The Scarlet Gospels (2015)

The Scarlet Gospels (2015)

The Scarlet Gospels (2015)

I’m gonna be honest right from the start and tell you all that I absolutely love Clive Barker. The man’s mind is limitless and he has a way of taking a common, standard setup and making something horrible out of it. I, like many other horror fans my age, was introduced to Barker back in the 1980s through his BOOKS OF BLOOD. These were a series of books (six volumes in total) that contained short stories on various topics. Not only were Barker’s stories bloody and gory, they were also scary, disturbing, and downright horrifying. “Pig Blood Blues,” “Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament,” “The Skins of the Fathers,” and “The Inhuman Condition” are just a few of the stories that still send shivers down my spine. Add to these collections of short stories Barker’s sixteen novels, and you’ve got one helluva career!!

Barker’s latest novel THE SCARLET GOSPELS is special for a few reasons. Not only is this novel the final one for one of his most well-known characters, Pinhead, but this novel also stars the recurring character, Harry D’Amour, an occult detective and private investigator who specializes in cases involving the occult. Harry’s entire body is covered in tattoos that offer him protection against various forms of evil. Harry’s first appearance was in the short story, “The Last Illusion,” and briefly appeared in the novel, THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW. Harry then pops up in another short story, “The Lost Souls,” and was a major character in the novel EVERVILLE. In THE SCARLET GOSPELS, Harry once again takes a central role as an occult investigator looking into some very bizarre occurrences that suck him down to the depths of Hell itself.

This novel is full of wonderfully bizarre and interesting characters that are all somehow connected to Harry D’Amour. There’s the blind psychic, Norma Paine who is perhaps Harry’s oldest and dearest friend; Carston Goode, a spirit who enlists Norma’s assistance in taking care of some of his business since he died; Caz, Harry’s friend who has a detailed knowledge of the occult and is the tattoo artist who put all the protection tats on Harry’s body; and Dale, a midget who saves Harry’s life in New Orleans but rejoins Harry and the others on their very important mission.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – NOVEMBER 09: Clive Barker signs copies of his new book “Abarat: Absolute Midnight” at Book Soup on November 9, 2011 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – NOVEMBER 09: Clive Barker signs copies of his new book “Abarat: Absolute Midnight” at Book Soup on November 9, 2011 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
And of course, there’s Pinhead, who hates to be called Pinhead and prefers the name, the Hell Priest. Early in the novel, Pinhead (I’m not afraid of Him… much) sets a trap for Harry in order to eliminate him as a possible hurdle in His grand plan. When Pinhead fails, he devises another plan, but this one involves Harry being the witness and the documenter of His plan and execution. Norma warns Harry that something monumental is going to soon happen in the spirit world, but none of them were prepared for what Pinhead has planned!!

Barker always fills his novels and short stories with colorful, quirky characters, and THE SCARLET GOSPELS is no exception. There’s characters you love, ones you hate, and yes, ones you love to hate. The reader also gets more background details on Harry D’Amour. Harry is a complex and interesting character and Barker fleshes him out in this novel. I also enjoyed the time Barker took to get inside one of the horror genre’s greatest characters, Pinhead. We get some detailed background info on Pinhead as well, and learn more about what makes the Hell Priest tick. The characters alone is worth the price of the novel!!

What I thoroughly enjoyed, though, was Barker’s lengthy descriptions of Hell. The majority of the novel takes place in Satan’s domain and Barker gives us tons of details and describes it so well that I thought I visited that realm myself. Hell, though, isn’t the fire and brimstone of tradition. Barker’s Hell is a thriving civilization that resembles Ancient Rome more than the pictures of Bosch. Satan, in fact, disappeared from Hell shortly after he arrived. Pinhead kidnaps Norma and takes her to Hell, forcing Harry and the others to chase after them. Harry soon learns that Pinhead has been using His knowledge of human magic to eliminate the various ruling classes of Hell. Pinhead needed to eliminate these people so they wouldn’t stand in his way of completing his journey to the rumored Cathedral of Lucifer, where Pinhead hopes to meet the Devil Himself.

Along the way we meet the various creatures that inhabit Hell and each one we meet is more strange and bizarre than the previous. Barker’s descriptions of Hell are remarkable and the creatures that inhabit that domain will visit and haunt your dreams. Everything culminates in Pinhead and Satan’s meeting, but it doesn’t go down the way you think it will!! If nothing else, Barker is still full of surprises.


