Clive Barker is a British fantasist, author, director, and artist who hit the horror scene in the mid-1980s with six short story collections called the Books of Blood. His work signified a tectonic shift in the horror field, opening the door to more progressive sexual themes and graphic horror handled with literary sensibilities.
Barker was inspired to write horror at an early age when Ramsey Campbell spoke at his high school in 1968, when Barker was only 16 years old. Barker went on to earn a B.A. in Philosophy and English Literature from University of Liverpool in 1974.
In 1985, it seemed like Barker came from out of nowhere. As I recall, some called him an overnight success. In reality, Barker spent over a decade of toiling in poverty, painting and writing scripts for theatre groups. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy states he moved to London at the age of 21 and “spent the next eight years on welfare.” He wrote the stories in the first three volumes of the Books of Blood during nights and weekends over a period of eight months.
The forces of the universe came full circle when Campbell was asked to write a forward for Barker’s first collection. Ramsey Campbell reportedly talked to Douglas Winter about the unpublished Books of Blood manuscript. According to a 1986 article in the Washington Post, Campbell shared the manuscript with Winter during a visit in 1983 and told him “you’re about to read the most important new horror writer of this decade.”
Campbell was right. Barker’s work hit the shores of America like a tidal wave. Stephen King made his famous proclamation that he had “seen the future of horror, and its name is Clive Barker.”
The Books of Blood and his debut novel The Damnation Game quickly made Barker a hot commodity in the industry. One of his stories, “In the Hills, the Cities,” won the 1984 British World Fantasy Award, and all three volumes of Books of Blood won the World Fantasy Award in 1985. He capitalized on that popularity by rebounding from what he felt was a disappointing adaptation of “Rawhead Rex” by securing a deal with New World Pictures to write and direct Hellraiser. The rest is pretty much history.
The Sphere UK Books of Blood paperback scans below are my personal favorites, featuring cover art by Clive Barker. All scans below are from the personal collection of Christopher Fulbright. Information in this article was gleaned from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy, TVGuide.com, the Washington Post archives, Locus, and the British Fantasy Society.
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