the boy. At last they go down the stairs and come to the door which contains the mosaic. They hear a commotion and Tammy attempts to open the door, but it is stuck. Todd calls from inside the room, and together they manage to get the door open before the horsemen get to Todd and Katya. Todd recognises Tammy instantly, and unfortunately, Katya recognises Zeffer. She flies into a rage and attacks Zeffer, beating him like an errant dog. She had banned him from the house many years ago, and his presence offends her beyond measure. She kicks and slaps him several times before Tammy can intervene, but Katya hits her hard and almost knocks her unconscious. Finally Katya picks up the old man and pitches him into the Devil’s Country, right into the path of Goga and his horsemen. Taking Zeffer’s sudden appearance as an attack, he thrusts his sword through the man and looks toward the door.

Todd drags Tammy up the stairs and back into the kitchen, her eyes constantly drawn back again and again to the sight of the Devil’s Country. Finally she comes back to herself, just as Katya arrives in the kitchen.

Tammy makes for the door, noticing that Todd’s hand has slipped from hers. He has a choice: to stay in the house with the woman he has just witnessed commit a murder or go with his number one fan and return to the rational world. He is momentarily confused by the choice before him, but there comes a banging from the basement which makes up his mind. He needs to get away from the house and the craziness. He follows Tammy out of the house and back to the real world. They escape to her car and make off down the hill, but one of the hybrid children steps into the road. Tammy mows it down, much to Todd’s horror at the sight of the malformed creature. She speeds off down the hill and back to Hollywood, to her hotel room.

As the evening comes on, over food the pair discuss their options. Todd needs answers for all that he has witnessed in the mansion, and the only place to get them is from his agent. The pair resolve to go to her condo in Malibu and shake the answers from her if necessary.

Meanwhile, Jerry Brahms is contemplating suicide in his apartment in Hollywood. Jerry is a hanger-on, one of those people who follow the town and worships its very existence. He is single, ageing, and dying of prostate cancer. He has had several relationships in his life, but none of the men he has had romantic entanglements with over the years have stuck. He has no family, his parents long since dead and a sister who died far too young. He does not fear death, but neither does he welcome it. On the bad days, which are coming more and more frequently as his incurable cancer grows inside him, he seriously considers suicide and has collected enough sleeping pills to do the job for the eventuality. Something keeps him alive, though, even in the worst of days. He has a sense that his story is not over, that there is a chapter yet to be written and he must see it through. He doesn’t know what that chapter might hold, just that he must stay alive to see it happen.

He falls asleep and has a dream about Katya Lupi, a woman that near-adopted him as a child. The dream distresses him, Katya in such a state following Todd Pickett’s desertion. He wakes, wondering whether he should go to her or if siding with her would mean the end of him. Of course, curiosity mixed with loyalty and he knew he must drive up the Canyon and see his lady.

When he arrives at the mansion he is surprised to see that he is expected. Katya leaves the sanctuary of her home and gets into his car. It has been many long years since Katya Lupi has been abroad in the world, which made this a momentous evening. She asks Jerry if she knows where Todd will be, and Jerry takes a wild guess. His old agent is holding a party at her Malibu condo, and Todd Pickett is sure to be there. So it is that Katya Lupi leaves her estate and enters Hollywood for the first time in three quarters of a century.

Todd and Tammy arrive at the house of his agent, drawing curious stares and sneers from all gathered at the party. These people are the A-listers that Pickett is used to being around, but now they treat him like a leper, like proximity to the waning star might infect them too. They stare at the scarring which disfigures his face, and the overweight woman he has on his arm. The pair wandered through to the rear of the house. Todd knows that his former agent will be on the patio holding court. Sure enough, she is there with several A-listers… including the man that caused Pickett’s problems in the first place. Todd leaves Tammy to have the confrontation with his manager, going down onto the beach to speak privately. Meanwhile, Eppstadt, the Paramount executive, orders for Tammy to be thrown out by security. Faye Dunaway comes to her rescue, and Tammy goes outside to keep an eye on Todd and Maxine, his agent.

While all this is going on, Katya Lupi and Jerry Brahms arrive at the house. The crowds part for her, captivated by the beauty of this newcomer into their midst. Katya basks in the glow of adulation as they move through the house in search of her paramour.

The argument on the beach quickly lurched from Todd’s demands for an explanation of Coldheart Canyon to recriminations over the near-death of his career. In turn, Maxine spat back in his face the difficult task it had been to represent Todd Pickett at the height of his fame: the ridiculous demands he’d made on her time and the sordid secrets she’d kept from the press. Back and forth they went while Tammy looked on and a crowd gathered on the porch of the house. Todd notices Eppstadt on the porch and rushes toward him, grabbing his leg and trying to drag him through the bars of the fence in a ridiculous scene of rage. Security tries to prize his finger from the man’s leg, threatening to hurt him if he doesn’t let go. Just then, as the scene is about to take a turn toward the farcical, Katya shows up on the beach next to him. He looks at her, at her smile, at her heart-melting beauty, and follows her down the beach. No one tries to stop them as they walk into the water and Todd picks the woman up. There are no screams, no shouts of shock as the pair disappear into the night. Tammy can only watch as the searchlights from coast guard helicopters scan the surf and the night drifts on.

Meanwhile, Jerry Brahms explains to the stupefied Maxine and Eppstadt that the woman they saw was Katya Lupi. They cannot believe that the young, beautiful woman was Katya; she would surely be well over a hundred. All Brahms can say by explanation is, “That’s Coldheart Canyon.” The man is unmoving, positing the notion that they had witnessed the apotheosis of a suicide pact between the two. Todd had been hurt by both Eppstadt and Maxine, after all, his career ended and his agent turned tail and abandoned him – surely they both should take some measure of responsibility for the seeming deaths they had witnessed?

Eppstadt insists on seeing Coldheart Canyon himself, in putting to bed any notion that the woman he had seen was Katya Lupi. He preferred to believe that this was all a ruse to get Pickett’s career back on the rails – what better than a death rumour to get his name in the papers and magazines? He insisted on seeing Coldheart Canyon, and that Maxine, Jerry Brahms, Maxine’s assistant, Sawyer, and a waiter named Joe would go along with them. So it was that the five, Eppstadt armed with one of Maxine’s guns, took a trip up into the hills to the dream palace.

They arrived at the place, Joe wondering at the size and opulence of the mansion. They put on all the lights and began a search, but an earthquake struck before they got far into the house. Maxine and Sawyer bolted out of the house, while Eppstadt ordered the others to stay inside until the earthquake subsided. It passed and Eppstadt went to the door in search of Maxine, but comes face to face with some of the ghosts of the Canyon instead. One of the ghosts grabs him, trying to draw him into the gardens and imploring him not to go back into the house, but he pulls away and retreats back inside. Joe appears then, seconds too late to see what Eppsadt has seen, and the pair go to the kitchen where Brahms splashes water on a wound to his head. Again, Eppstadt demands answers to who the people in the yard are and why they are in the grounds at all. Brahms explains that they are the ghosts of Katya’s friends and lovers, but Eppstadt still will not believe the evidence of his own eyes. Just then he hears wind and horses hooves coming from the basement. Taking the sounds as those of a television, he orders Brahms to turn off the faucet so he can hear the sounds better. Sure enough, he hears the sounds of wind and horses hooves coming from the basement. Brahms tells Eppstadt and Joe about the Devil’s Country,that the place is why the ghosts are still around and that it is dangerous. He theorises that the earthquake has blown the door to the Country open, and that it must be closed. With typical executive bravery, Eppstadt delegates Joe the task of going to the basement to close the door, implying that he will help the young man to become the next Ed Norton if he does as he’s ordered. It took too long for Joe to return from his trip into the bowels of the dream palace, and Eppstadt started to get jittery. He stood at the top of the stairs, listening for sounds of movement. The sounds of horses’ hooves have grown fainter, but the wind was still audible. Brahms warned Eppstadt not to go down the stairs, and Jerry refused to go down there himself. It was then that Eppstadt surprised Jerry Brahms, saying that he should never have sent Joe down. It seemed that the dream palace even had the power to change a man like Eppstadt.

Brahms leaves Eppstadt at the basement door and goes upstairs to search. He goes straight to the bedroom and finds Todd and Katya asleep in the bed, entwined together. He leaves them to their slumber, unable to blame a woman of such long life in wanting to find comfort in the arms of a man who loved her.

Eppstadt finally found the courage to go after Joe and headed down to the basement. He had gone two steps when an aftershock hit, dust and small stones raining down on him from above. He went down, seeing a door lintel above him through the gloom. He peered into the room, seeing nothing but darkness. He fumbled, like so many before him, for a light switch and found none… but soon enough the delights and wonders of the Devil’s Country revealed itself to him, and he was lost.

