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Dark and twisted fiction - a must read for any horror fan
on 6 January 2007
Back in 1984, Clive Barker made his name within the deeply competitive world of horror with the publication of the first three volumes of the macabre short stories `The Books Of Blood'. Written in his spare time, he admits that he was not expecting them to sell really at all, let alone predict the public response that followed. The release exploded within the horror literature genre, hailing Barker as an exciting and imaginative newcomer. Stephen King, already known as a master in the genre, went as far as to pronounce Clive to be "the future of horror". The books won both the British and World Fantasy Awards, as the public lapped up the gore soaked pages. After this initial success, Barker followed with a final three volumes, creating a collective masterpiece of horror. His two omnibus's were later to be broken down, to be sold as individual books which Barker was invited to be able to illustrate the covers for with his dark and twisted artwork. The books have since been put back together again into these two large collections.
The books were moderately successful in Great Britain, but found wide critical acclaim in the United States. Their popularity and the sheer amount of sales have found the books repeatedly reprinted and available in over a dozen languages. These books are a must-read for anyone who enjoys reading books from the horror genre. They are also an important stage within the work of Clive Barker forming a solid point for his writing to work from.
Here we have the first three volumes from the collection of six. Released in their individual forms back in 1985, this omnibus was later reprinted by Warner Books in 1994. The book was printed with different cover artwork (done by Bob Warner) and is the current version on sale of this dark and twisted masterpiece. This first collection contains the following short stories:
The Book Of Blood - 12 pages
"The dead have their highway. They carve their stories on the walls and the flesh. Everybody is a book of blood; Wherever we're opened, we're red". This first opener (pardon the pun), brings you a well-constructed and haunting tale to bring together all of the short stories and introduce the reader to the books of blood. It forms a small taste of what is to come, whetting the appetite for Barker's tales of the macabre.
The Midnight Meat Train - 25 pages
"A stomach-churning ride on the New York subway, to feed the Old Gods on human meat". This short was inspired and created around a sultry summer visit to New York in which Barker found himself lost on a subway at midnight. The tale is a bitter and twisted one, as we are treated to Barker's dark imagination and talent for setting down a vivid and disturbing tale. The story is quickly dropped into a festering pit of gore, with extreme mutilation and blood-spill dripping from each page. The tale concludes with a haunting ending, as we are treated to nothing less than pure Barker genius. The story was later adapted in 1990 into the graphic novel `Tapping The Vein - Book 3' where it was illustrated by Denys Cowan and Michael Davis..
- The Yattering And Jack - 20 pages
"Man versus Demon, in a black comedy of lunatic violence". Here we have a short that unfolds a comical tale that will amuse and entertain. The storyline is simple yet packed with purpose. The twist ending is subtle and forms a nice little conclusion to the story. The story was later adapted by Steve Niles in 1991 into the Eclipse Books graphic novel `The Yattering And Jack' where it was illustrated by John Bolton. The story was also adapted for the 1986 release of `The Tales From The Darkside - Volume 5' which was a 20 minute film made for TV broadcast. It starred Tony Carbone (The Pit And The Pendulum) as was available from Worldvision Home Video.
- Pig Blood Blues - 29 pages
"They told Redman the pig was possessed, but he didn't believe...until the nightmare came trotting after him". Barker offers up a disturbing and haunting tale of possession and dark corruption. The story bleeds paranoia as it slowly winds itself to the horrific conclusion, building up with heart-racing tension. This is one of those stories that will come back to haunt you time and time again. The story was later adapted in 1989 into the graphic novel `Tapping The Vein - Book 1' where it was illustrated by Scott Hampton.
- Sex, Death And Starshine - 36 pages
"The show must go on. Even if the audience has just risen from the dead". This gripping story brings you a well-written tale that works upon an underlying suspense that gnaws at you from the inside. The story spirals to an awesome and dramatic twist, which will leave you dying to read more.
- In The Hills, The Cities - 27 pages
"There are monsters nobody has ever dared imagine before; vast enough to take your breath away. And they're waiting in the hills". Barker's imagination runs wild here as we are confronted with this terrifying and impressive tale. Vividly described and cleverly constructed, this story will impress and amaze you with Barker's creation of the darkly fantastic. This short will leave you truly shocked. One of my personal favourite from the whole collection. The story was later adapted in 1989 into the graphic novel `Tapping The Vein - Book 2' where it was illustrated by John Bolton.
Dread - 34 pages
"One man's obsession with fear drives his victims one step beyond sanity, to unspeakable slaughter". A nasty little opening story for this second volume. Here we have a tale of fear and desperation, as the story revolves around the psychological state of its principal characters. The short is well-written, forming a vivid scenario of utter fear and dread as the horrors mount to a dramatic conclusion. The story was later adapted by Fred Burke in 1992 into the Eclipse Books graphic novel `Dread' where it was illustrated by Dan Brerton.
