Happy Birthday to the Dark Prince of Horror – Clive Barker

Clive Barker barely needs an introduction to the horror and fantasy genre. This year is Clive’s 65th birthday, and we’re looking back at some of his earliest works, most notably his fiction. Born the 5th of October 1952 in Liverpool, Merseyside, England, Clive grew up on Penny Lane, a street familiar to Beatles fans. Later, Barker and Doug Bradley formed the theater group, The Dog Company, with a few friends.

As a mature adult, Clive Barker exploded onto the horror literature scene with a seal of approval from his fellow Liverpudlian, Ramsey Campbell, with the Books of Blood Volumes 1 through 3, which were published between 1984 and 1985. Clive’s source of inspiration was the 1980 classic anthology collection, Dark Forces (1980), inspiring Clive to take pen to paper (He is known to write all his fiction longhand, and later, his secretary types them out for him.)

“I thought I was past being profoundly disturbed by horror fiction, but these books proved me wrong.” – Ramsey Campbell

Clive Barker made a stance with Volumes 1 through 3, shaping, crafting and weaving horror literature, as well as paving the way for many budding splatterpunk and bizzaro fiction writers. Even in the ‘80s, the great comic book writer Alan Moore also made claims that the Books of Blood are some of the best short stories ever written. Barker’s blend of perfect body horror in the West stands side by side with other genre masters such as David Cronenberg. This is most notably seen in Son of Celluloid and Jacquiline EssHer Last Will and Testament which, by the end of Jacquiline Ess, one can almost feel the yearning.

“Barker has been an amazing writer from his first appearance, with a great gift of invention and commitment that stands on every page.” – Peter Straub

In the Midnight Meat Train, Clive Barker is able to make use and almost manipulate the typical run of the mill stalk and slash by cutting his prose and allowing the blood to spill and swirl into poetry, even adding dashes of Hitchcockian themes like obsession. The story later turns three degrees into the cannibal genre, slowly becoming something fresh and anew.

“What he’s doing now is important and exciting. He’s an original…he even scares me.” – Stephen King

While his Books of Blood gained such notoriety among readers and critics alike, Barker, a visual artist, went on to also reinvent the horror film – possibly due to the abysmal Rawhead Rex adaptation – with Hellraiser ( The Hellbound Heart ), Nightbreed and Lord of Illusion, all of which were adaptations of his own fiction. Cabal added a certain sympathy for the monster, reminiscent of such wonderful classics as Bride of Frankenstein, Freaks and King Kong, making Cabal the novel and Nightbreed the movie a reconstructionist’s wet dream. Love for the monster.

The Faustian tale The Damnation Game (1985) was his first published novel, a book that earned Clive a Bram Stoker nomination for best first novel in 1988. The story opens in the ruins of WWII and slowly moves into a standard crime novel, with added twists reminiscent of M.R. James and W. Somerset Maugham. Barker also used similar themes found in his Books of Blood series to give The Damnation Game the edge over other writers at the time.

Clive Barker’s literary influences range from William S. Burroughs to Ray Bradbury to William Blake to Jean Cocteau to Herman Melville to Edgar Allen Poe, and many more. It’s with these authors that Barker’s vision in fiction can be clearly felt. But what really sets him apart from other fiction writers is his incredible attention to detail, his flawless talent to describe distinctive snippets in time and space, allowing the reader to render those frozen moments in crystalline detail. The reader can almost sense the author’s surrealistic approach of opposites and, like removing the layers of an onion, peeling back the very core of reality.

Clive Barker has been an amazing writer from his first appearance, with the great gifts of invention and commitment to his own vision stamped on every page.” – Peter Straub

Clive Barker’s wonderful paintings and illustrations have been housed and featured in art galleries across the US, as well as in his own fictional works. He has even contributed his artwork for the fiction of Master of Horror creator Mick Garris.

Barker has conquered the graphic novel in ways that parallel immortal artists like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. These are the reactive, alchemical principles that Clive Barker strives for, always looking to turn lead into gold. This is what truly makes Clive Barker “The Dark Prince of Horror and Fantasy” and, more importantly, the Imaginer.

I will leave you on this quote from the late J.G. Ballard:

“A powerful and fascinating writer with a brilliant imagination…Clive Barker [is] an outstanding storyteller.” – J G Ballard

About lfmccabe

Lee Francis McCabe is a British born aspiring Author/screenwriter who began writing at a young age. He commenced professionally at the age of 21 in the form of screenplay writing, resulting in three films produced in the UK, and two films produced in Cape Town / South Africa. His favourite authors include Ramsey Campbell, Bret Easton Ellis, William S. Burroughs, Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark and Richard Matheson. When he’s not talking film or literature, he’s busy writing fiction and chasing surrealism whilst trying his hardest not to sound like an enlightened asshole. He holds a degree in Media and Journalism, as well as Screenplay writing and Filmmaking. Lee resides in Cape Town/South Africa and is working toward becoming an established author.

Check Also

‘Elevator Game’ (2023) Movie Review – New Levels Of Horror

In what has been a topsy-turvy year for horror, genre fans are always looking for …