Friday, October 3, 2014

Short Fiction Friday: The Last Illusion by Clive Barker

I just found out that Clive Barker has a new book due out and that said new book brings together Pinhead and Harry D'Amour (I had to Google Harry thanks to my Swiss cheese brain). The Scarlet Gospels isn't due out until May 2015, so I do have time, but it seems some Barker reading is definitely in order as preparation. If you read yesterday's post you'll know the news also comes at a time when I'm craving some good horror movies and once my wholly holey memory was somewhat nudged by Harry's list of published appearances, I realized it had been quite some time since I'd seen any of the movies based on Barker's work. Lord of Illusions (and some others) have been added into the Halloween watch list and I dug out my copy of Cabal for my first Barker tale of the season.

If you've not read Barker before you should know that he is quite graphic and quite gruesome. This little tale even features a demonic band made of body parts!

Harry D'Amour is a PI in New York and has seen things no man can truly recover from seeing. But it's this experience that leads to his latest job - he's to sit with the body of well-known and recently deceased illusionist Swann. The job is weird, but Harry can't resist the mournful pleas of Swann's widow and agrees to take the case. Just a few hours and one very realistic nightmare later, Harry is relieved of his duty. But the job doesn't end there. Apparently, Swann had reason to worry about what would happen to his mortal remains in death and though the widow feels they're comfortably out of the woods, Harry has reason to believe otherwise.

So this is apparently the first time Barker readers met Harry. He would go on to be part of The Great and Secret Show and Everville (the first two books of Art Trilogy), a short story in a long out of print anthology called Cutting Edge (edited by Dennis Etchison), and of course the upcoming Scarlet Gospels. And while I thought I'd read at least The Great and Secret Show, it seems I have not.

Harry is a cool character. A classic PI but one that dabbles in the occult. "The Last Illusion" alludes to a pretty horrific case that launched the supernatural part of Harry's resume, which explains why he isn't too terribly surprised when demons and other stuff start popping up in the Swann case. "The Last Illusion" is disturbing and a bit oh, so 80's in my opinion (it was pubbed in 1985 after all).

I'll have to dive into the as yet incomplete Art Trilogy to see how Harry's character develops, and to be ready for The Scarlet Gospels. Anyone else interested in tackling Harry's evolution can find "The Last Illusion" in Cabal, the sixth title in the Books of Blood series (pictured above. This installment also includes the stories that make up the inspiration of Nightbreed. Interestingly enough, there is a forthcoming anthology set in the Midian world - called Midian Unmade - due out from Tor next year as well.)

I should point out - for any of you who've also seen the movie but haven't read the story - that the film is QUITE different from the short. And yet, Barker himself did write and direct the adaptation. It was odd, though, reading the short without knowing that they differed so.

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