The Damnation Game (novel)

The Damnation Game is a horror novel by English writer 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. It was his first novel.


Marty Strauss is a gambler recently released from prison. He is hired as the personal bodyguard of Joseph Whitehead, one of the wealthiest men in the world. The job is more complicated and dangerous than first he thought. He gets caught up in a series of supernatural events involving Whitehead, a lone heroin addict, and a devilish man, Mamoulian, with whom Whitehead made a deal with the Devil during World War II. Whitehead is haunted with Mamoulian's supernatural powers (like raising the dead) to urge him to satisfy Mamoulian's pact. Whitehead decides to escape after several encounters with Mamoulian and after having his wife, his former bodyguard, and his daughter, Cary, taken away from him. With hope left to save Cary, Marty Strauss believes that Whitehead deserved his punishment after all and also decides to save the heroin addict from being another victim to the damnation game.


Marty Strauss: A man addicted to gambling and released from prison works and lives on Mr. Whitehead's Estate as a personal bodyguard.

Mr. Whitehead: A 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.

Cary is the daughter of Mr. Whitehead. She was intrigued by Martin Strauss, her "runner, the second she saw him. She has a special gift, like her father once had, and battles addiction and a strange ordeal with someone named "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.

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