Feature: To Hell and Back

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SERVANTS OF HELL COVERHellraiser expert Paul Kane has mixed his love of Clive Barker’s series with a deep affection for the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his new novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, out now from Solaris. Here the prolific writer and SFB contributor discusses how two seemingly disconnected legends crossed his path…



The story of how Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell came about begins way back in the 1980s. I was already into horror by this time, having read James Herbert’s The Rats at a stupidly young age – someone at school passed it on to me, and I was hooked; books by the likes of King, Campbell, Masterton, Layman and co. soon followed. I was also watching whatever video nasties I could get my hands on, usually via older mates – my favourites were The Exorcist, Zombie Flesh Eaters and The Evil Dead. Basically, I was just steeping myself in the genre I love so much, something I call my real education as it would lead to a career writing it eventually.

So, little wonder that when I spotted a copy of Books of Blood in my local bookstore I grabbed it off the shelf and slammed down my pocket money on the counter. It was the collected edition of the first three volumes – which I still have – complete with Clive’s own artwork on the front, and I read that thing from cover to cover. Then I read it again immediately afterwards. I got lost in stories like ‘The Midnight Meat Train’, ‘In the Hills, the Cities’, ‘Dread’, ‘Son of Celluloid’, ‘Rawhead Rex’ and ‘Human Remains’ (which, in my opinion, is one of finest short stories of all time, horror or otherwise). Not only was I blown away by the different kinds of stories inside, I fell in love with Clive’s prose – and I have been ever since. Even I, at such a tender age, knew this was going to be a game-changer in the field – especially as Stephen King had already told us Clive was the future of horror.

HellboundheartI waited patiently for more: the next volumes of his shorts; Clive’s first novel, The Damnation Game… They kept me going for a little while. Then came a novella, which I tracked down in the Night Visions anthology, edited by none other than George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame. That novella was The Hellbound Heart, and if I thought my life had changed before, I had no idea what was waiting for me after reading that. I sat and devoured this tale of a man opening a puzzle box and summoning the weirdest demons I’d ever come across, from the Order of the Gash: The Cenobites. But it was the fact that this was happening in an ordinary house that could be on your very street, and it was all tangled up in a love triangle involving an ordinary couple, that made it so unique. It’s something Clive does exceptionally well – showing us other worlds set against the mundane one we live in every day.

Bizarrely, when I first came across Hellraiser I didn’t make the connection between the two. It might have been because I was too young still to see it at the cinema, or even rent it on video when it came out. Or maybe it was because although I knew films were often based on books – The Exorcist being a prime example – I hadn’t really heard of any authors directing them. Indeed, it was Clive’s first time making a movie, and I had no idea about his background in theatre or that he’d made short movies back in the ‘70s. All I knew for sure was that there was this guy on the cover with all these nails banged into his skull, and on the reverse a skinless man! How cool was that? I needed to see that movie, and I finally did when a friend’s brother let me borrow it. Obviously, it scared the crap out of me – but I was just as blown away by the visual version as I was by the literary one. And when I did finally make that association, it would be the start of a lifelong obsession for me to rival that of Frank’s with the Lament Configuration. One that would see me writing about all the movies and comics in the franchise and then co-editing an anthology of stories set in that universe.

Holmes MoriartyAt the same time in the ‘80s, I came across Sherlock Holmes. I’d caught bits and pieces of films or TV shows featuring him, of course, and I knew who he was, but had never read any of the Conan Doyle stories before. When I did, it was a bit of a revelation – if you’ll pardon the expression. Not only did I dive into them with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for horror books, spinning me off into reading crime voraciously as well, it also struck me how many horror elements there were in them. The fog-filled streets that had also been the hunting ground of Jack the Ripper, snake attacks, a huge glowing dog attacking people on the Moors… For me, there was always a macabre air about the Holmes stories, and in the same way that cops or detectives populated some of the most famous horror novels and movies, it seemed to me that it would only take a tweak or two for Holmes to crop up in one of those himself.

It was around this time as well that Granada began their mammoth task of adapting as many of the Holmes tales as they could, casting Jeremy Brett in the title role – for my money the best screen Holmes there has ever been. I sat and watched these with my dad, getting just as wrapped up in the weekly adventures as I had been in the original tales. And as much as I loved episodes like ‘The Final Problem’ where Brett grappled with Eric Porter’s Moriarty, who looked like he belonged in some gothic mansion somewhere, and their adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, my favourite was The Last Vampyre which was so very different to ‘The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’ on which it was based. Roy Marsden’s Stockton was absolutely terrifying and, like Holmes initially, you absolutely believe he is one of Dracula’s pals.

So, given all this, was there any wonder that the two universes of Holmes and Hellraiser became intertwined in my head?

Spin on to after I’d written The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, and was working on Hellbound Hearts with my wife Marie O’Regan. I was beginning to think about doing some Hellraiser fiction myself after reading so many great tales in the anthology. I’d also just started to dip my toe into writing Holmesian fiction, thanks to reading the fantastic Gaslight anthologies edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec. It was at this point the lines between the two began to blur again and I thought to myself how perfectly they might bleed into each other. Not only was Holmesian horror very popular, Victorian horror in general was getting some serious attention, so the timing just seemed to be right.

hellraiser_0The more I thought about it, the more I began to see parallels between the two and how I could write not only a short story, but maybe even a novel. As a bit of an exercise, I came up with a detailed synopsis and sample chapter, then sounded Clive out about it – I’d got to know him quite well over the years and even got to meet him for the first time when he came over here for FantasyCon 2006. Imagine my delight when he said he loved the concept and not only gave it his blessing – something I still can’t quite believe to this day – but offered some brilliant insights that made the story even better. Everything seemed to slot into place at that point and I found a supportive publisher in the form of Rebellion, who I’d worked for before when I’d done the Hooded Man books for their company Abaddon. Editor Jon Oliver had moved from there to Solaris, so he was my first point of contact, and I was just as delighted when he mailed me to commission it. All that remained then was lots and lots of research, hard work bashing the keys and several rounds of edits. That’s all.

Now the book is out, what I’m finding is that people are saying ‘how has this not happened already?’ and ‘the two universes just seem to work so well together’ – something I’ve known myself for some time, but it is gratifying to hear. Who better to tackle the world’s greatest puzzle – and puzzle box – than the world’s greatest puzzle solver?

To me, the whole thing was simply…elementary!

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), Hellbound 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 http://www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell is out now from Solaris







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