I really enjoyed this novel and appreciated how far Barker has come in his writing. In his early works I sometimes felt Barker’s imagination was more than his writing could handle. But Barker really hit his stride in 1991s IMAJICA, and he has only gotten better since. The Hell in THE SCARLET GOSPELS is a chilling vision of what might have evolved in the absence of its ruler. But even more, is that Barker made it clear in promoting this novel that this will be the final installment in Pinhead’s journey’s. The climax is action-packed and awe-inspiring and had me reading it over and over again to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

THE SCARLET GOSPELS is a fitting end to the character of Pinhead and is a nice send off for Harry D’Amour as well. If you haven’t already, you need to check this novel out. You won’t be disappointed.

who is clive barker?

 clive barker?

clive barker?

“I have seen the future of horror and its name is Clive Barker.”

Clive Barker, writer, producer, novelist, director, and playwright, was born by Cesarean section at 1:00 am on October 5, 1952, near Penny Lane, Liverpool. He first realized he could scare people with his words telling stories around a campfire with fellow Boy Scouts when he was ten years old. It gave him “a lovely sense of power.”

He started out writing and directing plays for a fringe theater company he formed in London, producing works such as “Frankenstein in Love,” “The History of the Devil,” and “Colossus,” a play about his favorite painter, Goya. These plays often delved into the erotic, the fantastical, and the horrific, themes that he would later become known for in his literary work. Many of his plays have been collected in two books, Incarnations and Forms of Heaven.

In his spare time, Barker wrote short horror fiction, not expecting to be able to sell it. However, the first publisher he showed it to asked for more, and his stories were published in three volumes in 1984, under the title, The Books of Blood. Moderately successful in Great Britain, the Books found wide critical acclaim in the United States, and now appear in over a dozen languages.

By 1987, two of Barker’s stories had been adapted into movies — Rawhead Rex and Underworld. He was highly dissatisfied with both of them, and decided to direct something himself. The result was an adaptation of his story The Hellbound Heart — a film called Hellraiser.

Today, Barker’s Seraphim Films is involved in CD-ROMs, live theater and art, as well as film and television production. Barker has done everything from major motion pictures for Universal to creating a line of superhero comics for Marvel called Razorline. does barker prefer to write books or make movies? While Barker doesn’t generally say which he likes better, he has said:

“It’s much harder to write a book, at least for me. When making the movie, you are surrounded by other creators, other imaginations all of whom are there to collaborate with you in the process. When I write a novel I am essentially on my own with a pen, a lot of paper, and my ideas — for anything up to 18 months. There is no recourse to other contributors. I am on my own.” [1]
is clive barker gay?

Yes, he is. While he never made any effort to conceal the fact, he did talk openly about his sexual orientation in 1995 interviews in the magazines “OUT,” “The Advocate,” “Genre,” and “10 Percent.” Many Barker fans had already guessed this from some of the themes that reoccur in his work. He writes:

“As a gay writer/filmmaker, I think it’s inevitable that some of my characters and situations echo my orientation. It is, however, a problem to push these elements as far as I would like. By and large, the horror audience is curiously conservative when it comes to erotic matters.” [1]
Naturally, however, Barker is a little too complex to be so easily defined. He also writes:

“I define myself as a gay man who’s had relationships with women. […] I am bound, by political reasons much than anything else, [to] say, well, I’m a gay author. And, I’m very happy to be identified that way. Proud to be identified that way. Is it a simplification? Yes. Is it a politically useful simplification right now? I suspect it is. I suspect it’s important to say that right now. Not because I have a boyfriend and he’d be really pissed off if I didn’t… but, I also think it’s important to say, get over it.” [6]
how can i contact clive barker?

Unfortunately, Barker does not have an e-mail address — he doesn’t even have a computer, preferring to write most of his books by hand — but you can write to him at:

If you’re contacting him because you’d like to perform one of his plays, please see the instructions in Incarnations or Forms of Heaven. All productions must be approved by: Ben Smith ICM Clive Barker’s A-Z of Horror, compiled by Stephen Jones Graphic novels (comics): London : Bloodline (Night of the Living Dead Series) Vol 1 what barker book should i try reading first?

It would depend what your interests are. If you’re looking for horror, try The Books of Blood, or, if you’d rather leap in and try a novel, try The Damnation Game. If you got interested in Barker because of the Hellraiser films, you’ll definitely want to read the story that started it all, The Hellbound Heart.

If your tastes lean more toward fantasy, you’ll probably want to try Weaveworld or The Great and Secret Show. who are some of barker’s favorite writers? He lists among his influences Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, Herman Melville, William Blake, William Burroughs, Arthur Machen, and both the old and new Testaments of the Bible. Other favorites include Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Jean Genet, and Poppy Z. Brite. what’s barker’s favorite of his own novels?

Barker writes: “`Imajica’ was my favorite writing experience. A totally obsessive immersion in an invented world. I got the highest highs and the lowest lows out of that experience.” [1] does barker still consider himself a “horror writer?” Not particularly. Barker writes:

“I think I consider myself a plain old imaginative writer. I think I’m less and less labeled a Horror writer. The books tend not to go on Horror shelves anymore and when they do, when I find them on a Horror shelf, I tend to take them off.” [3] why can’t i find the books of blood, volumes 4, 5, and 6?

