There are few authors that can get under my skin with their stories and nightmare imagery. In fact there is only one, Clive Barker. With the imminent arrival of The Scarlet Gospels in May, I thought I would throw some of his books back into my reading cycle, and what better place to start that his brilliant collection of short stories – the Books of Blood series. I dove into Volumes 1 to 3, and quickly realized that yes, he can still creep me out, and for the first time in a long time, made me anxious of dark spaces and shadows.
The framing story for the series is called Book of Blood, it’s a ghost story that sees a young charlatan literally inscribed with the tales told in the book after a rift is open allowing the dead the ability to tell their stories through him.
The Midnight Meat Train (turned into a film in 2008), is about someone slaughtering people on the New York subway, and hanging them like meat for something that lives in the tunnels, and feasts on human flesh. Creepy.
The Yattering and Jack may be my favorite story in volume one. It tells the tale of a lower demon, the Yattering, doing his best to drive Jack, the man of the house, insane, and claim his soul for Hell. But Jack just seems completely oblivious to all the strange happenings, perhaps he has a plan of his own.
Pig Blood Blues is set in a school for young offenders, with a tiny farm on site, with a giant, clever sow, who may be more than she seems, with some truly horrible appetites.
Sex, Death and Star Shine is a dark adult tale that has overtone of Neil Gaiman, though darker than anything I’ve read by him. In a final production in a theatre slated to be torn down, the lead is recast, and the audience is filled with the dead.
In the Hills, the Cities tells the tale of a pair of lovers, Mick and Judd, who are travelling Europe together, they stumble across a competition between two towns, and madness and blood ensue.
Volume 2 starts off with Dread (which was made into a film in 2009), a university student, fascinated with the subject of dread and fear conducts experiments on a couple of his fellow students in a very tense tale and journey into terror.
Hell’s Event is the story of a marathon that is run once every century with the rule of heaven or hell hanging in the balance. I quite liked this one.
Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament, without too many spoilers is a tale of obsession over a woman with a frightening talent.
The Skins of the Fathers gives us a demonic encounter in the desert that centers around a town, its inhabitants, fear and a boy born of a strange union. Something about this one makes me feel that it could work as a full-length novel…
New Murder in the Rue Morgue is an homage and a follow-up to the classic tale by Edgar Allen Poe, as the tale moves into an even darker place than Poe ventured.
Volume 3 opens with Son of Celluloid (which was turned into a stand alone graphic novel) features an unusual catalyst that brings about a strange new life to a cinema as stars and starlets of yesteryear now hunt the theatre with murderous intent.
Rawhead Rex is about the small town of Zeal, and their unhappiness with all these new folk moving into to town, things turn bloody, when one of the land’s original inhabitants is loosed from it’s earthen prison, and it feels the same way about humans.
Confessions of a (Pornographer’s) Shroud is one of those stories that would only work as a written word, the visuals for a film version just wouldn’t work. A man is executed after he’s framed as a Porn King, but though sheer force of will, his spirit inhabits the morgue sheet used to cover him, and he seeks out his revenge on those who wronged him.
Scape-goats is a sea-faring tale that sees a pleasure yacht ship-wrecked on a rocky outcropping in the middle of the ocean. But its an island made of something much more troubling and macabre than sand and palm trees.
Human Remains tells us of Gavin, a gigolo, and his slow deterioration after encountering something that has chosen him to emulate his beauty and perhaps even steal his soul.
Wow, I missed reading Clive Barker!!! I’ll have to revisit volumes 4 to 6 in short order.