While all this is going on downstairs, Todd wakes up and hears their voices. He gets out of bed and dresses, creeping over to the door and figuring out how he might escape with Katya. He had hoped that he would have time to search the place and get rid of any incriminating evidence – the several reams of photographs that Katya had saved from her revelries – before the vultures swooped in. That opportunity was denied him now, and there was nothing to be done but escape. He goes over to the window when he hears shouts from the gardens, and sees Maxine’s assistant, Sawyer, running through the garden and screaming for Maxine’s help. Todd scans the grounds and sees Maxine on top of one of the cages, holding a gun and shouting directions to her assistant. Sawyer comes to a clearing and Todd sees his pursuer for the first time: one of the hybrid children. He watches as Maxine tries to direct Sawyer, but it is a lost cause. Soon enough, the hybrid pounces on its victim. Maxine shoots it, but it’s too late for Sawyer. Other hybrids descend on the man’s corpse, tearing him limb from limb, allowing Maxine to escape. Once the show is over, Todd turns back into the room and gives Katya a kiss as she sleeps.

Meanwhile, Tammy Lauper has arrived back at the pleasure palace. It had been tempting to just return to her hotel, pack up her things and go back home, but instead she’d come back up the hill. She waits outside the gates, steeling herself for what she might find when she enters the grounds before she finally steps through.

In the Devil’s Country, Eppstadt finds Joe up a ladder, trying to free a crucified man from his torture. Birds are already flocking in the branches, and Joe asks Eppstadt to get him a stone, which he uses to throw at the carrion birds. All the time Eppstadt is beseeching Joe to leave the man – he is beyond help and they needed to get out of the Devil’s Country. Joe refuses, determined to get the man down. Soon enough, leaving is an option that is taken away from them. A hideously deformed boy approaches and tells them to leave the man where he is. Joe has almost got him down and refuses to leave him hanging there. The boy insists that they leave the man where he is, that his mother had put him there for the crime of refusing to sleep with her. Still, the men refuse to leave the crucified man. Finally the man comes free. Both fall into the thicket at the foot of the tree and traps Joe on cruel thorns which pierce his flesh. He implores Eppstadt to help him, but the Paramount chief has seen two snakes emerge from wounds in the crucified man’s chest. He retreats, but the boy reaches in and pulls Joe from the thicket, flaying his back in the process. The boy watches the freed, crucified man die and pitches a tantrum, slashing Joe’s throat with a kick from his sharp hooved feet. Eppstadt is left alone with the two dead men as the boy goes off about other mischief.

Tammy Lauper has made it to the house and found Jerry Brahms at the top of the basement steps. She looks down and sees a man’s form at the bottom of the steps. Despite Brahms’ warnings for her not to go down, she has to help the man – it is Zeffer, and he isn’t dead. She goes down, making sure not to look into the room containing the Devil’s Country. Zeffer tells her that Goga’s men are coming on their hunt, and that they can probably get out. He implores her to let the dead into the house. He explains to her that he went back to Romania after the Devil’s Country had been installed in the pleasure palace, and one of the brothers in the abbey had shown him a way to keep the dead out. Tammy had to undo what Zeffer had done. She tells him that she’s going to get help, but he refuses and tells her to get to work undoing the mechanism that he installed before taking his last breath.

As Tammy walks up the steps to do the work Zeffer had asked of her, Todd appears at the door. He asks where Eppstadt went and, when Tammy tells him that the man is in the Devil’s Country, he goes after him. He apologises to Tammy, after his fashion, and disappears through the door. Tammy needs to get Brahms out of the way, not trusting him to stop her from undoing what Zeffer had done out of loyalty to Katya. She devises a plan, telling him she wants to see the Devil’s Country for herself. Brahms warns her that it isn’t safe, but accompanies her down as she approaches the threshold. She thinks that the sight won’t affect her; she resisted its allure once, but finds herself stepping through the door anyway and succumbing to its rapture.

Todd had found Eppstadt looking much the worse for wear. Immediately, the man started haranguing Todd and blaming him for all that had befallen at the mansion. He dragged Todd over and showed him the remains of Joe, while Todd tried to stop Eppstadt from making a scene and attracting unwanted attention. Todd looked down on Joe as a strange lizard came creeping out of the undergrowth, intending to make a meal of the waiter. Eppstadt threw a rock at the lizard in an attempt to stop this desecration of Joe’s corpse, but the lizard simply hissed at the two men. Todd dragged Eppstadt away in a bear hug before the lizard decided to attack, and when Eppstadt stopped struggling against his grip, he let him go. Immediately, Eppstadt took to slapping at Todd, his strikes coming harder and harder, before Todd retaliated. Pretty soon, they were rolling around in the mud like children.

Tammy watched all of this and started advancing on the pair, Brahms in her ear all the way, advising her against stepping any further into the Devil’s Country. She ignored him and split the fight up, but Eppstadt was still intent on a fight. He turned on Tammy, calling her names and telling her that Todd would never sleep with her. Her blood boiled, and she went to hit him but was stopped by Brahms. Instead, she took one of Eppstadt’s shoes that had come off in the fight with Todd and threw it into a thicket. Todd, Brahms, and Tammy turned to leave, but Eppstadt delved into the thicket to retrieve his shoe. There came a mewling sound from deep in the bushes, and then the goat-boy leapt out, pulling thorns from his hide where he’d been snagged, crying in pain.

Tammy had turned to leave with the others, eager to leave before Goga’s men arrived, and who were already bearing down on them, but the sounds of the goat-boy’s weeping made her turn. When she turned, the boy stopped crying, suddenly more interested in Tammy… or rather, Tammy’s breasts. She recognised the boy as Lucifer’s child, and Tammy had heard the story of the hunt; she wondered whether she might bring it to an end. She felt his gaze on her breasts and moved to unbutton her shirt. He growled when she moved her hands away, so she knew she was on the right track. All the while, she was watching the progress of Goga’s hunt. The horsemen were nowhere to be seen, and the devil-child was becoming impatient. At last, he charged at her and she let her shirt fall open. At the sight of her breasts, the boy stopped his charge and crawled into her arms. He worshiped at the altar of her chest, suckling on her nipples as the Duke’s men approached. He raised his head long enough to tell the men to stop creeping, he knew that they were there. He then did a strange thing: he asked Tammy if he should give himself up. Tammy said that he should, and so he acquiesced… as long as she would give him a kiss. This she did, and the devil-child leapt from her arms, but not quick enough to stop the Duke’s men from catching him and shutting him in a crate. She watched as the devil-boy’s arms snaked through the bars of the crate and crabbed one of Goga’s men; his fingers inserted into an eye-socket and began shaking him. Goga drew his sword and brought it down on the boy’s wrist, severing the hand. The Duke wiped the blood from the blade and sheathed it, even as the ground started to shake. Todd and Eppstadt took the rumbling as another earthquake, but Tammy knew better… Lilith was coming for her child.

The ground opened up and there she was, the Queen of Hell herself. She approached the men and told them that the hunt was over if they handed the boy over. At this, Eppstadt intervened, telling them that the bargain wasn’t a fair one and that death awaited them as soon as Lilith had the child. Todd tried to stop him, but Eppstadt was suddenly convinced that this was all a dream. The Duke nodded at Lilith, pointing his sword at Eppstadt and driving him backward. Lilith took her child and handed him over to her handmaidens, then nodded at Todd, Tammy, and Brahms, dismissing them. Eppstadt refused, deciding that Lilith was a memory of a young starlet he might have met and forgotten.

Tammy, Todd, and Brahms made their getaway, leaving Eppstadt to whatever fate he had chosen. Looking up, Brahms saw that the sky was changing, the sun moving across it. “Things will change quickly now,” he said.

While Tammy, Todd, and Brahms were ending the hunt in the Devil’s Country, Katya had awoken and heard what was going on in the basement beneath her. She understood that there were trespassers in her house, and she flew into a rage. She didn’t understand just yet the implications of the trespass, but she wanted these people out.

Tammy sees Katya as she climbed the stairs from the basement, standing at the top of the stairs and glowering down at them. Brahms tells her that everything is over, that the Devil’s Country is gone, but Katya doesn’t believe him, much less that it was Tammy who ended the hunt. She pushes past them and descends the stairs. Brahms urges Tammy to leave, explaining that the room was Katya’s fountain of youth. Tammy cannot leave though… not yet. They hear Katya’s shriek of rage, and then the woman appears. She demands that Todd take Tammy, that she has to die, but he doesn’t make any move either way. As Tammy starts to make her escape, Brahms standing in Katya’s way, she hears Katya attacking him. She turns and watches the assault. Deciding that this man won’t end the same way as Zeffer had, she intervenes. It is too late – Katya pushes Jerry Brahms down the steps and he lay unconscious at the bottom. Tammy retreats into the kitchen as Katya orders Todd to catch her. There is a short debate as Tammy tries to convince Pickett to go with her, but he believes that Katya is all he’s got left now that his career is in ruins. Despite all that Katya has done, despite the true face that she has shown, he is still pathetically in love with the woman and will not leave. Tammy starts to search through drawers as Todd begs her to leave, but she tells him to close the basement door and keep Katya out. Amazingly, he does this and Tammy finds a knife. Her plan isn’t to kill Katya, oh no, she has other work to do. She rushes to the kitchen door, finds the icons that have been driven into the threshold and begins to pry them up. She struggles to remove them, but one by one the icons come free as the exiled ghosts watch on hungrily. Tammy is on the last icon when she hears a squelching sound and Todd ask what she’s done. When she turns to see what is happening, she sees Todd staggering into the room with blood staining his shirt and trousers. Apparently Katya has stabbed him, but he tells Tammy to continue her work. She watches as Katya appears, but Todd takes a pitcher from an alcove and hits Katya. He only hits her shoulder, and the effort costs him his last reserves of energy. He falls. Tammy turns back to her work, levering up the last icon with all her might, but it won’t come. At last she hears more violence behind her and a groan from Todd… Katya has used her knife on him again. Tammy works with still more urgency, feeling Katya’s breath on her neck. At last, Katya grabs a fistful of hair and pulls Tammy’s head back, but the work is done. Too late, Katya realises what Tammy has done as the ghosts rush over the threshold and force her back into the house.

