Apart from Clive Barker, Paul Kane is the writer most synonymous with the Hellraiser universe. Heralded as “the resident Hellraiser expert’’ by Barker himself, Kane’s contributions in both fiction and non-fiction to the Hellraiser cannon have established him as the world’s leading source on the subject matter. His outstanding The Hellraiser Films & Their Legacy is an essential read for any fan of the series as it provides a thorough, comprehensive and intelligently insightful look into the franchise. Now with his latest book Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, Kane has pitted the world’s greatest detective against the labyrinth’s most terrifying demons in a book that can be summarised quickly as an almighty triumph in crossover storytelling. However, you can read all about it in my review for more information. Recently, SQ had the opportunity to contact Kane and pick his brain, discussing all things Hellraiser, Sherlock Holmes and more. Enjoy.
First thing’s first, I cannot stress just how much I enjoyed this book. Even with my high expectations going in it blew me away. My first question is, what inspired you to combine these two wonderful – and established – universes?
Well, that’s extremely gratifying to hear – I put a lot of work into it, so it’s nice to know it paid off. Thanks so much! To me those two universes have always been connected really, because I discovered both the worlds of Sherlock Holmes and Clive’s work at around the same time in the 1980s. I read Clive’s Books of Blood when they came out, which blew me away – and then subsequently tracked down his novella The Hellbound Heart in Night Visions, edited by George R.R. Martin. Oddly, I didn’t connect this with Hellraiser when it first came out, maybe because I wasn’t old enough to watch it at the cinema legally – or perhaps it was because authors didn’t normally direct adaptations of their own work; indeed, it was Clive’s first time doing this. In any event, when I did finally get to see it after borrowing the movie on video from a friend’s brother, and got the link between them, I was just as impressed. It pushed all my buttons, from the refreshingly new look of the demon ‘Cenobites’ to the British New Wave-esque setting of an ordinary house that could be down the street from you. Those two events were the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Clive’s fiction and then the Hellraiser mythos.
At the same time, I’d been catching up on all the Conan Doyle Holmes stories and loving them – especially the more macabre elements, from the fog-filled streets where you might spot Jack the Ripper at any moment, to the giant glowing dog in The Hound of the Baskervilles. But more than that, everything about them just struck a chord… So imagine my delight when Granada TV started to adapt them, with my own personal favourite screen Holmes Jeremy Brett in the title role. I devoured them all, watching week in, week out with my dad.
So, there I was, getting into Holmes, getting into Barker – and the two just sort of became interlinked in my mind. To the point where, years later, once I’d written my non-fiction examination of the movies and comics – The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy – and was co-editing an anthology called Hellbound Hearts with my wife Marie O’Regan for Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, the idea of doing something fiction-related resurfaced. I was reading all these great stories in the book, and I couldn’t do one myself because I was editing it, so I began thinking about ways in which I could approach a Hellraiser story and the Holmes association was just there again. Once it came back into my head, it wouldn’t stop nagging me, so I began thinking about how it might develop and it grew from there.
Clive Barker himself has commented on your Hellraiser expertise. Has he read the book yet? Also, what was his response like when he found out you’d be integrating his mythos with Holmes’?
Clive’s got the book, but I don’t think he’s had time to read it yet. He did, of course, read the very detailed synopsis and sample chapter I initially approached him with as a project to do after Hellbound Hearts, so knows the ins and outs of the story probably as well as I do. How did he react? He loved the sound of it! Like me, he’s a big fan of Holmes and could see how the mechanics of the novel could work, how elements from the mythos he’d created might slot neatly into Holmes’ world and vice versa. Indeed, it was Clive who suggested we make the original clients that come to see Holmes and Watson the Cottons – or at least a version of them – as it would give the story another dimension for the fans. I really like the description that Steve Dillon gave this in his five star review of Servants for Dread Central, that it’s almost like a parallel universe where Holmes is coming across the Hellraiser mythos; that these might be ancestors of the original characters, but then again they might not… That’s exactly what we were going for with it. The same kind of tone that the Sherlock Christmas special had, where Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s modern Holmes and Watson appeared back in the Victorian era… without it all being a drug-induced dream this time, of course.
The integration of both universes was seamless, but you weren’t afraid to expand on them either. I especially enjoyed the new Cenobite creations. The homages are there, but this is very much your own story. Just how cautious were you about taking liberties and putting your own spin on it?
