“Coldheart Canyon” by Clive Barker (HarperCollins, 2001)

Hollywood’s Debauched History

Coldheart Canyonstarstarstarstar

Coldheart Canyon is a clear example of what happens when a brilliant, literary mind sits down to create long, great work.  Over six hundred pages, Clive Barker’s new novel ascends to a horror level above Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Neil Gaiman, both in story and literary style.  Barker has often been slotted into the genre of “horror writer,” and it is when one reads Coldheart Canyon that one realizes he really in a league of his own.

Todd Pickett is a lot like Bruce Campbell, the renowned Hollywood  actor – of the B-movies that is.  He has how own scary fan club and he has been making action-flicks since the early nineties, but has now reached his career plateau.  No longer is he able to make the big bucks for the tough-guy movies; what he needs is to revamp himself and present and new and improved Todd Pickett to the world.  The solution then, in a place like Hollywood, can only be one thing: plastic surgery.  Except is goes wrong, and he ends up getting scarred and needs a place to hide out for a while so he can heal.

The covert locale of Coldheart Canyon is a castle-like mansion located in a most obscure area of Los Angeles (if one does not know where to look for it, one will never find it).  It is devoid of life, or so Pickett thinks, but after some time spend in solitude, the ghosts begin to make an appearance.  Coldheart Canyon was originally owned by a famous actress of the silent-movie era, Katya Lupi, where famous parties of degradation and sexual exploitation used to take place, where the crème of Hollywood would give into their secret and uncouth desires – like Charlie Chaplin’s passion for very young girls – with the aim that once they have satisfied their anxieties, they will be happy and smiling for the camera the next day.

However in the basement of this house is something special, something from a bygone time centuries old, taken from the hidden hinterlands of Romania.  A snippet of time, involving a group of fifteenth century hunters and the Devil’s wife, held within a breathtaking mosaic, which holds much more than startling colors and shocking landscapes.  There is a power at work here, one in  which the Devil’s hand is steering; a power where a quasi-immortality is granted, though as with everything involving the Devil, it is at a terrible price.

Having spent years working on this novel, Barker has made it immensely personal, with characters that have been taken from his very own life; even the death of his beloved dog is incorporated into the book.  At the same time Barker is doing what he does best: delving into a conglomeration of fantasy and horror, taking the reader to a metaphysical plane that can only be reach by the skilled hands of Barker.  With his colorful vocabulary and literary skill that raises the novel to a much higher level, Coldheart Canyon attains new bounds from the mind of one of today’s most eminent authors.

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Originally published on February 4th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.