Tammy gathers herself together and goes to check on Todd. He isn’t in a good way, losing a lot of blood and losing his grip on life. Maxine enters from her encounter with the hybrids in the gardens, seeing Todd and rushing to his side. Both women minister to Todd’s injuries, imploring him to hang on as Maxine calls for an ambulance.

Tammy leaves the two alone and goes back to the basement. She passes the unconscious Brahms at the bottom of the steps and checks on the Devil’s Country. The room, when she enters, is now just a room. The tiles have lost their glamour, the colours bleached and faded. As she is leaving she hears an approaching tumult, and a cloud appears at the end of the corridor. The ghosts are in a rage at the loss of the magic room, tearing around the house and destroying anything in their path. Tammy throws herself to the ground and the ghosts pass over in their eagerness for destruction. She returns back to where Jerry Brahms is laying and rouses him, picking him up and making for the stairs. The pair are climbing when Katya appears again, approaching them with her knife in hand. She advanced on the pair, promising death, and reminding Brahms of how she had raised him up. Brahms implored her to give it up as Tammy told her in no uncertain terms that she was forgotten outside of her fiefdom. Katya raged at the words and lunged at the woman, but she hadn’t noticed that the altercation had drawn an audience. The dead had stopped their mischief-making in the bowels of the house to watch the scene unfolding on the stairs. Now that violence appeared to be ensuing, they stepped in. First by speaking, then apprehending her. She is raised up and thrown into the crowd, where her exiles tore her apart.

Tammy and Brahms climb the stairs and find Todd dead where Tammy had left him, Maxine crying as she paced the floor. Tammy pays her last respects as Maxine bemoans how the media will represent Todd when the truth comes out. Tammy is sickened by the woman’s hypocrisy, and tells her so. Together, the three commit to tell the truth of what had befallen at the Canyon’s pleasure palace and leave the house to its destruction.

The following weeks go by in a haze of investigators and reporters asking questions, but finally Tammy is allowed to leave LA and go home. Her husband leaves her, but she isn’t too concerned. The events at Coldheart Canyon invariably haunt her, until she finally calls Jerry Brahms. They speak about their lives in the weeks since Todd’s death, checking that they’re bearing up. He tells her that one of the investigators had been fired and was writing a book about the mystery of Todd Picket and Coldheart Canyon, and that she might expect him contacting her. Finally Brahms tells her that Katya has given him one final gift: he went into the Devil’s Country with only a few months to live; he had come out cured of his cancer and fit. It really was a miracle.

Maxine was the next to call a few weeks later, trying to contact Tammy over several days. Tammy was suffering some sort of a mental breakdown by then, ignoring the calls or simply telling whoever was on the other end of the line to leave her alone. At last, Maxine gets her to talk and tells her that she has spoken to lawyers and attorney’s to stop the ex-investigator’s book being published. She asks if Tammy has been approached by the guy (she hasn’t), and finally, if Tammy had given any thought to going back to the Canyon. It wasn’t a thought that had struck her, but since Tammy mentioned it…

So it was that Tammy went back to Hollywood and met with Maxine. Together, they went back up to the pleasure palace and began to search the derelict remains of what had once been among the most opulent mansions in Hollywood. Even in such a short time since the events that had undone the place, the vines and creepers of the gardens had begun to invade the place. They moved deeper into the house, splashing through pools of water from burst pipes when Tammy saw a corpse lying face down in the water. It was one of the hybrid children, and it wasn’t the only one. Maxine and Tammy found bodies leading out into the garden, and even more out there. Seemingly the hybrids lives had been forfeit after the destruction of the Devil’s Country and the exodus of the ghosts.

They split up, Maxine going upstairs and Tammy going down. They resolved to make it a quick search, neither particularly happy to be in the Canyon after dark. Maxine went to the bedroom that had been Todd’s and knocked on the door, then tried opening it but found it wedged closed with objects on the other side. She called again, and won a muffled response. It was Todd, back from the dead and saying hello. She pushes on the door and manages to get it open, finding the man himself lying in bed with earth piled on top of him. He tells her that there is a light that appears at night and sits on the roof, and begs her to help him to get rid of it. She promises to do so and goes to find Tammy.

She has gone to the basement to survey the damage there. She descends the steps and find the last few gone to rubble and lying in a heap at the bottom. She jumps down and looks around at the devastation wrought by the violence of the ghosts. Walls are near to collapse, the patter of plaster and masonry reaching her ears as creaks sounded from the upper floors. There is little that she can see outside the pool of light she stands in, and so she turns her back on the gloom and returns back upstairs. When she gets to the top, she sees Maxine standing at the door to the master bedroom. She tells Tammy that Todd is there, and that he is asking for her. She enters and finds him naked, covered in earth, and with a massive erection. He tries to persuade her to stay, to live in the house with him. It’s an invitation that she would have happily accepted once, but now she tells him to cover up as she goes to the wardrobe to find him some clothes. As she picks out some jeans and a t-shirt, there’s a noise from the roof. She rushes back into the bedroom and finds Todd huddled in a corner with a sheet wrapped around him and trembling in fear. He doesn’t know what it is on the roof, but it is bright and it is coming for him. Coyotes start to yowl in the growing darkness, announcing the arrival of Todd’s haunting. It has told him that “all of this is for you,” and presented him with memories, the light has appeared as his mother once, but Todd knew that it was a fiction. He is determined not to go – he knows that it would be a one way journey. He begs Tammy to stay with him, convinced that the light won’t try to get to him I she stays. Just then there is a knocking, and Todd again begs her not to go. Tammy is convinced that it’s just Maxine knocking at the door, but when she goes to the landing and looks out, she sees her walking away from the front door. Maxine heard the knocking and figured it was someone at the door, but when she looks there is light shining through the cracks. It isn’t there any longer, but Tammy goes out onto the step to look for herself and finds nothing untoward, but she could feel it. She looks up, admiring the light shining between the branches of the trees overhead… and then it moves. The light begins to descend toward her, and Tammy is suddenly confronted with an image from her childhood. She watches the scene play out, her aunt opening the door to her house and telling her that her father is at the firehouse. Maxine tells her to look away, but Tammy sees no harm in watching. Maxine tries to pull her away, but she is too rapt by the scene running around and round like a movie snippet. At last, it dawns on Tammy that this might be more than just mere distraction but finds that she can’t turn away. She calls for Maxine to help, but she is no longer there. Tammy panics, trying to remember where she might have gone but her thoughts are in disarray, the memory too demanding. At last she remembers that Todd is upstairs, that he was naked… and the scene juddered, her aunt stuttered over her words. She realises that her mind has offered her a tool to fight this enchantment and seizes upon it, picturing Todd’s cock in her mind’s eye and disrupting the rapture that had been worked upon her. The scene from her childhood gives way to the light and Tammy closes her eyes, lowering her head and turning on her heel. She walks back to the door and closes it behind her, finding Maxine on the stairs sobbing. Todd is there with a gun, and tells them both that it is him the light wants, not them. Tammy tells him that they have two options: give him up to the light, or run. They choose the latter.

The three of them ran from the door to the car, the light watching them every step of the way. They got inside and Tammy got the car started and swung it around, driving at speed to the road. They headed down the winding street back toward town, the light following them. She looked in the rear-view mirror and saw Todd’s anxious face… and then the memory-vision flashed before her eyes again. It was only a split-second, but it was enough to force her off the road and the car smashed into a tree. Tammy fell into the vision, embracing her aunt and sitting down at the table in her house to eat some of her famous meatloaf.

Maxine wakes from unconsciousness and finds Todd there. She looks at the wreckage in the car and asks if Tammy is still in there. He tells her she is, and that the angel is also still there. She looks up and sees it shining through the branches of the trees. He tells her that he has spoken with the light, and that he’s made a promise. He’ll go with it, once his two friends are safe. Maxine lights a cigarette, Todd asking her if she can walk and go for help. She tests her legs and finds that she can walk, and sets off to get help while Todd watches over Tammy.

At last Tammy wakes and finds Todd watching over her. He tells her about the deal he’s made with the light, that it’ll want him to leave pretty soon. Just as he says it, sirens wail on their way up the hill. Todd takes it as his cue to leave and looks to the light. Suddenly he smiles, calling the name of his dog as he disappears. Tammy hears a word spoken by the light, whispered but still audible. It echoes up into the Canyon, and she follows it as she drifts away.

She wakes up in the hospital, surrounded by flowers and well-wishing cards. Maxine has stayed by her bedside for much of her time there, keeping the media vultures at bay. They resolve to leave Hollywood together when Tammy is recovered, and so she sets out with determination on her road to recovery.

