in the best clive barker, the gen- eral equation is sensuality plus violence plus a dash of metaphysics equals page-turning horror fiction. Coldheart Canyon sticks pretty close to that formula, even if it veers off-course in an unnecessary hundred-page coda.
Most of the novel is set in the dream home of 1920s Hollywood film star Katya Lupi, who imported from her native Romania a demonic tiled room that opens a world of sexual fantasies for the dozens of Hollywood legends who've been there.
Eighty years later, these same people are erotic ectoplasm, ghosts hovering around the house and waiting for a chance to return to feed on the addictive room.
One of Barker's strengths is his voyeuristic set pieces that mix ever-beckoning descriptions with turn-away grossness, as when the offspring of the starry, libidinous ghosts and living animals -- one's a blend of Lana Turner and a rapacious jaguar -- pursue their human quarry through the jungle-like grounds.
He's also good at sharply written characters, notably Todd, the movie hunk whose botched plastic surgery drives him to the house, his practical fan-club head, Tammy, bitchy agent Maxine and Katya herself, a Norma Desmond from a more carnal version of Sunset Boulevard, who flirts hauntingly with Todd and functions best in S&M mode.
COLDHEART CANYON: A HOLLYWOOD GHOST STORY by Clive Barker (HarperCollins), 676 pages, $39.95 cloth. Rating: NNN