The Scarlet Gospels
Pinhead comes home
Release Date: OUT NOW!
360 pages | Hardback/ ebook Author: Clive Barker Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Pinhead, like many monsters before him, had a tortured upbringing. Birthed by a creator who underestimated his power, he was sold as a slave to a series of new guardians, each more irresponsible than the last, who weakened his potency every time they paraded him before diminishing crowds. Now the master has his hand back on the leash of his most recognisable creation, but is it too late?
Split into four distinct “Books” sandwiched by a prologue and an epilogue, The Scarlet Gospels reads like a twisted hybrid of The Hellbound Heart ( the novella version of Hellraiser) and the Books Of Blood. Harry D’Amour, the mystical detective who first appeared in Books Of Blood Volume Six, is our main protagonist, with the opening Book so focused on him that Pinhead devotees might find themselves feeling disappointed.
During this introductory stage, as D’Amour moves down the path taking him to the main plot ( D’Amour’s ghost- seeing friend gets in trouble, and he decides to help) the Cenobite is barely a presence. But then Book Two begins with a location change, and things transition into the narrative fans have always ( bad) dreamed of.
Those hardcore fans will know that Pinhead was always intended as a movie villain. Barker wrote The Hellbound Heart as a film pitch, then, after his directorial debut, only returned to this world to criticise the sequels, and to occasionally contribute to the Cenobite’s comic- book incarnation.
Both elements are influences here. Gospels starts more comicbook than character- study, with D’Amour lurching from setpiece to setpiece. It occasionally reads more like Stephen King than Barker, particularly when ( richly- drawn) supporting characters are introduced.
But then the narrative tantalisingly opens up into the grandest Hellraiser movie never made. It’s exciting, vivid and brutal. At one point, Barker describes a collection of – well, let’s just call them “adult toys” – as “Ranging in scale from invasive to inconceivable” and that’s a good way of describing the violence he unleashes.
Fast- paced, fun, but not for the faint- hearted or prudish, Pinhead’s homecoming is a definitive ending for the character, and one hell of a read. Sam Ashurst Barker has been vocal in his hatred for the Hellraiser sequels ( particularly Inferno and Revelations) and ignores their events here.