When the pair return to Tammy’s house, Maxine is amazed to see the collection of Todd Pickett’s memorabilia that Tammy has collected over the years. Tammy has decided to let it all go, just as she promised Todd’s ghost that she would. She burns everything with Maxine alongside her, feeling the weight dropping from her shoulders as everything smoulders. They have decided to stay together, to watch over each other, to be friends.

Coldheart Canyon was a purging of bad feeling for Barker, a way of saying all of the nasty things he felt about Hollywood and its machinations borne from his decade of experiences. It was a palate-cleanser for him, a cathartic spewing of bad spirits which left him free and open to pursue his next project. It would be something far removed from the horror and dark fantasy that he had built his career on, and would take over his life for the next decade. Oh, other projects would sneak in here and there, but it was time now for Barker to embrace the call that had haunted him since his father’s death. It was time to enter Abarat.

Come back tomorrow for Part 6 of this fantastic retrospective on Clive Barker.

Paul Flewitt is a horror/dark fantasy author. He was born on the 24th April 1982 in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield.

Always an avid reader, Paul put pen to paper for the first time in 1999 and came very close to inking a deal with a small press. Due to circumstances unforeseen, this work has never been released, but it did give Paul a drive to achieve within the arts.

In the early 2000’s, Paul concentrated on music; writing song lyrics for his brother and his own bands. Paul was lead singer in a few rock bands during this time and still garners inspiration from music to this day. Paul gave up his musical aspirations in 2009.

In late 2012, Paul became unemployed and decided to make a serious attempt to make a name for himself as a writer. He went to work, penning several short stories and even dusting off the manuscript that had almost been published over a decade earlier. His efforts culminated in his first work being published in mid-2013, the flash fiction piece “Smoke” can be found in OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes: A Tribute To Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.

2013 was a productive year as he released his short story “Paradise Park” in both J. Ellington Ashton’s All That Remains anthology and separate anthology, Thirteen Vol 3. He also completed his debut novella in this time. Poor Jeffrey was first released to much praise in February 2014. In July 2014 his short story “Always Beneath” was released as part of CHBB’s Dark Light Four anthology.

In 2015 Paul contributed to two further anthologies: Demonology (Climbing Out) from Lycopolis Press and Behind Closed Doors (Apartment 16c) with fellow authors Matt Shaw, Michael Bray, Stuart Keane, and more.In 2016, Paul wrote the monologue, The Silent Invader, for a pitch TV series entitled Fragments of Fear. The resulting episode can be viewed now on YouTube, but the show was never aired. The text for the monologue was published in Matt Shaw’s Masters Of Horror anthology in 2017.

Paul continues to work on further material.

He remains in Sheffield, where he lives with his partner and two children. He consorts with his beta reading demons on a daily basis.

You can find more information on Paul Flewitt and his works here…

Amazon ** Facebook ** Twitter ** Instagram

Halloween Extravaganza: Paul Flewitt: Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer Pt 3

Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer:
A Retrospective
Part 3

In 1990 Clive Barker once again teamed up with Chris Figg, this time to make the movie adaptation of Cabal: Nightbreed. The pair teamed up with Morgan Creek to make the movie, who financed them to the tune of $11m due to Barker’s rising stock as a writer and director after the successes of Hellraiser and The Great and Secret Show. Barker had spoken to Geoff Portas at Image Animation, and together they had drawn up plans for the monsters that would appear in the film, producing a bible to explain the mythology of the Breed. Barker convinced legendary cult-film director, David Cronenberg, to jump on board to play psychopathic psychiatrist, Decker, as well as recruiting Hellraiser alumni Doug Bradley, Nick Vince, and Simon Bamford.

Almost immediately after shooting began, the financiers started getting cold feet about the project as costs spiralled due to a prosthetics team that had grown from thirty members to fifty-one, a crew of monsters which had increased from fifty to almost two-hundred, and twenty-five sets at Pinewood Studios in London. The $11m budget had swollen to a reported $20m and Barker wanted more… a dispute which cost Chris Figg his job.

Morgan Creek agreed a deal with Twentieth Century Fox for distribution, and they expressed reservations about the movie when they saw Barker’s cut. They had invested in Barker as “the future of horror,” but Nightbreed was neither a horror movie nor the natural successor to Hellraiser that they had expected.

In post-production, Fox insisted on enhancement shoots, extending filming for three weeks. They told Barker this was to film three new monsters, but was actually to enforce their own changes. They filmed a cameo with John Agar, as well as a new ending which would set-up a possible sequel. They overdubbed several of the actors’ voices, including Doug Bradley and Oliver Parker.

Barker and editor, Richard Marden, flew to Hollywood and met with Fox for a meeting and were told that the movie had been totally recut. Instead of the epic monster fantasy that Clive had intended to make, they had cut it by 30 minutes to two hours and informed Barker that they wanted to cut it even further to 90 minutes, with the focus of the new cut being Decker, not the Nightbreed. At this news, Richard Marden quit the movie and flew back to England.

Mark Goldblatt and Alan Baumgarten took over editing the final cut of the movie, and it was an act of butchery. The cohesion of Barker’s vision was destroyed under the committee-style production. Even after the re-edit, there was more insult to add to injury, as the MPAA did not like the idea of a movie where the monsters were the heroes and humanity were the real monsters. They cut a further seventeen scenes from the movie, saying that they were being hard on the movie due to the heroic monsters aspect.

The final nail in Nightbreed’s coffin was delivered by Fox’s promotional campaign, which totally misrepresented the movie as a slasher flick instead of a fantasia. Nightbreed was not received well, and disappeared from the cinemas shortly after release.

The shame of all this is, of course, that Nightbreed is far from a terrible movie. Even in the butchered theatrical cut, there is a lot to like. Underneath the incoherence, you can sense the movie that Barker had intended to create and characters, such as Narcisse, Ohnaka, and Babette, are still lovable, just as much as Decker is hated. The edit destroyed the relationship between Boone and Lori, so that it is more ambiguous than Barker ever intended.

This was an episode which broke Barker’s heart, telling friends upon his return to England that it would be a long time before he directed another movie. He was drained, both physically and emotionally, after the battles he had to fight to just get Nightbreed made. He realised that he could not be successful in Hollywood unless he could be a part of the fabric of the city, to be involved in the politicking and the business. In short, he had to leave for America on a more permanent basis.

That could have been the end of matters for Nightbreed, but it wasn’t. It seems only right and proper that we take a moment to fast forward to the mid-2000’s and rumours that the lost Nightbreed footage existed. No one was exactly sure where they were or what condition they might be in, but they did exist. Mark Miller, VP of Seraphim Studios, decided to track down the footage to see if anything could be done with them, but was told by Morgan Creek that there wasn’t the audience to even make a bu-ray enhancement worthwhile. There the story may have ended, but for a fortuitous event… In June 2009, Mark Miller announced that he had found VHS tapes in Seraphim’s offices which were labelled “Nightbreed.” Unfortunately, these tapes were not compatible with VHS players in the States, so were sent to Barker archivists, Phil and Sarah Stokes. They digitized the tapes, and what they found was a treasure trove of footage containing pieces that could be reconstructed to reveal Barker’s original vision. It was a start. There was a thread on Revelations, asking fans what they thought of a possible director’s cut being produced, which generated 1200 responses, a number which continued to grow for a couple of years.

In 2010, there was an authorised one-off screening of the digitized workprint at HorrorHound convention, a very rough and unedited version of the tapes that had been found which generated some enthusiasm from those who attended, but momentum slowed amidst Morgan Creek’s refusal to do anything with the tapes because demand did not justify spending the money on a restoration. In July 2010, Morgan Creek told Revelations that a search of their archives for lost footage had turned up nothing, so it had to be assumed that the only material available was on the Seraphim tapes. All seemed lost at that moment, and fans despaired of ever seeing the director’s cut coming to fruition.

Once again, events took a turn in 2011 when Russell Cherrington, Senior Lecturer of Film and Video Production in Derby, UK, and long-time friend of Barker, saw the workprint tapes and saw potential in them. They were grainy and needed some work, but he believed that something could be salvaged from them that Barker might be happy with. Using an early draft of the Nightbreed script, Cherrington and editor Jimmi Johnson set about piecing together a coherent version of the movie. The result would become known as The Cabal Cut.

The Cabal Cut was an ongoing project, with at least 8 different versions as the restoration evolved. Clive Barker offered insights, notes and direction for the project as it finally became the movie that he wanted to make. Upon first viewing of this cut, Barker was reportedly tearful at the result and has said many times that his dream of seeing the film as he envisioned it might soon be realised. Still, Morgan Creek remained unreceptive to the idea of a full restoration.

In 2012, The Cabal Cut was screened at Mad Monster Party, which included a panel with Anne Bobby (Lori) and Craig Sheffer (Boone) from the original cast. In attendance was Ryan Danhauser of the Clive Barker Podcast, who was there to report on the event for the podcast. It was in a recorded conversation with Danhauser for the podcast that Anne Bobby said that fans should “Occupy Midian,” and thus a movement was born. It was a slogan that she would repeat during a Q&A, urging fans to campaign to get the damn restoration made.