Probably because you’re looking for them under the wrong title. In the United States, because the second set of volumes were reprinted by a different publisher than the first set, they were given different titles. Look for them as The Inhuman Condition, In the Flesh, and Cabal. has barker written any short stories that weren’t in the books of blood? Yes, he has. Some of his short stories include: “Pidgin and Theresa” (appeared in The Penguin Book of London Short Stories) “On Amen’s Shores” (appeared in Little Deaths and Demons and Deviants ) “Animal Life” (originally appeared in USA Today — now available on-line here)

He has also written a short novel, a framing sequence for an anthology called Revelations, that spans the twentieth century. The framing stories are entitled Chiliad: A Meditation – Men and Sin and Chiliad: A Meditation – A Moment at the River’s Heart. Revelations was edited by Douglas Winter. It’s available in the UK under the title Millennium.

All of these stories should be reprinted in the new, as yet untitled anthology Barker is currently working on, along with new short fiction. what stories does the character harry d’amour appear in? D’Amour, Barker’s hard-boiled supernatural detective, appears in the novels The Great and Secret Show and its sequel, Everville.

He also appears in the short stories The Last Illusion (which was the basis for the movie Lord of Illusions) and Lost Souls (originally printed in the magazine Time Out and reprinted in the anthology Cutting Edge). Barker admits to being fascinated with Harry D’Amour. He also says:

“Harry was always intended as a character we could revisit. And, of course, he has a large place in the third Book of the Art.” [7]
what does everville have to do with the great and secret show?

Everville is the sequel to The Great and Secret Show, and has many of the same characters and settings. It stands well as a story on its own, however, and you can read it without having read the first book.

The novels are the first two volumes of a proposed trilogy, The Books of the Art. The videotape of Clive Barker’s student films was released by a company called Redemption, and is available from a variety of sources, including It’s available on both VHS and DVD.

did clive write any other stories concerning the cenobites? Not yet; he only wrote about these angels of pain in The Hellbound Heart. However, he is working on a new Hellraiser story for his new anthology.

“[…] It was kind of interesting because I thought I would do these things and I thought ‘Geez, I want to tell a story about the man with pins in his head. I haven’t told about him for a long time.’ I’m looking forward to that.” [5] In the meantime, if you’re interested in seeing other authors’ takes on the concept, however, you might want to track down some of the Hellraiser comic books from Epic, especially Clive Barker’s Book of the Damned: A Hellraiser Companion, which came out long before Hellraiser: Bloodline, and therefore presents a very different look at the life of Philip LeMarchand. how much did barker have to do with the hellraiser sequels?

Not much. He sold his rights to Hellraiser for $1 million in the deal that allowed him to direct the first film. Hellraiser 2: Hellbound, while based on a story by Barker, was directed by Tony Randall. Although he was listed as “Executive Producer” of the films, he had no creative input in making Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth, which was directed by Tony Hickox; or Hellraiser: Bloodline, which was directed by Kevin Yagher, but released under the name “Alan Smithee” because Yagher was dissatisfied with the studio’s edit of the film; or in the forthcoming Hellraiser: Inferno.

where can i get a replica of the hellraiser puzzle box?

There was a very good, full-size replica of the Lament Configuration made by Screamin’ Products. Although they seem to have gone out of business, you can still sometimes find it available for sale at science fiction and horror conventions — so if you do see one, buy it now while you still can.

Do note, however, that the replica is just a box, and not a real puzzle — it doesn’t open in the same way that the ones in the films do. (On the bright side, it also doesn’t open portals to Hell . . . . ) what happened to the hellraiser cd-rom game?

Hellraiser: Virtual Hell was a real-time 3D adventure game created by Magnetic Interactive Studios. Based on the popular Hellraiser films, Doug Bradley reprised his role as Pinhead for this game. A CD-ROM game for Pentium-based machines, Virtual Hell was scheduled for release at the end of 1996, but never showed up. Michelle Seebach of Magnetic Interactive Studios reportedly said about the project:

“unfortunately, magnet was unable to secure a publisher for the game and had to stop production. so currently the game has been shelved.” [4]
Magnet is said to have gone out of business shortly thereafter. what book is barker working on now? Barker’s current project combines his writing with his paintings. He writes:

