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The Venus Complex
By Barbie Wilde
Comet PressCopyright © 2012 Barbie Wilde
All rights reserved.
By Paul Kane
I first met Barbie Wilde back in December 2006. I was having a launch for my book The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy at a British Fantasy Society Open Night at Ye Olde Cock Tavern in London. I'd invited as many people associated with the mythos as possible, in particular the four Cenobites themselves: Doug "Pinhead" Bradley, Nick "Chatterer" Vince, Simon "Butterball" Bamford (who couldn't make it that time, but who I met later on) and, of course, Female Cenobite from Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Barbie, who brought her partner Georg along too. All thoroughly nice people and about as far from demonic sadomasochists as you can get.
I remember it being a fantastic event, a bit of a dream come true for this Hellraiser fan actually. And, during the course of the evening, as the drink flowed, I got chatting to Barbie. Of course I knew her as an accomplished actress, TV presenter and dancer (she was one of the founder members of SHOCK), but what I didn't know was that, like Nick Vince, she also wrote fiction.
Not long after that, Barbie sent me some samples of her work, which I happily read and was bowled over by. It led directly to myself and my wife Marie using her for the Hellraiser-inspired anthology from Simon & Schuster, Hellbound Hearts (for which she delivered one of the most popular and controversial entries, "Sister Cilice") and, more recently, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror from Constable & Robinson (her tale "Polyp" is a perfect example of the sub-genre, described by one reviewer as "a wonderfully disgusting story that's a brilliant twist on the creature feature genre"; Clive Barker would be very proud, I think). She has also gone on to appear in other anthologies, such as Phobophobia and Mutation Nation, steadily building a name for herself in the writing world.
I'm proud to say I was one of the first people to get a preview of this, her debut novel: The Venus Complex. Proud and very lucky ... Because, when I sat down to read what had popped into my inbox, I had no idea what ride it would take me on. Like so many other examples these days — Mo Hayder springs to mind — Barbie blurs the genre lines between crime and horror, but also delivers a serial killer thriller that stands out from the crowd. She does what the best exponents of this field also do, she gets inside the head of the killer ... and "encourages" us to enter it as well.
His fixations and the way he selects his victims are — without giving too much away — unique. Delivered in first person, all his intimate moments are recorded in journal form. And the most frightening thing about him is what surely disturbs us about the serial killer in general: he hides in plain sight. He could be your neighbour, your friend, your lover ... Like Thomas Harris' Lecter — before his capture, obviously — Professor Michael Friday might even be teaching your kids at University. Yet, like Jeff Lindsay's creation, Dexter, he has his own dark side. Perhaps the darkest of them all; one that compels him to act out his warped fantasies. At the same time, Michael just wants to be someone, not a "nobody". He's the perfect dichotomy, in fact. Trying to find his place in the world, experiencing conflicting emotions. At one point he agonisingly comments: "It's a miracle that I am as sane as I am," then asks us: "I am sane, aren't I?" It's the kind of thing an actor might do as an aside in a Shakespearean tragedy ...
Barbie effortlessly puts herself in Michael's position, so effortlessly that within the first few pages — the first few paragraphs — you forget that you're reading fiction at all. This could happen, this could be real. And isn't that at the heart of good horror and crime writing? That's not to say the writing isn't top notch; quite the opposite, actually. It's incredibly skilled. Barbie manages to pull off something that's very rare in fiction; she delivers poetic and lyrical lines, deep hidden meanings, that we appreciate even more fully on repeated readings, without once throwing us out of the narrative. On the contrary, we're compelled to read more, to find out what Michael's up to next.
Like Bret Easton Ellis in American Psycho, Barbie also offers up a commentary on contemporary life, which touches on everything from MTV attention spans to apathy about sexual partners. There's also black humour to be found here, as evidenced when Michael's watching a report about a serial killer who got caught: "My advice to him would have been: don't take up a new profession unless you decide that you're going to do it properly ... What a jerk."
But I'll say no more about the book you hold in your hands and are probably now desperate to read. As desperate as I was when Barbie originally sent it to me ... and I wasn't disappointed. I'll just end by saying, like Lecter, Bateman, Dexter, I feel certain that Michael Friday will soon be added to the list of famous fictional serial killers we all seem to be simultaneous terrified of and fascinated by, perhaps because it's the "safe" way of touching that darkness I was talking about earlier.
And I'm also sure that we'll be seeing many more terrific novels from Barbie Wilde in the future.
Enjoy the ride.
Derbyshire, May 2012
Excerpted from The Venus Complex by Barbie Wilde. Copyright © 2012 Barbie Wilde. Excerpted by permission of Comet Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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