Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell (Part One)

“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.”

Published by Solaris on 12th July 2016, the Servants of Hell brings together the worlds of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and master of horror Clive Barker, in a new book by Paul Kane.

As a change from how we normally do things, we’re going to start proceedings with an interview with the author, Paul Kane.

Is SoH your first foray into Sherlockian fiction? If not, where else have your stories appeared?

 It’s actually my fourth Sherlock story – I wrote two shorts and a novelette before Servants. I don’t think I’d have been brave enough to tackle a novel if I hadn’t had a run up to it and tested the waters. The first was a bit of an experiment and remained unpublished until SST – who brought out Blood RED last year, and are releasing my ‘Best of…’ collection Shadow Casting later this year – showed an interest. So that one, ‘The Crimson Mystery’, is coming out in August; more details will be released soon. The second was ‘The Greatest Mystery’ which appeared in the third Gaslight anthology, Gaslight Arcanum – published by Edge and edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec; Charles later, of course, was my co-editor on Beyond Rue Morgue. That one was reprinted in my book, The Butterfly Man from PS Publishing, and will soon appear again in my crime/psychological collection Nailbiters. The novelette was written at the request of Simon Clark – of Night of the Triffids fame – who was putting together an anthology for Constable & Robinson/Running Press called The Mammoth Book of Sherlock Holmes Abroad. In that one, ‘The Case of the Lost Soul’, I took our hero to Haiti to confront voodoo and zombis. That was great fun, and by the time I’d finished it I felt like I was confident enough to write something even longer.

Outside of Clive Barker himself you have become known as something of a gatekeeper of Hellraiser literature. How did this come about?

 I do seem to have become, as Nancy Holder calls me, the Hellraiser guy, which I’m more than okay with. I suppose it comes from my lifelong love affair with the Hellraiser mythos, which began when I read The Hellbound Heart by Clive and saw Hellraiser in my teens. I was just blown away by it all and lapped up the subsequent sequels and comics. Years later, while doing an MA in film, I had the notion of writing about the original movie to be published as one of those BFI type books – like Mark Kermode’s one on The Exorcist. That didn’t really pan out, but when I showed it to McFarland they wanted me to expand it to cover all the films – eight at that time – and comics. It took a while, but then The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy was born, which became a kind of bible for the mythology; they even use its picture for the Hellraiser page on Wiki. That, and the anthology I co-edited with my wife Marie, Hellbound Hearts, kind of put the seal on things. And of course as well as Servants I also have an interview book out soon from Avalard called Hellraisers, so things like that all add to it really.

From SoH it seems clear that you are as much a fan of Doyle’s Holmes as you are of Barker’s Cenobites. Can you tell us how these two passions came about? What led you to cross them over?

 Oh, I am indeed! My love for Holmes goes back as far as my love for Hellraiser. In fact coming across them at roughly the same time almost certainly sowed the seeds for this project. I was reading the original Conan Doyle tales and watching Jeremy Brett – in my opinion the definitive screen Holmes – around the time I was first reading Clive’s work. But it wasn’t until we did Hellbound Hearts and I was reading all these fantastic Hellraiser stories, that it actively surfaced again – because I was looking to write something fiction-wise about the mythos myself. That, coupled with the popularity of Victorian horror material, including Holmesian horror, inspired me to come up with the story. And the more I thought about it, the more the two seemed destined to meet at some point. As one reviewer said, it’s the world’s greatest puzzle-solver trying to figure out the world’s greatest puzzle…and the puzzle box!

Is SoH a one-off, or will there be similar mash-ups from you in future?  

 There aren’t any solid plans at present, but I would definitely be up for more. A lot of it depends on how this one does, I guess, and whether Clive would be willing to give permission for any more in the same vein. That’s not to say other crossovers couldn’t be done, they’re cropping up all over the place; I read with interest about one the other day that has Dracula fighting Hitler and the Nazis, which sounds amazing. There’s always scope for awesome crossovers with anything.

The world of Hellraiser is not just one of visceral horror, but it is also set within an intrinsically supernatural milieu. Neither would be seen as a natural fit for the rationalist Holmes, so how do you overcome the problem of giving Holmes a supernatural challenge, because once the impossible cannot be eliminated, his entire world must surely be changed forever.

 Well, there’s definitely a precedence in other Holmes stories, not least in my own mentioned before. And I think that’s the key really: once you show him something that can’t be explained away with logic and reason, he has to accept it as the truth. Actually, he’d probably accept it a lot easier than you or I, as he relies on what he can see and deduce. There’s a scene in Servants with Watson that touches on this very thing, but I don’t want to give too much away. And if you read the book you’ll see that this knowledge absolutely changes Holmes and his world…how can it not?

 The book is peppered with instances of you playing the Sherlockian ‘game’, embedding some of your own interpretations of what makes Holmes and Watson tick. Perhaps you could share your thoughts on how their characters are interpreted in SoH.

I tried to stay faithful to the original characters and their relationship, but at the same time the story necessitated that they be a version of Holmes and Watson that we hadn’t seen before. Their brush with Hell changes them, and in fact has been changing them for some time – they just didn’t realise it. There’s a distance between them when we first meet the pair, which was always present to some extent after what happened at the Reichenbach Falls – it’s just slightly more exaggerated and you find out why it’s there in the first place during the course of the story. It’s sort of a fractured relationship, although you do see flashes of the original Holmes and Watson – and this is all dealt with gradually, though maybe not in the way you might expect. Again, to say any more would be a spoiler if you haven’t read the novel. 

Everyone has either a fantasy casting of Holmes and Watson or a favourite pairing that inhabits their story. What are yours?

 I think the pairing of Brett and Burke/Hardwicke is pretty tough to beat. But at the same time you’ll probably spot the influence of many different versions of Holmes and Watson in my interpretations. I especially love the new versions starring Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law, Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman and Johnny Lee Miller/Lucy Liu. They all add to the universe in their own different ways.

 You have some subtle references and cameos – Inspector Abberline from Simon Clarke’s Gods of Rome gets a mention, while a Barker fan favourite also makes a cameo. Whenever this kind of Easter egg appears, it’s always nice to know why the readers should hunt these books and characters out.

I just think it makes it more interesting and – dare I say it, fun – for the reader. Hopefully these little nods to the Hellraiser/Barker/Holmes/horror genre in general aren’t too obtrusive and add something for fans of any or all of these worlds. It felt very organic to just slip those in, which of course reflect my own interests and tastes in fiction and movies/TV. 

With Simon’s Abberline books there’s already an established connection between Holmes and the Ripper case alluded to in many other books, so it’s not too much of a stretch that they might think of asking him for help. For people who might have read and enjoyed Hellbound Hearts or Barbie Wilde’s Voices of the Damned, there are cameos from Cenobites in there too. Just mentions and nods, but another way to bring everything together under one roof and interlink it all. At the same time, it’s important not to alienate anyone who might not have come across those characters or books, so I was at great pains to make it just as accessible for that audience as well, while at the same time maybe hoping they might track the sources down…because they’re really, really good. I should also mention here that Barbie provided the excellent introduction to the novel, for which I can’t thank her enough.

Paul, thanks very much. You can now brace yourself for the review which we will publish tomorrow.

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 which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.