“I don’t know how familiar you are with the paintings but many of them, I wouldn’t say tell a complete story. My paintings seem to be fragments of narrative. I’m doing a book right now for Harper Collins which won’t come out for another year and a half called The Book of Hours which is a book of stories created around a series of paintings which I’ve made. Huge paintings. […] It’s for Harper Collins children. I hope it will reach the adult audience.” [5]
“I realized that some of what draws me to the Book of Hours project is those things you get in Star Wars; a whole universe of creatures, worlds and landscapes. I hope the Book of Hours will provide the same pleasures, where you will be able to step into this place and have a sense that it is totally realized in paint and poetry. It is an alternative universe, the way Narnia is or Middle Earth. The uniqueness of this project is the same hand that is writing the words is also painting the pictures. I think that will make this fun for people.” [2]

This project is now known as The Abarat Quartet, and the first book should be published in November 2001. Disney is spending $8 million for the film and multimedia rights, and there are plans to develop movies, TV series, theme-park rides, video games and more. [2] Barker is also currently working on a collection of short stories. Getting his publishers to agree to this was no small feat. He writes:

“The problem right now is getting my publishers to agree to let me do short fiction. It’s a troubled market right now. Books are a troubled market. [… My publishers] said, ‘Please don’t do this. You will sell five times more if you write a novel.’ It’s really tough selling short stories. […] It frustrates the fuck out of me. I love short stories. I love writing short stories.” [6]
Stories in the collection will include: reprints of older, hard-to-find material; a set of new medieval fantasy stories entitled, “Mercy and the Jackal;” and a new novella entitled, “The Last Resrequiem,” featuring the familiar characters, Harry D’Amour and Pinhead. There will be approximately eighteen stories in all, plus introductions for each. The book is tentatively scheduled to be released in the late fall of 2000.

“Cold Heart Canyon,” originally said to be part of the anthology, is apparently going to be released as a short novel, to be published by Harper Collins in April 2001. The story is set in Los Angeles in the 1930’s. [2]

He is also reportedly working on a compilation of erotic drawings and prose vignettes for Callaway Editions. [7] when is the next book of the art going to be released? Unknown at this point, although he is actively working on it: “The third Book of the Art takes place in Quiddity, the Dream Sea […] I have been planning that for five years, and I have 500, maybe 600 pages of notes towards that novel. A week doesn’t go by without my contributing something to that.” [7] It is taking quite some time, however, since it is such an immense project:

“I have a book in my head… and it’s going to be huge. And I know it’s going to be huge. And there’s a sense of which I have to gear myself up for a big book like that. The key thing for me is waiting for the moment when I have all the ideas in place. Because large narrative structures like that, if you begin without knowing where you are going, forget it. I’ve got Tesla, I’ve got Harry, I’ve got all these characters in play at the same time. And I have to resolve them all in one mammoth narrative line, which I have in my head… I need to be ready […] and it’s eighteen months of my life. And when I sit down, I know it’s going to consume me. And, I also know, this is not a rehearsal, I’ve got to get this right.
“[…] Tesla Bombeck has been released into this place about stories, this place where all stories happen with equal validity, in a way. So, the final book, to some extent is about what story is. And, it’s a big subject for a storyteller. For a storyteller not to simply write, ‘once upon a time’, but to write about what ‘once upon a time’ means, is a big subject. And I want to make sure that when I tell it, I have the right answers.” [6]

what film projects does barker have in the works?

Barker has a project in development right now with New Line. Currently titled American Horror, the film will be set in the 1860’s in the Old West during the expansion of the railroads. Although the title and subject matter are American, the film will have a European feel to it, like Dracula and Frankenstein. Barker is writing and directing the film. [8]
There is reportedly going to be a live action version of The Thief of Always, directed by Bernard Rose for Universal, with effects by Industrial Light and Magic. The animated version of The Thief of Always has fallen through, as Barker explains:

“After the phenomenal success of The Lion King, no one seemed comfortable about going up against Disney [….] We were pitching Thief around and, though people seemed willing to fund modestly scaled animated pictures, they didn’t want to make a really elaborate one. And I was not comfortable with the idea of not doing this the proper way.” [7]
No release date in sight for the Director’s Cut of Nightbreed, although it’s a project that Barker still very much wants to do:

“I think I need to step up to the plate in cleanest, clearest way I can and without apology, and with as little interference from the MPAA as possible. That’s why I’ve always tried to put out uncensored versions of things. We’re still hoping that we eventually get an edition of Nightbreed on DVD and laser which will replace the 25 minutes that are missing.” [5]
Shock Cinema, which was being developed for television, seems to have become a feature film project. It and Ectosphere are in development for Spelling Films. Also, Barker and Seraphim Films have been hired to develop ideas for three films based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe.

Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II will be released on Special Edition DVDs from Anchor Bay Entertainment. These editions will be THX approved, and feature full commentary tracks from Clive Barker and a documentary, Resurrection, featuring the original cast members.

what projects is barker working on for television? A TV movie entitled Silo is in development for Fox. Silo reportedly deals with a creature made of flies and worms that haunts killing fields. Weaveworld is still in development to be adapted for television by Showtime. The screenplay was written by Michael Marshall Smith, author of the novels Only Forward and Spares. Peter Lenkov has been hired to re-write.

Also in development are a series for HBO called “Heretics,” and a series that will debut on the DirecTV satellite service entitled “Witness To Fear,” about tabloid-TV producers who discover that the world of the paranormal they report on is actually real.

No longer in development are a series called “Retribution” for Fox and a TV movie entitled Hoop Hell. Also, Shock Cinema is apparently no longer a television project, but a feature film project. will there ever be a sequel (or another sequel) to . . . ? Galilee? Barker does plan to write a second Galilee novel. Hellraiser? Hellraiser V: Inferno recently finished principal photography, and is now in post-production. The film is directed by Doug Aarniokoski and written by Michael Lent. As with the other Hellraiser sequels, Barker has no direct involvement with this project.

Lord Of Illusions? Discussions still continue about a possible sequel as either a film or a possible television series. The direct-to-video sequel entitled Vipex is reportedly still under consideration, according to Barker:

“That’s still in the works. It hasn’t gone away, it has just taken a back seat to a whole bunch of other things that have been going on […] I provided a story. The script — which is very good — was written by David Campbell Wilson, who wrote this new movie Supernova which Walter Hillis directing. It’s a really first-rate scripts, but we just haven’t focused a lot on the project.” [7] Scott Bakula is reportedly still enthusiastic about reprising his role as Harry D’Amour.  Nightbreed? Barker says:

“There will certainly be a book at some point, and I would love there to be a movie. There is just so much going on right now, but don’t discount the possibility.” [2] He has reportedly been considering writing a Nightbreed story for his new anthology.

The January Interview:

 Clive Barker

Clive Barker

He likes to shock people. I don’t know why this should surprise me about Clive Barker the man, but it does. I’d expected — I don’t know — someone less flamboyant and larger-than-life than the work he creates. I was wrong. “You’re like total renaissance guy,” I say. We’re in the lounge of Vancouver’s stately Hotel Sylvia. The light is subdued, the atmosphere quiet and elegant. “You make movies, you create books, you paint. Any other creative things you do?”

And he looks at me — wide set blue eyes in a youthful and somehow oddly innocent face and says, “Fuck.” From the source, then: Clive Barker fucks creatively. Later and we’re taking photos outside the hotel. Barker insists that the publicist who he’s spent much of the last three days with must have her photo taken with him. He plunks her onto his knee. “I’m not hurting your lap, am I?” she chirps innocently.

“Not at all,” he replies. “Just my penis.” The publicist blushes prettily — the desired effect — just as the moment is captured. And Barker is pleased. You can see that he’s pleased. Clive Barker likes to shock people. Even in groups of ones and twos.

Shock value alone does not a character make. Perhaps no one knows this better than Clive Barker. Barker himself is frank, charming, incredibly lucid and literate and owns an aura of happy sensuality that defies easy categorization. Barker recently announced his homosexuality, simultaneously debuting his latest book — Sacrament — that the writer himself says is largely autobiographical and whose main character is a gay man. Linda Richards: How far into your book tour are you.

Clive Barker: This is the last interview in six weeks. LR: I know. I did that on purpose. I thought if I got you right at the end you’d be relaxed. And you’ve been in Vancouver two days. Do you like it? CB: Yeah. I’ve been here lots of times before so I’m pretty familiar with it. You have the cutest boys. [grins] LR: We have beautiful people in this city. CB: Yes, I’ve noticed. LR: One of the things I really loved about the main character in Sacrament, Will Rabjohns, is that he’s just who he is. He’s not like, ‘Hi. I’m Will Rabjohns and I’m a homosexual.’

CB: No, right, right. That’s absolutely right. I think it happens less than it used to. I think the issue of queerness is less than it used to be. Honestly. And I think that’s happening in the culture in general. I mean, there are queer characters in sitcoms and dramas: god help us Robin Williams is playing one. It’s just much less of an issue. Having said that, yesterday I did a radio interview with someone who was seriously freaked by being asked to identify with a gay character. Then he was brought round by the novel. But he said there was a moment there when he realized what he was in for. LR: My take on the novel — and I feel very arrogant in saying this to the author… CB: You can say it.

LR: I felt that homosexuality was a sub-text in the novel. It was part of his life and it of course brought him to the decisions he was making. CB: Yes. LR: It wasn’t here [indicates in his face] all the time. CB: Yeah well, it’s not right here any more than your heterosexuality is right here in front of you all the time either. LR: That’s my point. Yet that’s unusual in fiction.