Also in attendance at Mad Monster Party was producer, Michael Plumides. He was a guy with contacts within Morgan Creek, and he heard that Barker was still struggling to get permission from Morgan Creek to actually screen The Cabal Cut at Mad Monster Party. Plumides made a call to Morgan Creek president, David Robinson, and urged him to get behind the project. In one phone call, Plumides succeeded where others had failed and the screening went ahead.

Following on from Anne Bobby’s “Occupy Midian” clarion call, Ryan Danhauser and Roger Boyes decided to act. That very night, a Facebook Group was created and they began to lay the foundations of a movement. Meanwhile, Cherrington bought the domain name for occupymidian.com. the movement grew quickly as news of The Cabal Cut screening spread, and a Twitter account was also set up to spread the word that the Tribes of the Moon were being called home. An online petition was set up, which garnered 14,000 signatures (mine among them, I’m pleased to confirm), and a letter campaign to Morgan Creek ensued from fans urging the company to make The Cabal Cut available. The question was: what to do next?

The next step was to host further screenings in 2012, this time at The New Beverly Cinema in LA. One screening sold out, and a second had to be arranged to meet demand. Clive Barker was ecstatic with this response, publishing a series of tweets thanking the fans for their support. Next, The Cabal Cut went on tour, with over 40 screenings worldwide with panels including Russell Cherrington and cast members.

Occupy Midian and Russell Cherrington had proven that there was indeed an appetite to see Nightbreed restored, but they needed distribution. Cue Michael Plumides again, who was introduced to Cliff Macmillan of Shout Factory. He jumped at the chance to release the movie and the deal was done.

In 2014, Shout Factory announced that, in conjunction with Warner Bros, they had managed to find the original film of Nightbreed in over 600 boxes. Not only had they found the missing masters, they had never before seen footage too. It was beyond the wildest dreams of anyone involved in the Occupy Midian movement, and Barker especially. Finally, a high quality restoration of the Director’s Cut of Nightbreed could begin.

Shout Factory’s release was originally set for 5000 copies, but demand meant it was quickly upgraded to 10,000. In less than a week, 2000 copies had been pre-ordered… and it was only available in the US! In November of 2014, the Director’s Cut was on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and in December it was streamed on Netflix and Shudder, where it went to number one in horror. Finally, after so many years and the heartache the original project had caused Barker, Nightbreed was a smash hit. In June 2015, The Director’s Cut won a Saturn Award for Best DVD or Blu-Ray Special Edition Release.

Barker had won, after 24 years… but the war was not yet over. Licensing and rights issues meant that the Director’s Cut could only be released in the US. Despite distributors being eager to bring Midian to shores worldwide, Barker’s hands were tied. All of that changed earlier this year, with an announcement made by Arrow Video that they would be releasing Nightbreed in the UK on Blu-Ray for the first time and pre-orders have proved very popular even after five years of waiting. Barker’s vindication is complete at last.

1991 saw the release of Barker’s most epic, ambitious, and dense work to date: Imajica. Perhaps this was a reaction to the butchery of Nightbreed, as Clive let loose with his imagination and pushed himself to the limits of his abilities.

Imajica was written at a time of upheaval and change in Barker’s life. He was dealing with the fallout of Nightbreed and a move to Los Angeles, which is reflected in the book. Parts of Imajica read like a love letter to the London that he had lived in, and to the UK. There are moments of self-reflection within the pages; the main character is an artist, making his way as a forger. Could this be a comment on himself, writer of horror and expected to rehash familiar themes for paymasters who demanded blood and gore, rather than the more progressive material that Barker offered? Because of this, Imajica comes across to his readers as the most personal of Barker’s work, a story that you see a lot of Barker laid bare and examined as we witness the fall and rise of the main character; John Furie “Gentle” Zacharias.

Some readers consider Imajica overlong and flawed, an opinion that I would disagree with strongly. To me Imajica is Barker’s magnum opus, the storytelling and structure sweeps the reader away in much the same way as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It is a novel which challenges the reader, asking existential, moral, and theological questions in the guise of an epic fantasy. For me, Barker rarely exceeded the powers that he showed with Imajica.

Imajica (1991)

The book opens with a typically Barker treatise on drama, written under the guise of Pluthero Quexos. Here, he determines that true drama can only ever be based around two or three characters. Okay, more might wander on and off stage, but by the end of any play the cast is whittled down until the spotlight falls on two or three characters. It is an opening salvo which sets the stage very well, and is a rule which Barker observes as he whittles down the cast in this story from many, to just one.

John Furie “Gentle” Zaccharias is an artist plying his trade as a forger, and confirmed lady’s man. The beginning of Imajica finds Gentle between conquests and without work for the first time in an age when he receives a mysterious letter from the husband of an old flame, Jude. The husband, Charlie Estabrook, a rich businessman, has paid for someone to kill Jude after the breakup of their marriage and now he is getting cold feet. Gentle goes to meet the man and agrees to go to New York to warn Jude of the threat to her life.

In New York, Gentle tracks Jude’s apartment and saves her when the assassin makes an attempt on her life. He chases the mysterious man and fails to catch him, but does have a strange frisson when he makes eye contact with the would-be killer… a feeling that he knows this person. Bemused, Gentle returns to Jude’s apartment but she asks him to leave; there are too many bad memories associated with him.

He goes back to his hotel room and goes to sleep, but is roused when Jude appears in his room. In the throes of passion, the phone rings and Gentle knocks it off the bedside table. The receiver falls from the cradle and he hears Jude’s voice on the other end of the line. Confused, he snaps on the light and sees that Jude is not the woman he is in bed with… it is the assassin. He flees again, and this time Gentle cannot give chase. Confused and agitated, he can do nothing more than return to London.

Back in London, Gentle cannot simply forget all that happened in New York. The memory of the assassin plagues him, and he tries to catch the likeness of the man on the canvas, exhausting himself as he paints obsessively. Eventually, defeated, he returns to Estabrook and demands to know where the man met the assassin. Estabrook tells him about the travellers’ campsite, and Gentle tracks it down. When Gentle reaches the camp, he finds it in flames. Enraged, he rushed into the flames and catches sight of the assassin, but loses him as he is overcome by the smoke. Once again, Gentle is forced to admit defeat and return to his studio empty handed.

Meanwhile, Jude returns to London. She is contacted by old friend Clem, letting her know that his partner, Taylor, is dying and that they are holding a New Year’s Eve party. He asks her if she could find Gentle and bring him along. Of course, she agrees and does take Gentle along to the party, but he has to leave early when he is taken sick. Jude drives him home to his studio and leaves him there.

Jude goes to Estabrook’s house to collect some of her things, hearing that he is in hospital after a suicide attempt. While taking some of her jewellery from the safe, she finds a mysterious blue stone which she takes as a memento. Back at her apartment, she finds the blue stone in her pocket and studies it, becoming entranced by it. Soon enough, she is taken out of her body and transported across the city to a tower, where she is shown the mummified body of a woman trapped behind a wall. She is returned to her body, but the visions that the stone has showed her continue to haunt her and she decides to go to see Gentle… if anyone would believe her extraordinary story, it would be him.

Gentle is still ill when the assassin arrives at his studio, explaining that he is a being from another world, a mystif of the second dominion. There are five dominions, the creature tells Gentle, from which the Earth has been sundered. Gentle asks the mystif, Pie’Oh’Pah, to take him to these dominions, and the creature agrees.

Jude arrives at Gentle’s apartment in time to see the pair leave, their forms entwining as they left the world she knows. Bereft, she realises that the only way for her to untangle the mystery of the stone (and now Gentle’s disappearance) is to meet with her estranged husband. She goes to visit Estabrook in the hospital, where he tells her that the stone was a gift from his brother, Oscar Godolphin, but will tell her little more. The two brothers did not get along after Estabrook was passed over for inheritance by their father, so Godolphin became the owner of the family estate and Estabrook denounced the family and gave up its name. Jude threatens to track the brother down and ask him directly, but Estabrook begs her not to, telling her that Oscar is dangerous and not to be trusted… he will show her what she wants to see.

A few days later, Jude is taken to the derelict Godolphin estate by Estabrook. They walk around the grounds and Jude enters the ruined house, the sight of the grand hallway bringing forth images of balls and parties which may have been held there. He takes her to see The Retreat, a folly built by one of Estabrook’s ancestors as a gateway to the dominions. They step inside when Oscar appears… and Jude falls instantly in love. Estabrook tells her to leave them, to get away from Oscar, which she only does reluctantly when Oscar tells her to. The brothers are left alone inside the Retreat, and after a time, Oscar comes out with a wound, telling Jude that Estabrook is dead and that he had to kill him or be killed. Jude leaves with Oscar, becoming his lover… and prisoner.

Meanwhile, Gentle is travelling the dominions with Pie’Oh’Pah. He discovers that he has magical powers in these worlds – pneuma. Wherever he travels in the dominions, it seems drama and destruction follows in his wake. In Yzorrderex there is uprising; in Beatrix there is massacre. The pair soon discover that they are being tracked and hunted by the Autarch’s soldiers. They decide to travel over the mountains to a portal out of the dominion, and Gentle frees goddesses that were trapped in ice by the god, Happexamendios. On the journey, the pair marry after a sickness that Gentle contracts from a near drowning.