Hell's Event - 23 pages
"The race is on. And the Devil will take the hindmost". A gripping and enjoyable story that keeps you entertained throughout. The pace never slows down as you race through this fiendishly dark and twisted storyline. The story was later adapted in 1990 into the graphic novel `Tapping The Vein - Book 4' where it was illustrated by Steven E. Johnson, Alan Okamoto and Jim Perason.
Jacqueline Ess: Her Will And Testament - 33 pages
"A story of sex and power, and the bloodbath that awaits us at the limits of desire". This story holds a little glimpse of the Barker that will unfold in the later years, with his outstanding imagination for redefining the properties of the flesh. This is an erotic story that decays into something bizarre and twisted as Barker delves deeper into his imagination. One of my personal favourites.
The Skins Of The Fathers - 32 pages
"Once, they had fattened a human child, these monsters from beneath the desert. Now they want him back". This short is packed with suspension and mystery as we are carefully taken on a haunting trip into this dark offering of horror. The storyline spirals to a dramatic ending with eerie reminders of ideas used within `Lord Of Illusions' and maybe even `Cabal' / `Nightbreed'. A gripping and enjoyable read. The story was later adapted in 1989 into the graphic novel `Tapping The Vein - Book 2' where it was illustrated by Klaus Janson.
New Murders In The Rue Morgue - 27 pages
"History is about to repeat itself in Poe's notorious street, as old horrors return to shed new blood". Centred around the principal idea that Edgar Allan Poe's classic story The Murders in the Rue Morgue is actually the work of fact not fiction. This weird and horrific story, sets out a mysterious and compelling storyline as we are treated to some classic Barker horror. The story was later adapted by Steve Niles in 1993 into the Eclipse Books graphic novel `The Life Of Death' where it was illustrated by Hector Gomez.
Son Of Celluloid - 35 pages
"When an escaped convict commits murder and finds his way to a decaying movie palace, he cannot know that his own life is about to end, while the dreams of a half-decade's moviegoers are just beginning. For this convict's cancerous tumor refuses to die, and the angels of the cinema can grant mirages and nightmares of their own." Inspired by the beaten up revival cinema Barker frequented many times back in Liverpool, in which so many films fuelled his imagination as a young man. The short is a heavy dousing of pure horror, with a fast-paced storyline and underlying tension that mounts throughout. The story was later adapted by Steve Niles in 1991 into the Eclipse Books graphic novel `Son Of Celluloid' where it was illustrated by Les Edwards.
Rawhead Rex - 47 pages
"Rawhead it was called because its head was huge and raw like meat. It was the last of a line of kings dating from before civilization, before Christ, when England was forest all over and the home of unspeakable horror. The ultimate monster is on the loose, with a hunger that won't be satisfied this side of Hell". Adapted into a movie back in 1987, Barker was highly dissatisfied with it and so went on to take up the directors chair himself with his own adaptation of the story `The Hellbound Heart' which became the cult movie `Hellraiser'. The short story `Rawhead Rex' is an incredibly violent and gore-filled offering, with this ungodly creature on a complete rampage. The ending is deep within the weird and supernatural world in which Barker will later submerge himself. A highly enjoyable tale of horror. The story was later adapted by Steve Niles in 1993 into the Eclipse Books graphic novel `Rawhead Rex' where it was illustrated by Lionel Talaro.
Confession Of A (Pornographer's) Shroud - 32 pages
"When the Porn Kings tortured Ronnie Glass to death they didn't believe in Resurrection. They do now". A nasty little tale of revenge and evil torment. The story is gripping and rammed with suspense from the start. It's well-written and powerful with its vivid and, in places, horrific depictions.
Scapegoats - 25 pages
"Four lost people on a lost island, with the dead calling from the sea". Written from the first-person perspective of a young woman, Scapegoats boasts a tale of underlying horror and ritual slaughter. It depicts a vivid tension in the air that will put you not at ease throughout. The tale is dark and bizarre, with a horrific and evil conclusion which is a little unsettling, leaving you wondering the taunting world of Barker's creation. Another one of my favourites from the Books Of Blood series. The story was later adapted in 1990 into the graphic novel `Tapping The Vein - Book 3' where it was illustrated by Bo Hampton.
Human Remains - 42 pages
"Gavin was a whore, happy to sell his body for hard cash. Until he met the creature that wanted to own his flesh forever". A typical Barker style of offering here, with the corruption of the nature of the flesh. The story includes brutal violence in places with splatters of gore and bloodshed. The short is perverse and darkly erotic in places with sudden bursts of the horrific. Pure genius. The story was later adapted in 1989 into the graphic novel `Tapping The Vein - Book 1' where it was illustrated by P. Craig Russel.