CB: Well that’s because very often gayness — and actually sexuality in general — is seen as a problem. An issue. Instead it’s simply a fact. A movable fact, a shifting fact. A malleable fact. We’re protean beings. We’re not fixed. Right? I mean we’re not even fixed in our sexuality, we’re not fixed in our gender identification, I don’t believe. I’ve had girlfriends and I don’t doubt that at some point or another I may stray again. How boring to be fixed.

The other thing is that fiction is about entering into other people’s lives and entering lives which are different from your own. I wanted to be able to allow the readers into a world which is not going to be primarily their own. But a world which was closely observed enough that if they wanted to go to the Castro and visit the sex club they could go to it. I thought that was kind of fun to do.

LR: And there are some beautiful love scenes in the book. Some beautiful sexual scenes. CB: Sure. And all that stuff about Will when he first goes to Boston as a 19 year old. That’s all me. That was me in Boston when I was 19 and 20.

LR: Yeah, I was going to ask you how much of the book was autobiographical. CB: Well, that stuff all was. And — uh — when I was 20 I had a… hmmm… how am I going to say this? I had an older admirer that facilitated a lot of things. And so I went to Boston and I spent a lot of time in America when I was young.

LR: Is the book out in the United States yet? CB: Yes. It’s in its fourth printing. LR: And how are the prudish Americans taking it? CB: It’s interesting. The reviews are great. You probably know more about the Internet response than I do. Because I don’t have a computer, I don’t access any of that stuff. So I don’t know what the fans are saying out there. I know there’s a larger gay presence at the signings I do. Or, a more visible gay presence at the signings. LR: A lot of people are saying that Sacrament is a really big departure for you. Do you feel it is?

CB: No. Not really. I mean, the concerns of the book are human concerns. I’ve always tried to write out of human concerns. People have said that they thought the style was different. I suppose it’s more poetic in a way than some of my previous books. There’s a trade off. The more realistic the fiction the more I wanted to express it poetically. When you’re writing fantastical material — very fantastical material — it becomes a stylistic necessity, I think, to be very plain. The more fantastical the book becomes, the plainer it needs to get. You don’t want readers to feel you’re hiding an insecurity about what you’re describing behind a little firework display of language. Do you see what I’m saying? LR: I do.

CB: You want to be able to say, ‘I see this plainly in my mind’s eye. I’m witnessing this plainly in my mind’s eye. Here is the scene I am seeing. Here is my language. It’s clean. It’s clear. You can trust my vision because I know it inside out. I know what the back of the thing looks like. I know what the front of the thing… here it is.’ So what tends to happen with the language is it tends to simplify in relation to how extreme the fantastical elements are. When the setting of the thing has been real, I can go! I can go. ‘To every hour its mystery.’ I mean I’m off, you know? The freedom to be poetic! One of my very favorite chapters of a book is the Whiteness of the Whale [Moby Dick] which is a celebration of the whiteness of whales. Some whales are white and we see them poetically. You know?

LR: Sacrament is a lovely book. I’ve been enjoying your books for many years and I agree. I don’t think it’s a huge departure. I think all of your books have been huge departures from each other.

CB: Right! And that irritates the hell out of any publishers. Because the way to stay on the bestseller list is to actually repeat yourself. To just do again what you did last time. To establish that the audience is in place and then just do it. That is a creative graveyard for me. I mean, I understand that for other people that’s something they want to do and I respect that. For me, I just can’t go to my desk for 14 months and do something that I did before. God knows how Daniel Steele gets through those books. LR: But Cabal and Imajika and Weaveworld — just to take a cross-section — they’re all really different and could perhaps have been written by a different author.

CB: Right. Because they were written by different authors. They’re written by different human beings. I keep changing. Here we go back to the protean qualities of our natures. Picasso’s Blue period doesn’t look like his Cubist period. 2001 doesn’t look like Paths of Glory. People who are growing and enriching themselves need to tell different kinds of stories.

LR: I guess I personally will keep reading because I enjoy your prose. There are people who genre-fy it, but I like your work because it entertains and moves me. CB: Right. I think it is really hard to genre-fy. LR: Put it in one.

CB: Imaginative fiction. Book stores, particularly the large book stores: the chains — are very concerned with finding little niches where you put a certain kind of book. If it was translated from the Portuguese it would be Magic Realism, you know. LR: Which it will be, probably. CB: It will be translated into Portuguese, yeah. But if it were translated back from. If I had a three barreled name and were living in Rio, it would be Magic Realism.

You know, some of the books are in as many as 23 languages. The Russian response to these books is passionate. The Korean response to these books is passionate. A lot of that is to do with, I believe, a kind of mythic commonality. Something which proves Jung right. That the images which move us at root are common whatever culture you live in. There are Eden stories and there are flood stories and there are crucified god stories. And there are stories of animal spirits, there are stories of journeys taken into fantastic cities and so on and so forth across the planet.