It is here that Gentle discovers that he is a powerful man, a reconciler. Pie’Oh’Pah tells him that it was his servant when he, as the Maestro Sartori, attempted to reconcile the domions two hundred years previously. He failed in the attempt, and begged the mystif to make him forget the failure and its tragic consequences. He has lived in ignorance for two hundred years, shedding identities like old socks and moving on, never remembering who he was. Unbeknown to Gentle, the Autarch is his doppelganger, a being of his creation around the time of the reconciliation. The Autarch has taken over the dominions and shaped them into his own empire. Everywhere Gentle looks, he sees how he has been responsible for the desecration of the Imajica.

Soon Pie’Oh’Pah is injured in a battle, and is close to death when they reach The Erasure, a sacred place in the Imajica where the dominions are divided by their god, Happexamendios. When the mystif dies, Gentle loses himself to despair and destroys the encampment around the Erasure before returning to the Yzzorderex… to destroy his creation, the Autarch.

While Gentle is busy exploring the Imajica, Jude is distracted by Oscar. She tells herself otherwise, but she has become enslaved to the man. On a trip to the opera, Oscar has to stop off for a meeting. Waiting in the car, Jude realises that the place they have arrived at is the tower that she saw in her vision of the woman. She explores while Oscar is distracted and meets a woman called Clara Leash, who tells her of the Tabula Rasa. The Tabula Rasa is a secret group that for centuries has been committed to eradicating all forms of magic from the Earth. The group is comprised of members of seven families, and that Oscar is a member of that group. Jude tells Clara about the woman in the basement, and she agrees to meet again to try and free her.

A few days later, Jude returns to the tower to meet with Clara. They search around the perimeter of the place, looking for a way in, when they meet Dowd, Oscar’s right hand man. Dowd kills Clara and takes Jude back to Oscar’s house. Now she really is a prisoner. She confronts Oscar and he agrees to take her to the Retreat and to show her the Imajica; he really has fallen in love with her and wants to keep her by his side. He does take her, but while crossing over to the Imajica, Dowd interferes. Jude sees Oscar’s face covered in blood, then Dowd leering at her before she loses consciousness.

She wakes up in the home of Peccable, a merchant of curios from her domino who had worked for a long time with Oscar. Peccable is not home, but his daughter, Hoi Polloi, is. There is civil war raging in the city, and Hoi Polloi is afraid. There is a storm coming, fighting in the streets, and the girl has to shut up the house. For the moment, Jude is trapped in the house with Dowd.

Once the storm passes, Dowd decides to leave the city and means to take Jude with him. Jude tries to persuade Hoi Polloi to leave with them, but she refuses to leave without her father. So it is that Jude finds herself wandering the broken streets of Yzzorderex in the company of Dowd, with unrest raging all around her. In the midst of all of this, Jude is passed by a great procession of soldiers bearing a palanquin. When the curtains part as the palanquin is dropped, Jude comes face to face with her mirror image. The woman she fleetingly encounters is Quaisoir, the Aurarch’s cruel paramour, on her way to view the day’s executions. Jude resolves to meet this woman who has her face, and discover all about her sister.

In the tumult on the streets, Jude is parted from Dowd and she decides to climb the hill to the Autarch’s palace. Once inside, she finds her way to Quasiour’s apartments and the woman herself, a drugged and paranoid harridan. She falls asleep in Quaisoir’s bed, and is woken by Gentle. They make love on the bed, neither lover knowing that the other is not the person they think.

Here it is that Quaissoir is blinded, and in her weakened state she explains how Jude came to be. Two hundred years before, Quaisoir had been married to Joshua Godolphin, but a man named the Maestro Sartori had become enchanted with her, and she had fallen in love with him. In return for his part in the Reconciliation, Sartori had requested Godolphin’s wife. Being a fair man, Sartori had created a double which would love Godolphin for the rest of his life. Jude was that double, but there had also been an unintended consequence of the working: Sartori had also created a double of himself, the Autarch.

Quaissoir persuades Jude to take her into the city, to find her “Man of Sorrows,” but instead they find Dowd. He tries to kill Jude, but Quaissoir kills him. They return to the palace and Quaissoir retires to a room between the Pivot Tower, a receptacle of prayers which a monolith within the tower collects from all over the dominion and the source of the Autarch’s preternatural ability to know all the goings on in the Imajica.

Meanwhile, the city is in uprising and the people are marching on the Autarch’s Palace. Gentle arrives and finds himself in his brother’s palace, where he seeks the Autarch out. They find each other and battle through the palace, but the Autarch flees. Gentle finds the Pivot… and both Jude and Quaissoir. Now, Gentle resolves to destroy the Pivot and does so, breaking it with pneuma. In the midst of the destruction, Quaissoir refuses to leave the room under the tower and is killed as the Pivot Tower falls. With Gentle bereft, injured, and exhausted, the pair return to their own Dominion at last.

Jude takes Gentle back to his studio before returning to her own apartment. After sleep, she is invited to another party at Gentle’s old employer’s house, Chester Klein. When she arrives, Gentle is there and looking rested and much the better for sleep. They leave together and return to her apartment together. After a night of passion, Gentle leaves on business; he is ready to build an empire now and begins to act very strangely, but Jude overlooks this. Upon returning, he finds the blue stone and takes it from Jude. This is when Jude knows that this Gentle, who she has taken into her heart and into her bed, is not her Gentle, but the Autarch Sartori… and that she is now pregnant with his child.

While Sartori is out on his empire building business, Jude meets Oscar Goldolphin and returns to the tower. They go straight to the basement in search of the goddess trapped behind the walls, but are disturbed by the sound of an intruder. Oscar goes off to investigate, and Dowd appears, back from the dead. He kills Oscar and advances on Jude, not knowing that there is a being of power in the basement with them. The wall begins to dissolve to reveal the goddess, and he makes a fatal error… he touches her. In a rage, the goddess kills Dowd and asks Jude to find her son, Sartori.

Meanwhile, the real Gentle has returned to a place he barely remembers, a house he once occupied when he was the Maestro Sartori. The house on Gamut Street is filled with ghosts from his past, and all of them confront him as he tours the rooms of his old home. At last, he is met by a demon called Little Ease, an emissary of Gentle’s twin sent to waylay him. In one fell swoop, Little Ease opens Gentle’s mind and all of Gentle’s memories of his past lives, which have been forgotten, flood back in and makes him crazy. Little Ease sends him on his confused and shambling way back into the world.

Alone and addled, not knowing even his name, Gentle wanders the streets of London and falls in with a group of homeless people. Among their number is a boy who draws with charcoal; Gentle takes them and begins drawing on the walls, the floors… every surface he can find. He is drawing a map of the Imajica, if only he could remember what it was.

While all this is going on, Jude and Gentle’s friend Clem is searching for the real Gentle. Taylor has returned from the dead and told Clem that Gentle has returned and he is going to do something wonderful. Clem volunteers with a soup kitchen in the evenings. On one of these evenings feeding the homeless, Clem finds pictures drawn in pastels all over the pavement and walls, pictures that could only have been drawn by Gentle. He follows the trail of artwork and finds the man himself, and realises that he has lost his mind… or rather, rediscovered too much of his mind. They walk together, Clem trying to find Gentle in among the ramblings as the night draws on. Eventually, at dawn, they come back to the camp and hear giggling from one of the sleeping vagrants. Clem’s partner, Taylor, is in the light and speaks through the boy, Monday. It Taylor is that reminds Gentle of who he is and what it is that he is made to do; he is all of the things that he remembers, and he is the Reconciler. Together with Monday they return to the house on Gamut Street, where Gentle confronts the ghosts and embarks on his first reconciliation, that between his past failures and fallen friends, before making plans for the rite that will realign the Imajica.

Jude also arrives at Gamut Street with the ailing goddess Celestine. Gentle is preoccupied by the preparations for the reconciliation, but is persuaded to talk with the woman. She tells him a story that she told him as a child, the take of Nissi Nirvana. It is, of course, her story. Gentle comes to understand his own nature from the story: he is the son of Happexamendios himself, who raped Celestine and left her in her madness. Celstine tells her story, then passes away with her son in her arms.

As the time draws near, Jude begins to have reservations about the reconciliation, and decides that she must stop the working, finally siding with Sartori against Gentle. As Gentle is preparing for the rite, he finds that Jude has sabotaged the working and throws her out before finding the stones that will form the circle that he needs to perform the deed. He throws his mind out and visits the other maestros in the other dominions, making sure that the working is safe before they begin. Then, they begin the reconciliation, imagining themselves as the dominions that they represent. All seems to be going well until Gentle is pulled from the circle and attacked. Sartori has found his way to Gamut Street and is intent on destroying both the reconciliation and Gentle. A fight ensues, and this time Gentle is victorious and kills his brother. The reconciliation has taken on its own momentum, restructuring the Imajica and opening doors to bring the dominions back together.

In dismay and disgust at her own actions and anger at Gentle for being the man that he was, and is, Jude returns to Yzzorderex and finds it much changed. The goddesses have taken over the Autarch’s palace, and they take Jude in as one of their own.

