My new novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, is out now. In it, Holmes and Watson are flung headlong into Clive Barker’s Hellraising universe to confront his most famous villains, the Cenobites. It’s the world’s greatest puzzle-solver up against the world’s greatest puzzle, not least in the form of the Lament Configuration puzzle box. Hopefully, it should appeal to fans of both franchises – but I also wanted the book to be a standalone, something that you could dive right into even if you know nothing about either. But I don’t want to spend the whole of this blog just talking about my work; instead I want to point you in the direction of a few publications you might enjoy if you pick up and like Servants. If you haven’t already read them, of course…
The Hellbound Heart
This is where it all began for me, really. Before I saw the film version, Hellraiser, adapted and directed by its author, the one and only Mr Barker, this set me on the path to a lifelong obsession with the mythos. It’s a story of obsession itself essentially – of a hedonistic man called Frank who is looking for the ultimate pleasure, which he thinks will come when he summons the legendary ‘Order of the Gash’; although his definition of pleasure is very different to theirs, as he soon finds out to his cost. There’s also obsession involved when his former lover, Julia, now married to his brother, discovers his remains – brought back from Hell by a few drops of blood. She sets out to restore him, so they can be together, but this was never going to be a story with a happy ending whatever happened. Excellent writing that carries you along, fantastic characters – especially the female protagonist and antagonist who are two sides of the same coin – and a concept that was the jumping off point for so many other tales… including mine.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
If my love of Hellraiser began with The Hellbound Heart, then my devotion to Holmes started with reading Conan Doyle’s original stories – at around the same time, leading to a linking of the two in my mind even back when I was in my teens. They’re all superb, but the tale that really speaks to me as a horror fan is this novel. It has all the tropes: a gothic mansion in the shape of Baskerville Hall, which feels like it should be haunted; a terrifying family curse that leads to gruesome deaths; and one Hell of a monster in the form of the Hound itself, a giant glowing beast that will rip you to shreds. It doesn’t get any more frightening than that! I’ve spoken before about my favourite screen adaptation of this, which is the BBC’s 2002 film starring Richard Roxburgh and Ian Hart as Holmes and Watson (although my preferred screen Holmes will always remain Jeremy Brett). It’s a version that really embraces its horror roots, to such an extent that you find yourself jumping in places. It also doesn’t shy away from depicting Holmes as an addict, something I could really relate to when writing Servants. The final thing I’ll say about this book is that it also takes risks with the narrative, which I like – for one thing it splits our heroes up for a time, something I decided to try in my book as well.
The Hellraiser Comics
I can’t really narrow this down to just one, because the original run of Marvel/Epic Hellraiser tales (reprinted by BOOM! when they started to publish their own a few years ago) are all just too damned good. They proved that you could go anywhere and do anything with the mythos. There’s a medieval tale, one about a woman who’s pregnant and opens the box – revealing what happens to the foetus inside her when she’s taken – a western where Dead Man’s Hand has more than one meaning… There were even ongoing stories like ‘Devil’s Brigade’ that were as complex and layered as any novel. Probably because the comic employed such fine writers as Neil Gaiman, Larry – now Lana – Wachowski, and former Chatterer Cenobite Nick Vince (who, years later, introduced my collection Monsters). And it always looked fantastic thanks to such talented artists as Mike ‘Hellboy’ Mignola, Dave ‘Sandman’ McKean and John ‘Aliens’ Bolton. In a word: perfection.
The House of Silk
Anthony Horowitz – of Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War and Alex Rider fame – has not only tackled James Bond recently in Trigger Mortis, but also Sherlock Holmes. This, his first Holmesian novel, is absolutely brilliant. He captures the style of Conan Doyle’s work, but also puts his own spin on the material – something I definitely tried to emulate when writing Servants. He’s also dealing with a dangerous shadowy organisation, one that has the capacity to crush him if he doesn’t back off. It’s something I bore in mind when pitting our hero against the Order of the Gash – which my Holmes initially mistakes for a criminal organisation similar to the House of Silk. Oh boy, is he wrong. Horowitz sets the bar high with this one, and does his best to make it even higher with his stunning follow-up, Moriarty.
Okay, so this is also one of my books – I co-edited it for Simon & Schuster with my wife Marie O’Regan – but in my defence these are stories by lots of different, and extremely talented, authors: people like Mick Garris, Peter Atkins (who wrote Hellraisers II-IV), Sarah Pinborough, Steve Niles, Kelley Armstrong… the list goes on and on. And, like the comic series, they tackle various topics, from fairy tales to computer games, from Hollywood to eating disorders… It was working on this that made me want to write some Hellraiser fiction myself, and because I was also working on my first Holmesian horror tales, the idea about crossing them over resurfaced from my teens. Certain Cenobites from this also cameo in Servants… see if you can spot them!
The Scarlet Gospels
And so we come full circle, like the opening and closing shots of Hellraiser which focus on the puzzle box. Last year’s bestselling novel from Clive Barker was a long time in the making, but absolutely delivered the goods. A crossover of sorts itself, bringing two of his most beloved characters together – detective Harry D’Amour and Pinhead – it was the journey through Hell that I found particularly inspiring, taking in parts of the realm we hadn’t seen before. Clive’s final word on Hell, or so he has told me in the past, this is a great return to the horror genre from a master storyteller.
Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over sixty books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), Hellhound Hearts and Monsters. His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network television, plus his latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequel to RED – Blood RED – and Sherlock Holmes and The Servants of Hell from Solaris. He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan, his family and a black cat called Mina.
Find out more at his site, which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro. Also, be sure to follow Paul on Twitter and Goodreads.