Clive Barker

Coldheart Canyon

Clive Barker has had such a long run of great books that you have to wonder when it is going to wane. The sound bite subtitle on this one put me off a little, "A Hollywood Ghost Story", yet fortunately not enough to stop me reading the book. This is another classic. Like most recent Barker it's a large tome, topping seven hundred pages, but he makes excellent use of this space. It is every bit as imaginative and enthralling as his many other excellent novels.

It tells the story of a woman and her home in the Hollywood hills, nestled in Coldheart Canyon; named for the woman herself, Katya Vulpis, who is an old time movie star. The bowels of the house, and its great secret, are the incredibly decadent tiled wall tiles purchased from a group of monks in Romania. It gives power to the house, and a strange life beyond life for its devotees.

A young movie star, Todd Pickett, reaching the crest of his career yet on the verge of an imagined crisis, finds himself forced into hiding in Coldheart Canyon. Where the house, and its inhabitants, worm their way into his being. This is a book as wonderfully decadent as any of Barker's earlier novels, and as ever, he does decadence in his own unique style. Characters swim in and out of the novel, which is brilliantly structured into twelve parts shared amongst these various characters.

It has a lot to say about Hollywood itself, the kind of monsters who inhabit the fringes and create the illusion and aura that surrounds the place. For some it must be something of a painful read, the characters have a depth which suggests they are partly drawn from life. It has echos of both Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey and Goethe's Faust, but manages to take the ideas in wholly different directions, Barker's brilliant imagination really comes to play and he has many opportunities to really let it off its leash.

Barker plays brilliantly with the characters and their conflicts with one another, they gradually change over the period of the novel, both by the events they live through and their interactions with one another. A very smooth and fluid movement throughout the story and the story hangs very strongly on the shoulders of the characters, without his strength in drawing characters he would not have been able to pull this off. A very satisfying and enjoyable read.

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