In the aftermath of the Reconciliation, Gentle realises that he has one more task before him. The First Dominion, the home of his father, is still separate from the rest of the dominions. To be truly reconciled, he must tear down the walls that his father has put up. Once again, Gentle travels through the Imajica and enters the first dominion, finding his father in a city forgotten. Happexamendios reveals himself to Gentle, forgetting his own shape as he manifests himself and appearing as a mismatched and hideous thing. In the confrontation between father and son, Gentle reminds Happexamendios of his sins against Celestine, and the god becomes enraged. He sends out a killing fire across the dominions to destroy the woman, but he has forgotten… the Imajica is a circle, and so the killing fire returns and strikes the god down himself. At the death of Happexamendios, the First Dominion is revealed as a rotting, disease infected place… and in the ruins of this hell, Gentle is reunited with his love, Pie’Oh’Pah.

At the end, Gentle resolves to travel and make a map of the Imajica, a work of art that can never be complete, and will be ever changing… at last, he has purpose.

Imajica was a story that stretched Barker’s ambitions almost to breaking point, the one story that Barker thought he may not have the skill to complete. It has stood as his Lord of the Rings for many readers in the years since its publication. Still, Barker didn’t see this as the peak of his creativity… there were still many more stories to tell, but he had regained control that he felt he had lost with his foray into Hollywood, and now he decided it was time to move back into that circle.

1992 would see Barker move back into Hollywood circles, but not before he took another gamble with his literary career and stuck a further thumb in the eye of critics and readers who still mistakenly labelled Barker a horror writer. This time, Clive decided to release a children’s tale, The Thief of Always, written as he was also creating Imajica.

Barker did have history of writing children’s stories, although none of them had seen publication. The Candle in the Cloud and The Adventures of Maximillian Bacchus… had been written years before, and very much directed toward young adult readers, but his publishers wouldn’t know that. It was indeed a huge gamble for a writer known for writing erotically charged, dark tales to branch out into children’s fiction, but that is precisely what Barker was proposing. It was perhaps a testament to the level that he had risen to that his publishers did not dismiss the idea out of hand; they purchased The Thief of Always for a single dollar, which offered the author much more in the way of royalties. As Clive himself quipped earlier this year to a fan at a convention: “It turned out to be a terrible business decision; it is now available in forty languages… it just shows that the experts don’t always know everything.”

His publishers didn’t skimp on the release, making 100,000 hardback copies available in the US alone. In the 27 years since its publication, The Thief of Always has enchanted a great many younger readers (including my own daughter, who still counts it as one of her favourite books), and has been optioned for movie rights many times, although a finished movie has yet to emerge.

The Thief of Always is also notable as the first book to feature Clive Barker’s artwork within its pages, belying an ambition that would reach its apotheosis with the Abarat series. Of course, Barker’s artwork adorned later printings of Books of Blood and books by other authors, but this was the most extensive use of his artwork yet… and proved to be a talking point and attraction of the book for many years to come. The positive reaction to his artwork led to more work being exhibited in 1993, and a tentative step into the world of art in general. It was a world that Barker mistrusted, and so chose his exhibitors with great care, but was also a pursuit that he found fulfilling over the years.

So it was that The Thief of Always became an important entry in the Barker canon for many reasons: an illustration of the creative freedom that he had won, proof that Barker could sell books in many genres, and that his visual art also had an audience. In one book, Barker had cemented himself as a true visionary and dreamer.

The Thief of Always: A Fable (1992)

Like Weaveworld and Imajica before it, The Thief of Always opens with a line that could hook even the most sceptical of readers: “The Great Grey Beast February had eaten Harvey Swick whole…”

It was a line which evoked the childhood desperation of boring, rainy days in pre-spring, when there is little to do but watch the rain dripping down the windowpane and dreaming of summer. This is precisely what Harvey Swick is feeling in the opening pages of the book, and like many parents, his mother offers him the same advice that my mother often gave me: “Don’t dream your life away.” Like the opening line, it is a statement which speaks of the whole while seeming an everyday, throwaway comment.

In the midst of his boredom, Harvey is visited by the strange and oddly reminiscent of Shadwell (Weaveworld) Rictus. The man flies in through Harvey’s window and offers him the trip of a lifetime to the Holiday House. Harvey accepts the invitation readily, and travels across town with the man. He is confronted with a high wall which disappears into the February mists, but is really a portal into another world. On the other side of the wall is Wonderland, a place where all of his childish wishes come true. At the Holiday House, Harvey is met by the jovial Wendell, the more serious and melancholy Lulu, and the homely cook, Miss Griffin, and her three cats.

It soon becomes apparent that the Holiday House is truly a place of dreams where the mornings are spring days, where the daytime is all summer, evenings are autumn days and Halloween parties; night time is winter, with Christmas dinners and Thanksgiving suppers. Harvey tests the claim that all his wishes can come true here, and wishes for a long lost toy ark to be returned to him. That night he is given a Christmas gift, and unwrapping it finds the toy that he wished for, exact in every imperfect particular. The Holiday House was everything that Rictus had told him it was… and much more.

Exploring the Wonderland, Harvey discovers that the place isn’t all about pleasant dreams. Beyond a gnarled hedge, Walden, Lulu, and Harvey discover an old pond filled with fish that Harvey instantly dislikes, swimming round the pond as if waiting for one of them to fall in. He loses his toy ark in the depths of the pond, but doesn’t mourn its loss for long. Harvey also meets Rictus’ nightmarish brothers: Jive, Marr, and Carna. He is told that the owner and builder of the house, Mr. Hood, only wants special children in his Holiday Home, and that Harvey is one of them.

That night, Marr turns Harvey into a vampire as a joke to be played on Wendell. Harvey delights in his newfound powers of flight, swooping down on the frightened Wendell, but rebuffs Marr’s suggestion that Harvey should taste Wendell’s blood.

Harvey is disturbed by these events, realising that happiness and fun comes at a price. He understands that the fun cannot last forever, embodied by Lulu, who has been at the House the longest and is quickly turning into one of its own creatures. He begins to see similarities between Lulu and the fish in the pond, resolving to escape as soon as possible.

Together, Harvey and Wendell follow one of Mrs. Griffin’s cats and find a way through the misty wall and back into the real world. They are pursued by Carna, but he cannot follow them far as reality injures him. Harvey wanders home, but the town feels somehow different to him after his experiences in the Wonderland. He arrives home and finds that his parents are grown old and sad; he has been missing for thirty years! It is only then that Harvey realises the terrible trick that has been played on him, that his time in the Holiday House has stolen time from his life, and the lives of all the other children that visited the place.

Harvey resolves to return to the Holiday House to reclaim that which has been stolen from him. He goes into the cellar and finds Mrs.Griffin in a coffin; she was the House’s first child victim and condemned to remain as housekeeper by her wish for immortality. It is Mrs.Griffin who finally tells Harvey of the nature of the House and its occupants. After freeing Mrs.Griffin, Harvey tracks down and destroys Marr, Jive, and Carna by showing them the nature of their own creation. Now he confronts Mr. Hood in the attic. Here it becomes apparent that the man is the evil of the house incarnate, a reflection of his own darkness. What ensues is a battle of wishes, as Harvey offers wish after wish, which Mr. Hood is bound to grant, and is destroyed. Hood’s destruction frees the children, all of whom were the fish in the pond which Harvey disliked, and all return to their own times.

Harvey returns home and finds his parents restored to youth. He tells them his fantastic story, but they don’t believe him. Desperate to be believed, Harvey takes them to the wall that had been the portal into the Wonderland where he meets and old man who confirms Harvey’s tale. The old man is Lulu’s husband, sent by her to thank Harvey for her release so many years before.

1992 also brought the world a new monster to rival the Freddies and Jasons of the horror world; a monster far more eloquent, intelligent, and darkly-scary than any of them: Candyman.

Based on “The Forbidden” from Books of Blood, Candyman is transported from the run down council estates of Liverpool to the Chicago projects and Cabrini Green. Usually, such transportations are a mere Hollywood flippancy, borne of a belief that audiences couldn’t possibly handle any scenario or story that doesn’t take place in America (because the US is, of course, the centre of the known world…). In the case of Candyman, it does add the dichotomy of a middle-class white woman exploring a largely African-American, lower class area of a big city which simply wouldn’t have been the same if it was set in Liverpool. This aside, and some embellishments to flesh out the characters a little more and offer the possibility of sequels, Candyman remained largely faithful to the original material. The addition of music by Phillip Glass in the soundtrack was a masterstroke; the haunting piano playing in counterpoint to the action lending increased atmosphere to each scene is truly remarkable and fitting with the tale being told on screen.

Clive Barker took a step back and relinquished control to Bernard Rose, who wrote and directed the movie. Barker acted as executive producer, offering his insights whenever they were requested. Rose remarked at the support that Clive gave him and the project, being open to changes that Rose wanted to make. Barker would say later that their minds were very similar, crafting fiction in much the same way, so it isn’t a surprise that they worked together so successfully.

Virginia Madsen plays Helen, the white, middle class university student writing a thesis of modern urban legends. It is her researcher, Bernadette, who recounts the tale of the hook-handed Candyman (reminiscent of Bloody Mary, for any British person who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s), who would appear and kill you if you looked into a mirror and uttered his name five times.

