With a planned publication date of May 2015, Clive Barker’s long-awaited and eagerly anticipated novel ‘The Scarlet Gospels’ was set to bring together Barker’s much-loved character’s Harry D’Amour with possibly his most well-known antagonist - Pinhead.

DLS Synopsis:
Joseph Ragowski had been dead for three years; his body having been hastily embalmed and filed away within the family mausoleum at a cemetery on the outskirts of Hamburg.  But now he’s been woken from his eternal slumber.

The remaining five magicians making up the last of the High Circle had called upon their age old knowledge and brought the dead magician back using power of The N’guize Working.  It was magic that took a vast amount of precise preparation.  But they had their reasons for doing this.  Over the years since Ragowski’s death, a demon had been methodically ending the lives and pillaging the minds of the many magicians of the Circle.  Furthermore, the demon had taken all of their treaties, scrolls and grimoires.  He’d cleared out all their vestments, all the talismans and all the amulets.  Now these five magicians were all that were left.  And they needed Ragowski’s help.

However, Ragowski knew the fallacy of their actions.  There was no escaping the demon.  And as Ragowski is woken from his death, so the whispering sound of funeral bells can be heard from afar.  A haunting chime that signals that their time is up.  The demon has finally caught up with them.  And there end is upon them.

Elsewhere, private investigator Harry D’Amour has been called in by his age-old friend Norma Paine, to assist with a seemingly run-of-the-mill job.  Recently deceased Carston Goode has come to Norma with a problem.  Following his heart attack, Goode is concerned that his family will find out about the secret property he has in New Orleans, and in particular, the debauchery that took place behind its shabby walls.

With a more than adequate stash of money offered for saving Goode’s family the hurt of finding out about Goode’s sordid pleasures, D’Amour agrees to travel back to New Orleans to clear up the man’s little indiscretions.  However, what D’Amour finds in this rundown little house in the French Quarter of New Orleans is far worse than he anticipated.  What D’Armour doesn’t realise, is that there’s much more going on within the rundown rooms of Goode’s secret property than simple pleasures of the flesh.

D’Amour is about to be flung into a desperate fight that will drag him and those close to him into the gaping mouth of the abyss.  A war is about to be waged.  And if there’s one thing to be learned from the almighty battle that’s about to commence, it’s that Hell hath no fury like a Cenobite scorned…

DLS Review:
It’s fair to say that Clive Barker’s ‘The Scarlet Gospels’ is probably one of the most eagerly anticipated horror novels of recent years.  Ever since Barker first started mentioning his plans for the book, hinting at aspects of the storyline in the text, and where his much-loved characters will venture; his fans have been uncontrollably salivating at the whole idea.  It’s a piece of work that’s taken Barker years and years to write.  It’s gone from being an epic page-heavy tome to a much more condensed down and direction-led read.

The tale sets out with a dark and brooding storyline, feeling closely akin to Barker’s original Cenobite tale ‘The Hellbound Heart’ (1986).  The setting is murky and the Dark Arts on show add an air of eerie menace to the whole thing.  In a nutshell, the storyline starts out in a fan-pleasing classic ‘early Barker’ fashion.  And then, with the sound of a distant funeral bell chiming, Baker’s signature antagonist arrives in all his blasphemous and ungodly glory.  Could a novel get any more exciting?

We’re still only in the realms of the novel’s Prologue here and already ‘The Scarlet Gospels’ is delivering everything you wanted it to…and in absolute abundance.  Furthermore, Barker’s attention to detail is as present as it’s always been, his dark imagination is as boundless as we’ve ever seen it, and his return to positively-twisted horror is as accomplished as we all inwardly hoped it would be.

However, as the story unfolds before us it becomes increasingly evident that Barker hasn’t simply just returned to the style of writing from his early days.  Yes the novel is as dark and sinister as his ‘Books Of Blood’ (1984-85) collections, or indeed ‘The Hellbound Heart’ (1986).  However, Barker’s more recent style and taste for a far grander scope has had a dramatic influence on this new offering.  It’s taken the early horror-fuelled darkness and pushed further outwards with what reveals – making for a far more epic vision and storyline.

The first quarter or so of the novel is one of introducing and establishing the characters, reconfirming out principal protagonist (Harry D’Amour) and our principal antagonist (the Hell Priest ‘Pinhead’), and setting out the initial building  blocks for the plot.  Interestingly, Barker seems to have taken a step back from producing a bold and clearly defined plot.  Instead we have a vague idea of something that’s gradually evolving, with a direction and potential endgame only visible from much further on in the tale that you would have expected.

Character-wise, Barker again has adopted his more ‘fantasy novel’ angle of bringing together a ‘group of companions’ (who he dubs ‘The Harrowers’) who around the halfway point of the novel become the principal focus of the tale.  Well, at least that how the novel’s construction appears at that stage at least.  Indeed, it’s got a sort of Stephen King’s ‘Dark Tower’ character grouping who are embarking upon an epic journey akin to Tolkein’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ (1954-55), only instead of travelling to Mordor (or indeed the Dark Tower), these companions descend into Hell itself.

The novel has two very distinct halves.  The first one being focused on character establishing and premise setting.  This half feels much more like earlier Barker work.  The horror’s on closer quarters.  The hostility comes out of the whispered utterings in the darkness.  There’s an ever-present evil to this first part of the book.  And it seems to permeate through everything that unfolds within these early pages.

The second half of the novel, which follows the group as they descend into Hell to rescue D’Amour’s lifelong companion Norma Paine, is one of a much grander scale.  Barker paints a vivid and altogether ungodly picture of Hell.  His imagination runs wild forming a vision of a truly diabolical landscape.  Barker’s Hell is the stuff of true nightmares.  And over the second half of the novel Barker pushes the reader further and further into this maddening abyss, with more visions of horror unveiled than you would have dreamt possible.

To say this is a tightly packed novel is one hell of an understatement.  So much goes on and so much is shown.  Even in its much-edited and considerably slimdown final form, the novel is still bursting with so many atrocities that it’s nothing short of breath-taking.  It’s a dark adventure that just pushes on further and further into a nightmarish abyss that’s alive with demonic horror.  And in essence, it’s this spectacular vision of what’s transpiring in Hell that forms the very basis for the book.  It’s about witnessing what Pinhead has planned.  His story.  His ultimate goal. And what he sees as his destiny.

What’s safe to say is that if you’re a fan of Barker’s work, both his early ‘horror’ offerings or his later ‘dark fantasy’ books, then you’re going to love this tale.  It’s almost a blueprint for the culmination of everything that Barker has done through his career as an author.  From the very first page to the novel’s final one, the novel is so utterly Clive Barker that it seems almost unreal.  And by Lucifer’s smouldering hatred if it’s not the hardest thing to put down.  The darkness and soul-swallowing epicness of the novel is so all-encapsulating.  This is very possibly one of his finest offerings to date.

Barker has once again unleashed all Hell upon his readers.  And with ‘The Scarlet Gospels’, his vision of Hell is darker, more menacing and far more addictive than ever before.  This one swallows you whole.

The novel runs for a total of 360 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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