The Damnation Game (novel)

The Damnation Game (novel)

First edition
(publ. Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

The Damnation Game is the first novel by best-selling horror and fantasy author Clive Barker, published in 1985. It was written just after finishing the first trilogy of Books of Blood, and tells a Faustian story that touches on topics such as incest, cannibalism, and self-mutilation in a frank and detailed manner.


  • Synopsis 1
  • Characters 2
  • Reception 3
  • References 4


Marty Strauss, a gambling addict recently released from prison, is hired to be the personal bodyguard of Joseph Whitehead, one of the wealthiest men in the world. The job proves more complicated and dangerous than he thought, however, as Marty soon gets caught up in a series of supernatural events involving Whitehead, his daughter (who is a heroin addict), and a devilish man named Mamoulian, with whom Whitehead made a Faustian bargain many years earlier, during World War II. As time passes, Mamoulian haunts Whitehead using his supernatural powers (such as the ability to raise the dead), urging him to complete his pact with him. Eventually Whitehead decides to escape his fate after a few encounters with Mamoulian and having his wife, former bodyguard, and now his daughter Carys taken away from him. With hope still left to save Carys, Marty Strauss, although reluctant to get involved in the old man Whiteheads deserved punishment, decides to get involved and attempt to save the innocent gifted addict from being another victim to the damnation game.


Marty Strauss: A man who is addicted to gambling and also recently released from prison to work and live on Mr. Whitehead's Estate as a personal bodyguard.

Mr. Whitehead: A pathetic and scared man who the media sees as an important rich and famous eccentric man who is known as 'the thief' in the prologue and is involved with the Faustian bargain with Mamoulian.

Carys: The daughter of Mr. Whitehead. Carys is intrigued by Martin Strauss, her "runner," the second she sees him. She has a special gift like her father once had, and battles addiction and a strange ordeal between her and Mamoulian.

Mamoulian: The main antagonist of the story, Mamoulian is a strange man with strange skills to give and take life with a sense of death about him that give him a creepy disposition and the demeanor of a devilish, almighty being.

Mr Toy: Mr Whitehead's main assistant/right hand man.

Pearl: Mr. Whitehead's personal cook.

Luther: Mr. Whitehead's personal limousine driver.


Algis Budrys praised The Damnation Game as "a masterly novel," saying that "it doesn't fail to deliver what a good horror story should," that "it delivers it elegantly," and that "come(s) to grip with the classic themes."[1]


  1. ^ "Books", F&SF, August 1987, pp.36-38.