J M Clark has stupidly followed more than a few books down dark alleys
Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker, Harper Collins, 675 pages.
Clive Barker is the author of dozens of novels, plays, and screenplays. However, he is best known for writing the novella, The Hellbound Heart, the basis for the film HELLRAISER. This has spawned a never ending series of sequels that leave behind or stick with the source material depending on the whims of the film studio. This review is not about the HELLRAISER films or stories, though I do recommend the novels that Barker wrote on the subject: The Hellbound Heart and The Scarlet Gospels.
Deep in a canyon in the Hollywood hills, Clive Barker has discovered a drug that is so powerful that even the dead won't leave the party before they get another fix. The drug only seems to affect those with celebrity. And the drug is especially effective for those whose star is fading.
Todd Pickett is just such a celebrity. His talent is mostly based on his youthful good looks, but age is catching up fast and his last couple of projects were disasters. This, combined with a number of personal tragedies force Todd, in a weak moment, to decide to try a risky procedure. However, he must to be alone to recover. For this, his agent finds him a secluded house on the much hidden street of Coldheart Canyon.
The canyon was the secret playground of Hollywood royalty in the 1920s. The house Todd rents seventy years later had been the center of that play ground. Along with the house comes it's owner, Katya Lupi, herself former Hollywood royalty, who is hiding herself and her house from the world. Deep within the house is a haunting that defies time or place. A haunting so powerful that it kills some while protecting others, all the while promising immortality. Todd is able to disappear into this other worldly place as he is accepted there pretty readily.
Unfortunately for Todd and the ghosts, Todd has a stalker in the form of Tammy Lauper, the president of his fan club. Tammy is a woman who has never been treated well enough by anyone except by her imaginary hero, Todd. Because of this, Tammy is determined to not let Todd slip away from her and the rest of the world, even if it means bringing an end to the magic that holds it all together.
In Coldheart Canyon, Clive Barker drags us into a mythical world hidden deep under a real place known for creating mythology. And he does this adeptly enough, as he is a writer who usually combines fantasy with horror and hides them both under the problems of the real world. He does this in part by showing us people who need something on an emotional or spiritual level that they have been denied for so long. People, who given any possibility of finding what's been missing, would willingly throw away reality for the fantasy. The horror lies in what the characters are willing to destroy in order to maintain their fantasy. Barker is able to show all of this in brilliant and gory detail.
Though the book is not without problems, the assets overwhelm them. The overarching story is very entertaining to the point of sometimes being exploitive. The descriptions draw the reader in and sometimes repulse. The characters are real, grubby little people with bad motives. In particular, Tammy is so well written you are left wondering if Barker has had personal experience with stalking.
As to the problems; Barker goes off on a couple of side trips that don't seem to impact the story. He also introduces a significant character, kills him off dramatically, and then no one seems to notice that he has died or isn't even around anymore. These are my only objections, however, I find it disconcerting how he uses real people in the story, weaving real Hollywood history into his mythology and creating characters out of ghosts of actual people.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable read.
Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker is available through Amazon
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 25, 2021:
Thanks for writing the review, JM. I had this book recommended to me and spent much more than I normally would to purchase it. I am a couple of chapters in and it hasn’t really grabbed me, and I put it aside to read something else, but I am willing to give it time. You convinced me to pick it up again.