One of the things I try to do in my fiction is strip it of particulars. Like there are no references to what kind of cigarettes people smoke. What kind of booze is going down their throats. There are very few references to movies. I hate it when writers stoop to, as I see it, something which is so particular that it’s almost as if they’re making a cultural reference to give you shorthand to the feeling. LR: Like Ian Fleming.

CB: Yeah, yeah exactly. But let me give you a — for me — much more intense example. Are you familiar with Angels in America? You know the plays or you know of them? Seven hours of amazing theater. It’s in two parts. At the end of the first half of the play, the angel comes to find the man who has AIDs and imparts a vision. It’s extraordinary. Read it! Because it’s great on the page.

His name is Prior and he’s dying and the angel has come with this transforming vision. He’s lying in his bed in a night sweat and he hears the voices from heaven. And the angel descends. Three and a half hours of theater have led up to this revelation. And it’s halfway through the play. There’s going to be a second play the next night that’s going to be another three and a half hours. So you’ve gotten to this moment and your eyes sting with tears and he looks up and he says, “Very Stephen Spielberg.” And I hated that. It makes me crazy. And of course the audience loves it. It’s complete playing to the gallery. But it’s cheap, you know? It feels like a shorthand. And I swear that Kushner will regret it. I swear that at some point he’ll rewrite it. Because, for one thing, that’s not going to mean anything in 20 years and for another thing he completely makes the moment trivial.

I try really hard to avoid that. Now that means sometimes that the language is denied a kind of colloquialism which would make it more comfy. And there’s a trade-off. There’s a reason why you go for a Grisham or a King or a Clancy or whatever. You find these books are filled up with brand names or movie titles because it makes it easy to say, “Oh, I’m there.” LR: Like a plot device, or a characterization device Because you don’t need to explain the Marlboro smoker…

CB: No. Exactly. There he is. And it’s an easy piece of shorthand. And it makes these things disposable, I think, in a way you absolutely don’t want them to be if you’re writing fiction. You know, if Madam Bovary had been described in terms of the very particular cigarettes that she smoked or carriages she drove in or perfume that she wore and those were ways that we had understood who she was, she wouldn’t be the wonderful, extraordinary, mythic literary character. It makes characters subject to the travails of time.

There are wonderfully colloquial writers who write in their own inventive vernacular. Chandler is one. He invented a voice which is completely his own and he’s stripped bare of the kind of hip references that we’re talking about. Our culture loves that. If I see one more reference to the hamburger conversation in Pulp Fiction I’ll scream. Right? How hip can that be? “You know what they call a hamburger in Paris?” It’s very hip. It’s of the moment. Incredibly clever. Incredibly clever. But disposable? I think so. LR: So that type of literature, once it becomes historical might become a kind of curiosity?

CB: Right. There’s interest in curiosity. You know, Blake says “Eternity is in love with the product of time.” So maybe the eternal loves the particular. But there is something about fantastic fiction that for me needs to be able to move effortlessly from the particular in this moment to another place; to be both natural and supernatural, both visible and invisible: needs to partake of two worlds. And the ease of that process — back and forth — is facilitated, I believe, by not making this place too much about right now. Enough about right now for us to feel that we understand the character: that we can smell the air. One of the reasons that in some of my books I can take these huge jumps into other dimensions or whatever is because the reality into which the characters are leaping and jumping is not too particular.

The tide of our imaginations moves out from the real to the unreal. And from the visible into the invisible. From the natural into the supernatural. And the backwash comes back at us. And the backwash takes and informs the world. One of the things I want to do as a writer is from the first word — from the first sentence — I am describing a reality which — even though you as the reader may not realize it — is already informed by this backwash. So that the first paragraph of Sacrament “To every hour its mystery” and all that stuff, says, ‘here is the human day seen mythically.’ That’s the level which I’m going to ask you to read this book. So now let’s get into the particulars of a man on a doorstep. Right?

Weaveworld. We start with something which is about what storytelling is, and then we go into the story. It’s the equivalent of what happens at the beginning of many Shakespearean plays. A character effectively comes on and says ‘Listen to this extraordinary tale. Let me tell you about poetry and dreams,’ and so you’re predisposed to partake of poetry and dreams. One of the things I think we’ve lost is that leap. Movies are to blame. And TV is to blame. It’s because our popular culture is all about moments. It’s all about particulars. LR: It’s all delivered.

CB: Right. It’s all delivered. And it’s all delivered in a way that makes us recognize it as being right. LR: There’s no participation. CB: Oh forget participation. I mean, it’s passive. Completely passive. LR: And you have a hand in that. Because you make movies. How’s that for a segue?

