Clive on The Books of Blood

Volume 4 - The Body Politic; The Inhuman Condition; Revelations; Down Satan!; The Age of Desire

'He turned the string over and over, examining the three knots set at inch intervals in the middle of its length. They were large and asymmetrical, and seemed to serve no discernable purpose except, perhaps, to infatuate minds like his own. How else to explain their cunning construction, except that the knotter had been at pains to create a problem that was well-nigh insoluble? He let his fingers play over the surfaces of the knots, instinctively seeking some latitude, but they had been so brilliantly contrived that no needle, however fine, could have been pushed between the intersecting strands. The challenge they presented was too appealing to ignore...
...After some debate with himself, he elected the knot he would first attempt, and began to work at it. Almost immediately, he lost all sense of time passing: the problem engrossed him utterly. Hours of blissful frustration passed unnoticed as he analysed the tangle, looking for some clue as to a hidden system in the knotting. He could find none. The configurations, if they had some rationale, were beyond him.'
'The Inhuman Condition'

Volume 5 - The Forbidden; The Madonna; Babel's Children; In the Flesh

Where the waters were draining to he had no way of knowing. To the sewers, maybe, and then to the river, and finally out to sea. To death by drowning; to the extinction of magic. Or by some secret channel down into the earth, to some sanctuary safe from enquiry where rapture was not forbidden.
The water was rapidly becoming frenzied as suction called it away. The vortex whirled and foamed and spat. He studied the shape it described. A spiral of course, elegant and inevitable. The waters were sinking fast now; the splashing had mounted to a roar. Very soon it would all be gone, the door to another world sealed up and lost.
He had no choice: he leapt.

Volume 6 - The Life of Death; How Spoilers Bleed; Twilight at the Towers; The Last Illusion; The Book of Blood (a Postscript): On Jerusalem Street

It was a great relief to tell the story. Not because he wanted to be remembered, but because the telling relieved him of the tale. It no longer belonged to him, that life, that death. He had better business, as did they all. Roads to travel; splendours to drink down. He felt the landscape widen. Felt the air brightening.
What the boy had said was true. The dead have highways.
Only the living are lost.
'The Book of Blood (A Postscript): On Jerusalem Street'

"Think of the alien, the vampire, the thing that breathes and eats in defiance of the status quo - it's destroyed. That's essentially a very conservative world view. But suppose you think being corrupted, depraved and introduced into the wonders of the nightlife by a vampire is a good idea. Then you're throwing a whole value system on its head.
"I have a story, Sex, Death and Starshine, about the last night of a dying theatre. Eventually everybody that comes ends up as Walking Dead and at the end they leave as a theatre troupe that goes to entertain the dead world. Sort of Midnight Matinees. In any other story, zombies are images of evil and decay. In mine, they're real guys that happen to be dead.
"My fiction is about how the characters reinvent their world, about world reinvention of different kinds."

Barker Weaves A World Of Fantasy

By Stephen Schaefer, The Boston Herald, 21 September 1987

"The stories came from many sources. Midnight Meat Train came from a sultry summer visit to New York, and my getting lost on the subway at midnight. New Murders in the Rue Morgue was written in five days while I was snowed-in in Paris with my late lamented best friend, Bill Henry (who used to be theater reviewer for Time Magazine); Bill and I were stuck in a tiny apartment in the most ferocious blizzard Paris had seen in years. He wrote an article that later won him a Pulitzer. I wrote New Murders in the Rue Morgue."

Horror In Books And Movies: Clive Barker

By [ ], USA Today Online Chat, The Nation Talks : Live, 31 October 2000 (Note - full text at

[re. inspiration for 'Books Of Blood'] "It was reading 'Dark Forces'... It was the most extraordinary cross- section that one could imagine of kinds of talent, writing stories that could scarcely be more different from each other. I thought it was a really exciting notion - that one could actually put so many kinds of stories into a collection and call it a horror anthology for want of a better word - and I thought I should have a go at that... A visit to Pentonville Prison influenced both my novel, 'The Damnation Game' and a story called 'In The Flesh'... Last time I was in the Big Apple... there was somebody hacking up people on the subway and having a fine old time of it, so that gave me the idea for 'The Midnight Meat Train."

