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Tales of the Macabre: 6 of the Best Clive Barker Books

If you haven’t gotten the point by now, I’m seriously excited at the prospect of a new Hellraiser movie. Though neither Clive Barker (original Hellraiser mastermind) nor Doug Bradley (the original Pinhead) have any involvement with the film, I’m still interested to see what they can do with the newest entry into the franchise. Still, if nothing else, the news has gotten me to go back and explore earlier entries into the Hellraiser universe, but it’s also got me thinking. There is so much more to Mr. Barker than these films…first and foremost, he’s an author, and in my opinion, capable of instilling fear through his words like almost no other author is able to do.

Stephen King is excellent; his style and stories are unmistakable. However, Mr. Barker dives further into terrifying perverse territory than King would ever dare too…it’s simply a different style. If you’ve never read anything by the man before and would like to get familiar with his work, then you’ve come to the right place. In this list are sex books o that are so terrifying and utterly disturbing that if you don’t feel dirty after them, you’re simply not capable of feeling fear. And also possibly see a psychiatrist.

6. The Scarlet Gospels

While this novel probably will not make many other “best of” lists in regards to Clive Barker’s best works, I believe it is a bit underrated; and at the very least, deserves a spot on the list because it’s more of what most of us know him from in the first place: Pinhead. It’s a direct sequel/reboot to the original novella in which Pinhead was born, so it’s absolutely wonderful to be able to read more about him regardless of how far apart the two books were published. The Scarlet Gospels has everything Mr. Barker is known for: the perverted, the strange, the horrible, and the terrifying…plus a guy with nails all throughout his skull. Lovely!

5. Books of Blood

Books of Blood was what really put the author on the map, all the way back in 1984. They are collections of short stories that range from anywhere to the “fantastique”, as Barker puts them, all the way to unrelenting, gritty horror. There were six volumes published, with many of them being made into feature films. Rawhead Rex (1986) and The Midnight Meat Train (2008) are just two of the notable ones. Love Candyman? Guess what!? That’s in there too, as a story called The Forbidden. Man, Tony Todd is just so cool…

4. Cabal

While it must be noted that this story was actually included in the sixth volume of Books of Blood, this novella is more than strong enough to stand on its own and was also the basis for the cult classic Nightbreed in 1990. A man named Boone is convinced by his psychiatrist, Decker, that he’s responsible for a number of murders though he has no recollection of the eleven brutal killings. In his dreams, he sees a city filled with monsters called Midian and sets out to find it, with Decker hot on his trail. See the movie, read the book, and compare the two; it’s a horrifyingly fun experience to do so.

3. Weaveworld

Weaveworld is not much of a horror novel, but it’s nonetheless superb, and it would be an unforgivable sin to not include it on this list. There are many who would put this at the top of their list but as a person with a near gravitational pull to all things horror, it would be extremely hard for me to not put his most terrifying at the number one spot…but before we get to that, let’s speak a bit about Weaveworld. It’s grandiose; it’s a monstrous work of, yet again, “the fantastique”. Though it may not be monstrous in length alone, in certainly is in terms of depth and imagination. Even if you read strictly horror, it’d be an incredibly smart move to pick up this particular book. Don’t be intimidated by it’s nearly 800-page length, as once you start reading it, it’ll feel just as natural as breathing to keep tearing through the pages.
2. The Hellbound Heart

Everything you need to know about this novella is displayed in its dark glory in the image I have provided…isn’t that enough? If you want a quick, horrifying read, pick up The Hellbound Heart. It’s Clive Barker’s defining work, and with his profound tongue for the macabre shown within this story, it’s easy to see why. That’s all there is to say, really…just read it. It’s that simple.

1. The Damnation Game

The Damnation Game, first published in 1985, is one of the most disturbing yet powerful pieces of fiction that I have ever read in my entire life. In the short time in which I read it (I completely devoured these pages), I felt almost rotten on the inside. I was disturbed; completely and utterly shocked by each passing chapter. It focuses on an inmate named Marty Strauss who is released on parole to act as bodyguard for one of the most wealthy men on the planet, Joseph Whitehead. Whitehead made a pact during the second world war with a mysterious man named Mamoulian, and it’s time for Whitehead to pay. There’s nearly every horrible act a human could do to one another within these pages, but it’s metaphorical and masterfully written. Clive Barker is a genius of dark literature, but be warned; this book will make you feel uneasy.

 

The next time you find yourself in a bookstore (or, more likely, Amazon’s book section), look up Clive Barker. Pick up one of these books; you’ll most certainly find something unspeakable within. He is the master of bringing the darkness within humanity into the light of day to be put on display and pondered over…no matter how terrifying it may be to consider.

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