CB: Well, it’s a good segue. Because the movies are a great hobby. But I don’t take them seriously. I mean, they keep me in a kind of public eye that frankly is useful for sales of the books, no question. A lot of people turn up for a signing because they’ve seen the movies. No question. I’m sufficient enough a fan of Karloff and Legosi and the great horror movies of the past to feel flattered that a couple of characters that I’ve written about or have appeared in movies [I’ve made] have joined some kind of dubious halcyon of beasts. And that’s very fun. But that’s all it is. It’s not books. It’s not real stuff. LR: Do you see Sacrament as morphing into a movie?

CB: No. Into a mini-series, maybe. But, no. There’s not a two hour movie in this book. And movies are dumb. And movies are getting dumber. And the audiences are getting dumbed down as a consequence. I have less and less patience with movies. I love painting. I love writing. And I like movies. LR: You’re like total renaissance guy too because you do all these things. You make movies, you create books, you paint. Any other creative things you do? CB: Fuck. LR: (Laughter) That’s the only way to do it.

CB: Ummm. The model is Cocteau. My great hero is [Jean] Cocteau. Because he made movies, wrote plays, painted pictures, wrote novels. But what he said was it’s all one business, it’s all one process. It’s all being a poet. And what I would say is though I do all these things, it’s all doing the same thing. It’s breathing with my eyes open, it’s being an imaginer. I see something shamanistic about the process. As the shaman goes out into the dream side and comes back to the tribe and reports what he or she has seen in that space. So I think that novelists go out into a space that is essentially a psychic space — a commonly held space — and report back and say, “That’s what I saw.”

I want to be a witness. I want to be a good witness. I want to be a good journalist. And I want to set myself in a place where I can simply see the vast view of the psyche. And then report. And get out of my own way. I mean, the problem for most writers is being in their own light. Is being too present. Is being too concerned. I wish someone had told me as a kid that all you’re doing is being a journalist. I wish someone had said it’s not about style, it’s not about effect. It’s about listening and seeing and speaking in the clearest way you possibly can what you saw and heard. On a day to day basis all you can do as a writer is make a report of where you are on that day. If you’ve done it properly, by the following day the very process of making the thing has changed you. So when you look back you should not be the following morning the person you were before. Do you see what I mean? LR: I do.

CB: Because the process of having lived the fiction should have changed you to some degree and that means that the report that you make the following day is going to be a different report. I wish someone had told me to leave it alone. Because there comes a point where you’re not making it better, you’re just making it different and you’re actually grubbying up or over intellectualizing or over-polishing something that — if you were doing it properly — was speaking from the heart. If we’re taking our journeys as beings of spirit, as thinking, creative human beings with sufficient energy and intensity and feeling then we’re transforming. And we’re churning things up, and then we don’t have it to churn anymore. And the very fact that we no longer have it to churn means we’re not the people that we were before.

LR: Are you working on something right now? CB: Always. LR: Are you at a stage where you can talk about it? CB: No. (laughs) Because it’s 14 months from delivery. Nobody is going to see it for 14 months. So it’s in a very sweet and private place. LR: And you’re a technophobe. I’ve heard that you describe yourself as such. CB: I’m a terrible technophobe. Nothing mechanical. LR: Not even a typewriter? You write in longhand?

CB: Yes. I begin. I write a draft without ever looking back. Without ever touching what’s gone before. Because I think it will be shit, so I daren’t look back. I write a draft. I start again. I have the text when I start the second draft and then I do the same thing a third time.

LR: And then someone types it. CB: Yes. LR: Because editors don’t read longhand. Or maybe yours do? CB: Editors don’t tend to touch my work. They don’t even read them, you know? There were 14,000 hand written pages for Imajica. LR: Do you have a favorite weapon? Like, do you have to have perfectly sharpened number two pencils, or…? CB: No. It can be any kind of paper and it can be any kind of pen or ink. It doesn’t bother me much. I mean, I’m not even seeing it. You know, it’s not there. You know that feeling. LR: Are you working on a movie right now?

CB: The sequel to Lord of Illusions is in the works right now. But I’ve been away for six weeks now, so I haven’t really focused on any of that stuff. I’ve been doing 12 interviews a day and a signing. LR: Are you exhausted? You’re drained, huh?

CB: I am. I am wiped. And yet, we are in a marketplace now where a huge number of books are published every month. Every week. You have to get out there and talk about the thing you made. You have to go and talk about it. It makes a difference. It puts books on bookseller lists. It gets them review space. It does all of those things. We’re competing with an incredible amount of information, you know? I feel the need to jump up and down and holler and yell and say ‘Here’s the thing that took 14 months of my life.’ Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of Mad Money. Photographs by David Middleton Comment? Free IQ Test!Category: Barker, Clive

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