Meet Clive Barker

By Philip Nutman & Stefan Jaworzyn, (i) Fangoria, No 51, January 1986 (ii) Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden

"The second 3 books, in my absolutely unbiased opinion, are much better than the first 3. Much denser, much richer, much more confident, much more paradoxical, and on one level, much, much more vicious. There's a lot more 'celebration' in the second 3 books. There are stories in these volumes which separate the sheep from the goats, and 'Son of Celluloid' is one of them. There are people who are totally unsympathetic to that particular story. I don't think of 'In the Hills, the Cities' or 'Jacqueline Ess' as strictly a horror story. I mean there are out and out, unapologetic horror stories in there: 'The Midnight Meat Train' and 'Rawhead Rex' and 'Pornographer's Shroud' and so on. But there are stories there which are just... just stories of imagining of one kind or another."

Catching Up With Clive Barker (as "Horror In Print: Clive Barker")

By Stanley Wiater, (i) Fangoria, No 55, June 1986 (ii) Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden

"It was a commercial gambit to give [the Books of Blood] that title. The first three volumes were sold to Berkley and the second three to Poseidon. Poseidon, because they were a different publisher, didn't want to use the same title, obviously, so we took a title from one of the stories and called the collections by those titles. They put very classy covers on them and the whole package was very upmarket, very elegant. On the other hand, the Berkley covers have got Halloween masks and worms on them. And they were fluorescent yellow and red with 'Be Thankful You Can Scream... At Least You're Still Living...'. It's tough, but on the other hand it might be nice if one could get the crossover audience and not have to be ashamed of the genre in which one writes."

A Little Bit Of Hamlet

By Dennis Etchison, Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden

"'In The Hills, The Cities'. That was inspired by a picture called 'Panic' by Goya, in which a vast giant is disappearing into the mist with tiny people running away in it's shadow, and another print called 'Colossus' in which a giant is sitting on the edge of the world. Fabulous, fabulous pictures. The same kind of clarity one finds in Borges and Marquez, the same kind of unapologetic embrace of the extraordinary."

Clive Barker: Renaissance Hellraiser

Barker at 1986 World Fantasy Convention, by Leanne C. Harper, (i) The Bloomsbury Review, September/October 1987 (ii) Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden

"I have 20 books to choose from [for The Essential Clive Barker], obviously I wasn't going to be able to put all that stuff down. In The Hills, The Cities I chose because it was... because it's a story I get a huge amount of letters about. It's a story that really found its way into people's heads. People talk about it a lot - because I think it creates in those two cities, in the giants, an image which people haven't seen before, and so it seemed to me to be important."

Leitmotifs And Dark Beliefs

By Phil & Sarah Stokes, London, 24 September 1999 (note: full text here)

"I think what happened in that period was that I got very certain of what I wanted to do, very focused on what I wanted to do, which meant when the 'Books of Blood' came out, with no fiction published anywhere else before in magazine form or anything, it was a coup. It wasn't planned to be a coup. Maybe my editors at Sphere knew that it would be, I certainly wasn't aware it would. But it turned out to be a more definitive statement than I think I realised it was, and I think that was a direct consequence of my having spent a lot of time working doing stuff like 'Frankenstein in Love', 'The History of the Devil', 'The Secret Life of Cartoons', pieces which in very different kinds of ways mapped out the kind of territory that I'm now beginning, in a different medium, to examine and explore... My agent sent them [the first stories] to Gollancz first and somebody at Gollancz sent them back saying they were the most disgusting things she had ever read, and we sent them to Sphere. There were maybe five short stories at that point, and Sphere said, 'We'll publish anything else,' and I said, 'That's all there are at the moment, but I can work on the rest.' And I got other notions and put together the rest of the material, so eventually I could get 15 or 16 short stories in the first three volumes... Some ideas have short attention spans, they have a place to go and they finish when 30 pages are over. 'Weaveworld' was an idea which was rewarded with a further extended creative effort on my part. But an idea like 'Rawhead Rex' or 'The Age Of Desire', these are stories which have a natural length of 25 pages. They are not ideas which philosophically or narratively would particularly merit or reward extended play."