Helen continues her research, despite the dismissals of her lecherous and philandering husband, Trevor. During her research, she learn that there is a serial killer haunting the streets of Cabrini Green. Of course, Helen decides to investigate further.

On a drunken dare with her researcher, Helen looks into a mirror and utters Candman’s name five times, laughing it off as ridiculous horseplay.

In Cabrini Green, the pair discover an apartment where one of the murders allegedly took place, finding the slogan “sweets to the sweet” daubed on the wall. Investigating further, they discover a room given over as a shrine, the image of a screaming man painted around a door and offerings of bedsheets, chocolates, and bloody razorblades on the floor. When they leave the apartment, they meet one of the residents, Anne-Marie, who tells them about the killer they have dubbed Candyman.

That night, Helen holds a dinner party and tells her guests about her research. The overbearing and condescending Professor Purcell pontificates on a paper that he wrote a decade before on the subject of Candyman, detailing the character’s history. Legend tells them that in the 1800’s, a wealthy landowner commissioned a talented young artist (who happened to be a black man) to draw a picture of his daughter. Unfortunately for the artist, he fell in love with the girl. Hearing of the artist’s infatuation, the wealthy man hired a bunch of villains to exact revenge. They took him and sawed off his hand, daubing him with honey, and leaving him to be stung to death by bees. The artist’s body was burned and his ashes scattered on land that Cabrini Green is built upon, and remained to haunt the place ever since.

Helen isn’t convinced by the professor’s dismissal, and returns to Cabrini Green to photograph the graffiti in the apartment. While there she meets Jake, a young boy who lives in Cabrini Green. She asks the boy about Candyman, and he takes her to a public toilet where, according to stories in the area, a disabled youth was unmanned and left for dead. Inside the toilets she finds more Candyman-inspired graffiti and a toilet bowl filled with bees. She is disturbed by four youths, one of them wielding a hook, who attack her and leave her for dead. Later, she identifies one of her attackers in a police line-up and he is charged with the murders that have taken place in Cabrini Green. On a return visit to the estate, she reassured Jake that the Candyman isn’t real; that he is just a made up monster like Frankenstein. On her way home however, walking through a car park, Helen is disturbed by a shadow who calls her name, his deep voice silky and hypnotizing. “Helen… I came for you,” he says.

Out of the shadows steps the Candyman himself (played magnificently by Tony Todd), wearing a long coat over nineteenth century shirt and trousers. In her mind, Helen pictures the graffiti which she now understands are not simply memorials and shrines to an urban legend, but faithful representations of the man. He tells her that he had to meet her, because she wanted the truth behind the myths being told. He brandishes the hook and asks her to be his victim.

From here on, we are not in the realms of a straight-forward horror flick. Candyman’s eloquence and intelligence demands more, and he sets out his mission in the movie with one of the best speeches in horror cinema: “I am the writing on the wall, the whisper in the classroom. Without these things, I am nothing. So now I must shed innocent blood… Come with me.”

Helen faints, and wakes in Anne-Marie’s apartment with the severed head of a dog and a meat cleaver beside her. Anne-Marie attacks her, screaming about her missing baby and demanding that Helen return the child. In the fray, Helen wounds Anne-Marie with the meat cleaver, just as police burst into the room and see Helen with the weapon. Of course, they arrest Helen and take her to the jailhouse.

She is bailed out of jail by Trevor and returns home, where she is again confronted by Candyman. Now he tells her that either she must die, or Anne-Marie’s baby will be killed. He wants Helen to become legend, just like him, to be immortal. Bernadette interrupts the conversation, and Candyman kills her, leaving the knife behind to incriminate Helen once again. Now the police confine Helen to a mental institution, but she isn’t safe from the Candyman even there. He lavishes her with more seductions, promising that she will always be remembered if only she will become his victim.

Helen wakes from sedation weeks later, finding that she has been charged with the murder of her researcher. She tells her story to a psychiatrist, who confirms that she is crazy. The Candyman appears then, cutting the man open, and telling Helen that she is his before freeing her.

Helen shambles home, still fuzzy headed from sedation and finding that Trevor has moved one of his young students into the house. They are redecorating, wiping away any trace of Helen’s existence in the place. Trevor attempts to justify himself, but Helen tells him that it’s all over; meaning both their relationship… and her life.

She returns to Cabrini once more, back to the abandoned apartment with the graffiti and the shrine. She finds the place much changed, now adorned with frescoes which tell the story of Candyman on every wall. She finds the man himself, sleeping on a bier in one of the rooms and attacks him, but only awakens him. She offers herself in return for the child, and Candyman accepts

With a kiss, Candyman disappears with the child, the walls now adorned with the words “It was always you, Helen,” and a portrait of his dead lover… who looks almost identical to Helen herself. From outside, she hears the cries of the child and rushes to a pile of detritus that has been built in the middle of the estate. She fights her way into the pile to retrieve the child, but the people of Cabrini Green douse the pile of rubbish with fuel and set it ablaze, believing that Candyman is inside. She realises now that she has been betrayed by him, and fights to save the child before the flames reach it. Candyman appears, and she impales him with a flaming stake, fighting her way through the inferno to get the baby out. Burned, her hair gone, she finally bursts from the flames and lays the baby at Anne-Marie’s feet before she falls to the floor dead.

In typical Hollywood fashion, the way must be left open for a sequel, and Candyman does not escape from that tradition. At Helen’s graveside stands Trevor, Purcell, and Trevor’s new girlfriend. As they lower Helen’s coffin into the ground, the residents of Cabrini Green arrive at the graveside to pay their respects to their fallen hero, and Jake throws a scorched hook… Candyman’s hook… onto her coffin.

Later that night, Trevor is in the bathroom mourning Helen. We see his new girlfriend in the kitchen, chopping up steak with a sharp knife, and she calls to her lover. Trevor turns to the bathroom mirror, sobbing as he calls Helen’s name five times. Helen appears behind him, hook in hand. She guts Trevor and leaves his corpse for the girlfriend to find, and for the police to find her.

Candyman was Barker’s return to horror, and much like Hellraiser it was a success. Bernard Rose was approached to write a sequel, for which he decided to recall another Books of Blood story, The Midnight Meat Train. In Rose’s version, the audience would be transported to London’s Whitechapel where murders oddly reminiscent of the Jack the Ripper killings were happening again. The movie would flash back and forth from the original 1880’s killings to the present day events, ending with the main characters on a train full of human meat. The producers hated this pitch, and Barker himself was convinced that The Midnight Meat Train could be made into its own standalone movie, and so that version of the Candyman sequel was never made. Instead, Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh was made in 1995, with Candyman 3: Day of the Dead appearing in 1997.

Barker had returned to Hollywood, although not as director, and proven that his stories could make successful movies if treated faithfully and with respect. To a degree, it was vindication after the hell that he had experienced with Nightbreed.

Candyman was not Barker’s only work in Hollywood in 1992. Hellraiser 3: Hell On Earth was also released in that year, as was Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers, which is notable for a certain cameo scene involving King, Tobe Hooper, and Clive Barker at a crime scene. It lasts only seconds, but is a wonderful thing to behold for any lover of 80’s and 90’s dark fiction.

Come back tomorrow for Part 4 of this fantastic retrospective on Clive Barker.

Paul Flewitt is a horror/dark fantasy author. He was born on the 24th April 1982 in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield.

Always an avid reader, Paul put pen to paper for the first time in 1999 and came very close to inking a deal with a small press. Due to circumstances unforeseen, this work has never been released, but it did give Paul a drive to achieve within the arts.

In the early 2000’s, Paul concentrated on music; writing song lyrics for his brother and his own bands. Paul was lead singer in a few rock bands during this time and still garners inspiration from music to this day. Paul gave up his musical aspirations in 2009.

In late 2012, Paul became unemployed and decided to make a serious attempt to make a name for himself as a writer. He went to work, penning several short stories and even dusting off the manuscript that had almost been published over a decade earlier. His efforts culminated in his first work being published in mid-2013, the flash fiction piece “Smoke” can be found in OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes: A Tribute To Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.

2013 was a productive year as he released his short story “Paradise Park” in both J. Ellington Ashton’s All That Remains anthology and separate anthology, Thirteen Vol 3. He also completed his debut novella in this time. Poor Jeffrey was first released to much praise in February 2014. In July 2014 his short story “Always Beneath” was released as part of CHBB’s Dark Light Four anthology.

In 2015 Paul contributed to two further anthologies: Demonology (Climbing Out) from Lycopolis Press and Behind Closed Doors (Apartment 16c) with fellow authors Matt Shaw, Michael Bray, Stuart Keane, and more.In 2016, Paul wrote the monologue, The Silent Invader, for a pitch TV series entitled Fragments of Fear. The resulting episode can be viewed now on YouTube, but the show was never aired. The text for the monologue was published in Matt Shaw’s Masters Of Horror anthology in 2017.

Paul continues to work on further material.

He remains in Sheffield, where he lives with his partner and two children. He consorts with his beta reading demons on a daily basis.

You can find more information on Paul Flewitt and his works here…

Amazon ** Facebook ** Twitter ** Instagram