Best known for her nerve-wracking role in Hellbound : Hellraiser 2 as the menacing Female Cenobite, Barbie Wilde has gone on to cement her status in the horror world as a prolific author.
Her short story Sister Cilice, first seen in 2009’s Hellbound Hearts anthology, was an insightful look into the origin of her iconic film character.
First released by Comet Press in 2012, her controversial novel The Venus Complex is a beautifully-written and insightful look into the mind of an artistic and sadistic killer. Banned by the Edmonton Public Library earlier last year, the book is a must-read for fans of crime fiction, or anyone who has ever wanted to understand what exactly is going on behind the mask of sanity presented to the world by “likeable” serial killers such as Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer.
Written in a “secret journal” format, the story of The Venus Complex follows the life and unfiltered thoughts of art professor Michael Friday as he recovers from a tragic accident and rebuilds his life.
Professor Friday is the handsome professional that hides many dark secrets from the world. He lives a fascinating dual life, reminiscent of recent literary serial killers like Dexter and Patrick Bateman, wearing the “mask of sanity” that never betrays his diabolical inner imaginings.
In fact, one of the earliest revelations into just how disturbed he may be is the fact that the automobile crash that wounded him and killed his wife was not exactly an accident.
As his recovery progresses, and through candid confessions to his journal, Professor Friday is revealed to us as a smart and observant budding serial killer.
The matter-of-fact way he looks at his life and the world we all inhabit have begun to poison his trains of thought (and give the readers some insightful social commentary), so he turns his focus to a young lady named Elene, a forensic psychologist who is employed at the same university.
Elene quickly becomes his obsession, and he turns the majority of his attention away from his disgust with modern society and focuses on her, his instant “soul mate”.
He finds himself unable to resist stalking and learning about her, and he quickly becomes an expert on the subject of Elene. He even tracks down an out-of-print book that she wrote about serial killers which provides him with the “moment of clarity” he has been searching for.
Spurred on by the insights he finds in his obssession’s book, our protagonist quite suddenly makes the decision to kill someone.
He writes in his journal :
I want…I need…to make a difference somehow. I cannot bear this dullness I feel, this unrelenting boredom with my existence. Maybe I should go out and kill someone. It would be the ultimate transgression, the ultimate high. The ultimate.
And, after passing that point of no return, the reader is taken along for the ride as Friday methodically plans and practices his new craft, which he refers to as “The Venus Complex”.
The novel races along with voyeuristic glee, as the reader is now made accomplice to Friday’s complicated plan. The journal style is greatly effective in making the reader feel complicit in his crimes, and has the strange effect of making us root for the “bad guy”!
The writing is tight and believable, chapters coming in varying bursts of rage and contemplation with each journal entry. Michael’s crimes become increasingly gruesome and he makes the precarious decision to assist in the criminal investigation of the case, which lead to some incredibly tense moments.
Michael Friday proves himself to be the ultimate professional in whatever he chooses to do, calm and cool even when his inner thoughts are screaming. He is a fascinating character in a great story, and this book is recommended reading for all of you fine students of Horror Homework!
Find “The Venus Complex” on Amazon.com here, and for more insights into the book check out my brief interview with Ms. Wilde below, but beware of some slight spoilers ahead for those of you who have not yet read the book!
Also stay tuned for Part 2 of “Cenobites Who Write” in the next few days, where we get to take a look at Other People’s Darkness, a new collection of short stories from the Chatterer himself, Nicholas Vince!
I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with Ms. Wilde, and asked her a few questions about The Venus Complex. Check out the short interview below!
HH : As a British woman, how did you manage to climb into the mind of a wholly-American male character? Your insights into a certain male pattern of thinking were amazing.
Barbie Wilde : Well, although I’m based in Europe, I’m actually Canadian. I grew up in Canada and then the United States (including Syracuse, NY, where the book is set), so I’ve met and known quite a lot of North American men. As far as my insights are concerned, I just did my research, not only into the thoughts of serial killers, but also into regular guys’ mindsets as well. I was lucky enough to have access to some very honest male friends who gave me their opinions on how men see the world.
HH : Some of Michael’s more radical ideas and rants make sense in a dark way, such as his frustrations with globalization and overpopulation. How much of yourself and your own beliefs went into these dark confessions?
Barbie Wilde : After I created the character of Michael, I was able to get into his head and follow his line of reasoning. It’s almost like an acting job, if you like. I certainly can understand Michael’s rage at the world, at the state of television, at injustice and stupidity.
HH : The “diary style” of the book was a great way to get inside the head of this character. Did you ever consider (or try) to write it from any other point of view?
Barbie Wilde : I actually began the book in the third person, concentrating on Elene, the character of the forensic psychologist. I thought that it would be interesting having a female character as the protagonist. However, after a while I got bored, to be honest. I wanted to do something different: to write a whydunnit, rather than a whodunnit. My interests had always been in the behavior and motivations of serial killers, so the idea of creating a “diary of a serial killer” was born.
HH : The equation of sex and pain as [not?] mutually exclusive is a big theme in the novel, and depicted in a matter-of-fact way that is not for the squeamish, but rings as honest and true. Why do you think so many people can’t separate the two?
Barbie Wilde : It seems all part of the peculiar design of human sexuality where sometimes the lines can get muddled. Even the act of loving sex can appear to be violent to the voyeur. And the sound of ecstatic sex can sometimes be confused with the sounds of murder, especially the sounds that are generated from the female of the species.
Human sexuality is unbelievably diverse and it’s a bit of a fallacy to think that we are all the same. It’s 360 degrees of desire. (Hey, that sounds like the title of my next novel!)
HH : I found Michael’s trains of thought to be fascinating and well-considered. He was a true professional of his chosen field(s). Will we be seeing more of his continued work in the future?
Barbie Wilde : A lot of readers have asked me that. I will be writing a sequel sometime in the future.
However, at the moment, I’m working on a screenplay of a short story of mine called Zulu Zombies, which appeared in Gorezone #29, as well as the Bestiarum Vocabulum Anthology (published by Western Legends Press). I’m also working on the play version of Sister Cilice, which was my first short horror story about a Female Cenobite that appeared in the Hellbound Hearts Anthology, as well as co-writing a musical drama called Sailor, which is about love, loss and revenge, set in the ruins of post-War Marseille.
And finally, I’ve been approached to appear in an extraordinary and visually enthralling horror movie anthology called Bad Medicine, written by Amazon #1 horror author Dave Jeffery and helmed by Bram Stoker Award-winning director James Hart. The first segment of their Kickstarter Campaign continues until the 31st of March, so please visit the website and give generously: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1227140694/bad-medicine-feature-film-anthology-first-segment