I absolutely loved coming up with the new Cenobites! It was like they were just there waiting in the wings for me to call them on stage. I went to art college back in the day and have always kept up the drawing and painting – I do remarques in my books for people who want them – so I sat down and started to sketch Cenobites in the book where I was making Servants notes, just so I had them clear in my mind. I’ve always been told I have quite a visual writing style, which is probably why a lot of my stuff has been optioned and some of it even turned into TV/Films, so in my head I was absolutely seeing the characters as if watching them on screen. That gave me enough confidence to take risks with their creation, and to put my own spin on them. At the same time, I felt that if I stood them alongside others that had already come before them – like some of the Cenobites from Hellbound Hearts or Barbie Wilde’s Voices of the Damned or Gary Tunnicliffe’s fan-favourite Spike Cenobite – then that would give them a credibility as well, if you see what I mean? With regards to the story as a whole, I tried very hard to keep fans of both franchises happy, whilst at the same time trying to tell my own story with my take on the characters. Not an easy thing to do…
Your work in the Hellraiser universe has been well-documented and critically acclaimed. But what does Sherlock Holmes mean to you?
His universe means just as much to me as the Hellraiser one. I’ve been living and breathing both for quite a long time, as you can see. It means so much to me that I actually read and watched everything I could before I started work on the novel, just to get it right. I ran material past people like Holmes expert Charles Prepolec, asked questions of fellow Holmes author Mark Latham, and was at great pains to try and capture the voice of both the original Watson and Holmes – and Conan Doyle obviously. I also wanted this to be my version of the pair, however, and the story necessitated that I take them in a direction they’d never been before – simply because they’d never encountered the Servants of Hell before. Hopefully I’ve done a pretty decent job of balancing the two out, and the fact that my book is making people go off and either read the Conan Doyle stories again or for the first time makes me incredibly happy indeed!
Do you have a favourite Holmes’ tale in particular?
From the originals? That would be a tie between two: ‘The Final Problem’ which introduces Holmes’ arch-enemy Moriarty – again, in a really gothic, horror way – and then has the climactic battle between them at the Reichenbach, which is of great significance in Servants as anyone who’s read it will know; and, of course, The Hound of the Baskervilles, which I’ve already mentioned and is absolutely fantastic. My favourite adaptation of the latter is the 2002 BBC version with Richard Roxburgh and Ian Hart as Holmes and Watson, because it really does embrace the horror of its source material. There’s a scene where the hound crashes through a window and the first time I watched that I jumped about a foot off the sofa! It’s also not afraid to show Sherlock as an addict, the influence of which should also be apparent to those who’ve read Servants. In my book, I don’t shy away from what Holmes has been doing to himself – in fact I push it to the limits, as you’d expect in a Hellraiser story.
Can we expect more crossover stories in future from you?
There’s another Holmes crossover out in August from SST, who published my novel Blood RED last year, but a novelette this time – and nothing at all to do with Hellraiser. More details will be emerging soon about that one. But other than that, nothing concrete at the moment…
What other projects do you have coming up that you can share with SQ readers?
Oh, loads! I’ve just written a post-apocalyptic novella for Horrific Tales called The Rot, and that’s launching at this year’s FantasyCon in Scarborough at the end of September. It’s probably the most relentlessly grim thing I’ve ever done, and makes The Road look like a feel-good family comedy. My first comic was recently launched at HorrorCon UK – which had guests like Doug Bradley and Kane Hodder. That was published by Hellbound Media and is called The Disease – an adaptation of my story from the collection Monsters, which itself was just nominated for a British Fantasy Award. The comic comes with an introduction by Mark Miller and art by the wonderful Pawel Kardis. In August Abaddon is bringing out a mass market print edition of my Hooded Man novella Flaming Arrow, included in the book The End of the End. And towards the end of the year I have a ‘Best of…’ collection called Shadow Casting coming out, also published by SST, gathering together my favourite and most loved stories from the last twenty years as a professional writer. There are more projects ahead, of course, which I can’t really talk about, but people can always keep track of what I’m up to on my Shadow Writer website – www.shadow-writer.co.uk – and on Twitter, @PaulKaneShadow.
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 www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.