Babel's Child

By Mark Salisbury, Fear, No 2, Sept/Oct 1988

[were Volumes I-III originally conceived as 1 book?] "Yes. They were split up into three because short horror fiction doesn't get published very often in this country, and the feeling went that a 500 page book would have too high a cover price - people wouldn't be willing to take the risk... .But I've always seen it as being a fat volume; all I could ever give to short horror fiction would be contained within those pages. Looking back, I think Volume I contains the most accessible stories. Volume III contains the more problematic stuff. 'Son Of Celluloid' is a good fun tale, but it's highly weird. 'Human Remains' is also weird, and it's one of my favourite stories, but none of them are impenetrable. Many of the deeper undertones that are reflected in Volumes 4, 5 and 6 are presaged in Volume III, so there's a sense in Volume III that we're moving away from hack 'n' slash into more off-the-wall areas."

Meet Clive Barker

By Philip Nutman & Stefan Jaworzyn, (i) Fangoria, No 51, January 1986 (ii) Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden

[on the Stealth edition of all 6 volumes] "We're doing something which I'm going to tell you - you get this information first. It's something sort of outrageous. I said to my husband, I said, 'What shall we choose for the author photo?' And he said, 'Well, everyone is a Book of Blood; wherever we're opened we're red - you should be nude.' And I said, 'You're kidding!' And he said no, 'cos he had done these pictures of me in Hawaii which look like pieces of statuary, and I said 'Huh, that works OK.' So this'll be the first full-frontal author photo! the limited edition, only in the limited edition... Actually, I think it's entirely consistent with the content of the book. The book is about showing everything.
"It will be this 800, 900 page book; it will just be this defiant volume that will say, well, you may not have noticed this, guys, but this guy was really trying every different trick in the horror areas and has now moved on from there. Because I think that the Books of Blood collected like that will be incredibly authoritative. And I was excited by that... I think it's a great thing for them to be doing."

Nips And Tucks, Tits And Fucks

By Phil & Sarah Stokes, 10 July 2001 (note - full text here)

...other comments

Doug Winter: "'The Inhuman Condition' begins a second cycle of 'Books of Blood'. Their packaging, in hardcover editions geared toward the broader readership that Barker deserves, is not the only change. These stories reflect a decided maturation of style and find Barker relying more often on craft than sheer explicitness of image to convey his horrors. The 'Books of Blood' offer a strikingly bold vision, and some of the most provocative tales of terror ever published... the only real mystery is why his 1st American publisher delayed the release of 'Books of Blood' for nearly 2 years, and then issued them only in paperback editions with garish, downmarket covers. The 'Books of Blood' are patterned after Ray Bradbury's 'The Illustrated Man'... [but] any resemblance to Bradbury's gentle fantasies (or indeed those of Stephen King) ends, however, with the series' first story, Midnight Meat Train, a harrowing sojourn that depicts the NY subway as a rolling abattoir. It is what the reader will come to recognise as quintessential Barker: graphic, grotesque, and yet compellingly readable. He is the literary equivalent of those special-effects geniuses who unleash convincing and blood-spattered monstrosities on the motion picture screen. Never has horror fiction been as consistently explicit in its sex or violence or indeed, in its linking of the two... On the face of it, the 'Books of Blood' might seem to be just the thing to set the hearts of the Meese Commission aflutter. But Barker never panders; indeed he seems intent on forging something that might well be called the antihorror story. Barker's eye is unblinking; he drags our terrors from the shadows and forces us to look upon them and despair or laugh with relief.

Clive Barker: Britain's New Master of Horror

By Douglas E. Winter, Washington Post Book World, 1986

Barker's favourite description of Rawhead Rex is as a "dark dick on the run".

