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Take three book reviews: Scarlet Gospels, Devil’s Advocates, Day Four

The Scarlet Gospels By Clive Barker. Macmillan. $27.26.
Nanjing Night Net

British author Clive Barker, one of the renowned names in the horror genre, has not published a major book for more than a decade due to ill-health and film and artistic initiatives. The Scarlet Gospels features two of his most famous fictional characters, Pinhead, the “Priest of Hell”, and hard-boiled investigator of the supernatural, Harry D’Amour. Pinhead starts killing magicians in order to facilitate his attack on Hell. Barker fills the book with too many one-dimensional tortured characters, but there is no denying his ability to portray good, and especially evil, in bizarre exotic settings, particularly Hell. Barker’s many fans will be glad he’s back.

Devil’s Advocates: The Curse of Frankenstein. By Marcus K. Harmes. Auteur. $26.95.

University of Southern Queensland academic Marcus Harmes examines British gothic horror films through a detailed analysis of a single film, The Curse of Frankenstein, which brought together Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing for the first time. As well as documenting the “transgressive adaptations” of Frankenstein, from Mary Shelley onwards, Harmes also reveals the cinematic inspiration of the Gainsborough costume melodramas of the late 1940s. Harmes follows, through contemporary reviews, the public “sensation” following its cinema release in May 1957, and its subsequent influence on Hammer films. Harmes definitively establishes the decades-long impact of The Curse of Frankenstein on the gothic horror film genre.

Day Four By Sarah Lotz. Hodder. $29.99

South African author Sarah Lotz’s 2014 debut novel, The Three, was a critical and commercial success. The loosely connected Day Four, another supernatural horror novel, suffers in comparison because of less believable and empathetic characters. Some of the 3000 passengers on a Miami cruise ship may, to some, already seem horrific, but a holiday into hell certainly results when, after four days, all power is lost and the ship disappears off global radar. The subsequent descent into shipboard anarchy is not helped when the ship’s guest psychic channels ghostly presences. The novel’s “classified” appendices hint at a contemporary Marie Celeste. Definitely not for cruise ship reading!

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