Fame! Fortune! Power! Pleasure! – these things are the gods of this world, so sayeth a religion teacher I knew many moons ago. These are the lower-case gods; false gods, gods that are appetizing to the flesh but poisonous to the soul. I’ll add a few more – Beauty! Youth! In sum, these gods represent an overwhelming lust for “the good life.”
Many religions have a geographical center. There is Israel, Mecca, Babylon, and The Vatican. Where might the practitioners of “the good life” congregate? Which city values youth and beauty? Where do these youthful and beautiful creatures go to seek out fame, fortune, power and pleasure? The answer – Hollywood! Become a movie star! Be the face that everyone in world loves! Earn your millions. Party on down! Work the scene for a while and become a producer. Make and break careers! Oh what fun!
There is a microcosm of such vanity and decadence in Hollywood’s own backyard. It’s called Coldheart Canyon. Over the years, the biggest names in the film business gathered in a hideaway house in the heart of this canyon. While concealed from the spotlight of the motion picture’s capital, they kept its values alive with decadent parties, mass intoxication, and bizarre orgies. This was true in life…and in death. Magic within the house helped some to achieve eternal youth. For others, it provided a desire for pleasure eternal; for fame that never ceases. Even after death, the spirits of celebrities return to this canyon to dwell in its foliage, hoping against hope that they should be permitted inside the house once again and “relive” the glory. These spirits – they materialize in solid form! Remember – I said that the gods of fame, fortune, power and pleasures appeal to fleshy beings – beings that still want to feel the erotic pleasures that only their sexual organs can muster. Out in the canyon these “spirits” wait and yearn. While passing the years, they mate with the creatures of the canyon; coyotes, birds, rodents, anything that moves and breathes. The offspring of such couplings are quite an abomination; their body parts are half human and half animal. All this on account of that room inside the house; a room with walls of supernatural tiles that pull its occupants into a magical forest where time stands still, where the strange and erotic come to life, where youth and beauty can be restored. Alas, the house and room are guarded by Katya Lupi, the owner and mistress of the house. Once a beauty from the silent era of film, she lives on in pristine form in the year 2001. She is the queen of this kingdom and she deprives her former peers of the silver screen of this restorative power. For she is cold. She is heartless. Hence the term Coldheart Canyon.
If you haven’t already guessed, I have been describing the meat and guts of Clive Barker’s novel – Coldheart Canyon – A Hollywood Ghost Story. So please don’t go looking for Coldheart Canyon, you will not find it. It exists only in the imagination of Barker. But he has generously shared the contents of his mind with us so that we may also get a glimpse of this macabre world. Now there are some (and you may be one of them) that do not want any part of Clive Barker’s imagination. This is understandable, for there are sensitive folks out there. Barker graphically describes the human anatomy and the situations that arise when one piece of anatomy meets another. He also describes the anatomy of things that are not human. For instance, there is this goat boy (who happens to be the son of Satan) that is quite often visibly aroused. I’ll leave it at that.
One of the most common complaints in the one-star reviews (but there are plenty more 5 star ratings) is that this book is nothing more than a glorification of porn. Folks, it is a lot more than that. Yes it’s explicit at times. But to condemn this piece solely on account of its X-rated themes is to miss out on its profound exploration of human nature. From the no-holds-barred examination of Hollywood culture to the rich descriptions of the characters, Coldheart Canyon – A Hollywood Ghost Story is certainly a unique and compelling piece of work.
I must admit – I did not always feel this way. I first read this book shortly after it hit the bookstores. Initially I was not overly impressed. At the time I purchased this novel, I was in the mood to read a kind of ghost story like the ones I had grown up with and was anxious to vicariously explore a haunted house in the tradition of Amityville.. I did not find the kind of familiar tale I sought out. In the beginning and with interest, I followed the plight of the main character Todd Picket- a movie star that was just beginning to show signs of aging. When his face-lift operation went wrong, he was forced to hide from the public eye in an isolated house in a canyon until he recovered. I was anxious to read about the ghostly footsteps he might hear, or the trespassing of specters across his halls, or the moans and groans of midnight ghosts. Instead I got a tale that was part fantasy, part macabre, part erotic. I was disappointed and I’m not sure I even finished the book.
Ironically, I came to like The Coldheart Canyon – A Hollywood Ghost Story after I became dedicated to haunted house lore. This second time around, I accepted the tale for what it was and not for what I had once demanded it to be. It is not your average haunted house tale. Most of the ghostly activity takes place in canyon outside of the premises. The fantasy and adventure occurs within one room of the house. Although this is not my favorite haunted house novel, it certainly belongs within the genre. Some of it I found a little hokey. Nevertheless, it’s entertaining and intriguing. The story is unique; it’s not enslaved to formula – it is not a follower. But does it lead? I don’t know about that. Some would say it does. For me, it just “is.” As such it just persists, like many of its ghosts that are damned to its canyon. Try the book. You might like it.