Straight For The Jugular (Part 1)

By Brigid Cherry, Fear, No 12, December 1989

Ramsey Campbell: "I think there has been a new generation of writers who are trying to be more disgusting than one another, and it just seems pointless. The field has survived things like this before and I'm sure it will do so again. Probably what will happen is that there'll be a reaction against that... I'm not by any means saying that I'm opposed to graphic detail in horror fiction, or I wouldn't have done the introduction to Clive Barker's Books of Blood. The point is, to show as much as you need to show for the purposes of the story."

An Interview with Ramsey Campbell

By David Mathew, Infinity Plus, 6 June 1998 (note : online at

"In...'Confessions of a (Pornographer's) Shroud', which can be read as an homage to M.R.James' 'Oh Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad', Barker audaciously reconceives the themes of classic horror fiction for a more drastic modern environment."

Introduction to 'Confessions of a (Pornographer's) Shroud'

By R. Weinberg, S.R.Dziemianowicz & M.H.Greenberg, The Mists From Beyond, ROC, 1993

Christopher Fowler : "I knew Clive Barker. He lived up the road from me; we drank in the same local. He had an editor called Barbara Boote, and he'd already written The Books Of Blood, or at least one of them. The first one came out, and I suddenly realised that I had enough material for a book of short stories. And they published it. That gave me the nerve to write a longer piece, which was 'Roofworld'."

London In The Blood : An Interview With Christopher Fowler

By David Matthew, SF, 2000 (note - online at

Doug Winter: "I met Clive in 1983, just before he was published. I was in England at the time, visiting Ramsey Campbell, who is a good friend. I was staying at his house, and one night... late in the evening after our wives had gone to bed, he came into the living room and handed me a huge manuscript that was... I don't know, at least 1,000 pages. Keep in mind this was like 1:30 in the morning after we'd been overindulging, to say the least. He handed me the manuscript and said, 'You're about to read the most important new writer of horror fiction in the 1980's.' And what he gave to me was the Books of Blood. I read about the first 50 pages, through the introduction and the first story. I knew immediately that Ramsey was right. The following day I went back to London with this manuscript and also a phone number. Ramsey had suggested I give Clive a call. So, a couple of nights later, Clive came around to my hotel, met with me, had a drink and we talked for a little bit. We'd ended up enjoying ourselves immensely. We went around the corner to dinner at an Italian restaurant. We had a wonderful time. We formed both a friendship and sort of a critical relationship, and later, an editorial relationship, among other types of relationships (laughs)..."

Revelations of an Editor

By [Stephen Dressler and Cheryl Bentzen], Lost Souls, Issue 9, November 1997 (note : online at the Lost Souls site - see links)

K.A. Laity: "In the late 1980s Clive Barker hit the publishing world with a palpable slap, releasing simultaneously three collections of short stories, called ominously The Books of Blood, at a time when short stories were seen as unmarketable. Stephen King, then reigning king of the genre, most memorably declared him to be the 'future of horror.' Two of the stories were quickly - and lamentably - turned into films, but the phenomenal success of the books gave Barker sufficient cachet to direct a film himself. That film, Hellraiser, brought an icon to the screen in the shape of the lead Cenobite 'Pinhead' and cult status to actor Doug Bradley who inhabited the scarred, pierced and fetish-ware clad 'explorer into the further regions of experience,' and may have single-handedly created the mushroom in tribal consciousness among young people in the West. Clive Barker was a man with a difference. But just what constituted that 'difference'? It may have been his art school training, it may also have been his background in fringe theater, both of which color the subject matter and narrative voice of his writing; however, the fact that he is a gay man also significantly shapes the stories he tells and the point of view from which he writes."

Imagineer: Clive Barker's Queering of the Conservative Bent of Horror Literature

By K. A. Laity, Paper delivered at NEMLA: Cambridge MA, 2 April 2005 (note : contact K. A. Laity online at

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