The great detective has graced the pages of any number of novels and anthologies out of the genre fiction imprints sheltering under the Rebellion umbrella, but this week, Solaris surprised the hell out of Sherlock’s many admirers when it announced Paul Kane’s plans to pit Baker Street’s most reasoned resident against the Cenobites. That’s right: the very same Cenobites seen in ‘The Hellbound Heart’ and The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker!
Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell is coming next summer. And as Solaris’ Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Oliver so pithily put it, when “the world’s greatest detective meets horror’s greatest icons, what more could you want?”
Paul has been a significant voice on the horror scene for a while now and he’s steeped in Clive Barker’s hell-bound mythos. That we now have the chance to pit Holmes against a world he could never have imagined is very exciting indeed. This promises to be a journey into hell, pitting two great masters against each other. Gruesome, yet compelling, Kane will undoubtedly deliver the horror crossover of 2016.
In the press release accompanying the announcement, Kane himself—“a leading authority on Clive Barker’s Hellraiser mythos”—said he was “incredibly excited—if also more than a little daunted—by the prospect of this book,” but, thinking there might be more to such an unexpected turn of events, the curious customer in me reached out to the author. Kane was kind enough explain how in hell Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of said came about:
I discovered the Sherlock Holmes stories at around the same time I came across Clive’s Books of Blood and ‘The Hellbound Heart,’ so in my head there’s always been a link there. And of course I was watching the Granada TV series with Jeremy Brett—in my opinion the definitive screen Holmes—when Hellraiser came out, so again there’s always been the connection as far as I’m concerned.
I started to think about pairing the two, though, when I was editing an anthology called Hellbound Hearts with my wife Marie—stories set in Clive’s Hellraising world with his full backing, as he owns the literary rights. I was also writing some Holmes stories, trying to get into the series of anthologies co-edited by Charles Prepolec; I ended up in Gaslight Arcanum with my tale ‘The Greatest Mystery’ and then went on to co-edit Beyond Rue Morgue with Charles.
It was at this point I started to think about combining the two in some form, especially as Victorian horror was starting to become really popular—with novels like Sarah Pinborough’s Mayhem and Murder, and shows like Penny Dreadful. I ran the idea by Clive and Mark Miller at [Barker’s production company] Seraphim and they liked the sound of it, then Clive approved a detailed synopsis and sample chapter. It was just a case of finding a publisher after that, and I’m delighted it landed with Jon and Solaris, as I’ve worked with him and the team before on my Arrowhead novels and stories. They’re a terrific bunch.
I also asked the aforementioned author if we’d be seeing any familiar faces from either franchise in the forthcoming fiction—meaning Pinhead, for instance, or maybe Moriarty. It’s a credit to Kane how very well he sat the fence:
I don’t really want to give away too much about that at this time […] but I can say I think fans of both franchises will be very happy. I’m a fan myself, first and foremost, so I’ve tried my best to come up with something that I’d like to read. I can promise you quite a few surprises, though—and this will be unlike anything else that’s been done before in either of the universes.
Well, we’ll just have to make do with the following synopsis:
Late 1895, and Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion Dr John Watson are called upon to investigate a missing persons case. On the face of it, this seems like a mystery that Holmes might relish—as the person in question vanished from a locked room—and something to occupy him other than testing the limits of his mind and body.
But this is just the start of an investigation that will draw the pair into contact with a shadowy organisation talked about in whispers and known only as ‘The Order of the Gash’. As more and more people go missing in a similar fashion, the clues point to a sinister asylum in France and to the underworld of London. However, it is an altogether different underworld that Holmes will soon discover—as he finds himself face to face not only with those followers who do the Order’s bidding on Earth, but those who serve it in Hell: the Cenobites…
I’ll be honest: I didn’t enjoy The Scarlet Gospels at all, but as a longstanding fan of Clive Barker and the Hellraiser film franchise—for very different reasons, I dare say—I seriously can’t wait to see what the great detective does when he comes face to face with his first Cenobite in July 2016.
Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.