Books of Blood
Books of Blood Omnibus, Volumes 1–3
|Cover artist||Clive Barker|
|Series||Books of Blood|
|Genre||Horror, short stories|
|Publisher||Sphere Books (UK)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
There are six books in total, each simply subtitled Volume 1 through to Volume 6, and were subsequently re-published in two omnibus editions containing three volumes each. Each volume contains four or five stories. The volume 1–3 omnibus was published with a foreword by Barker's fellow Liverpudlian horror writer Ramsey Campbell.
They were published between 1984 and 1985. With the publication of the first volume, Barker became an overnight sensation and was hailed by Stephen King as "the future of horror". The book won both the British and World Fantasy Awards.
Although undoubtedly horror stories, like most of Barker's work they mix fantasy themes in as well. The unrelentingly bleak tales invariably take place in a contemporary setting, usually featuring everyday people who become embroiled in terrifying or mysterious events. Barker has stated in Faces of Fear that an inspiration for the Books of Blood was when he read Dark Forces in the early 1980s and realised that a horror story collection need not have any narrow themes, consistent tone or restrictions. The stories could range from the humorous to the truly horrific.
For some editions, each book's cover was illustrated by Clive Barker himself.
Eighteen of the stories in the Books of Blood were adapted by Eclipse Books in the comic series Tapping the Vein as well as other titled adaptations.
Several of the stories have been adapted into movies, "Rawhead Rex" (1986); "The Forbidden" (filmed in 1992 as Candyman); "The Last Illusion" (filmed in 1995 as Lord of Illusions); "The Body Politic" (filmed in 1997 as Quicksilver Highway); "The Midnight Meat Train" (2008); "The Book of Blood" and "On Jerusalem Street (a postscript)" (combined and filmed in 2008 as Book of Blood), and "Dread" (2009). "The Yattering and Jack" was adapted by Barker himself in 1986 for the US series Tales from the Darkside.
- 1 Story list and synopsis
- 1.1 Volume One
- 1.2 Volume Two
- 1.3 Volume Three
- 1.4 Volume Four
- 1.5 Volume Five
- 1.6 Volume Six
- 2 References
- 3 External links
Story list and synopsis
The Book of Blood
This is the frame story for the entire Books of Blood series. A psychic researcher, Mary Florescu, has employed a quack medium named Simon McNeal to investigate a haunted house. Alone in an upstairs room, McNeal at first fakes visions, but then the ghosts really do come for him. They attack him and carve words in his flesh, and these words, claims the narrator, form the rest of the stories, stories written on a literal, living Book of Blood. This prologue, along with closing story "On Jerusalem Street" from Volume Six, was adapted into the film Book of Blood, written and directed by John Harrison.
The Midnight Meat Train
A down-and-out man, Leon Kaufman, falls asleep on a New York City Subway train, later waking at a secret station beyond the end of the line. Kaufman encounters a man named Mahogany, who has killed and butchered several people and hung their bodies up on the train. Mahogany remarks that he will be forced to kill Kaufman to guard his secrets. Kaufman fights Mahogany and kills him in self-defense, but then the train doors open and strange malformed creatures board the train. The creatures eat the dead passengers, then force Kaufman to serve them as their new butcher, cutting out his tongue to ensure his silence. They tell Kaufman that Mahogany was getting old and could not do the job any longer, and that Kaufman now has a new career. It is also revealed that the creatures have also been the secret rulers of New York City for centuries. The police have always covered up for the creatures. Kaufman finds he now has lifetime employment.
A movie of the same name was released on 1 August 2008. The movie, for the most part, seems to follow the storyline of Barker's original design, except it is the train conductor who tells him that he is now their new butcher. Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones star in the film.
The Yattering and Jack
Jack Polo is a gherkin importer who is haunted by a minor demon called the Yattering. The demon is commanded to haunt Jack by Beelzebub, the "Lord of the Flies", because one of Jack's ancestors reneged on a pact made with the demon lord. The Yattering is frustrated when its determined efforts to drive Jack mad are answered with good cheer and apparent obliviousness. Unknown to the Yattering, Jack is purposely ignoring the demon to frustrate it and to maintain his own sanity. The Yattering subjects him to increasingly severe torments, including killing his cats and terrorising his family, but all fail. Eventually Jack tricks it into violating its orders, allowing Jack to take advantage of a loophole and make the Yattering his slave. Unusual for Barker's early work, this story is unabashedly comic. It was made into an episode of the horror anthology TV series Tales from the Darkside.
Pig Blood Blues
A former policeman named Redman starts working in a borstal, where he uncovers a deadly secret involving a boy named Lacey. Lacey claims that a missing boy named Henessey is not missing but is present in the form of a ghost. As Redman investigates he finds that things are not what they seem, and that a giant pig in a stye on the grounds is possessed by the soul of Henessey, having transferred his soul into the pig to live forever. "This is the state of the beast. ...to eat and be eaten."
Sex, Death and Starshine
Terry Calloway is directing Twelfth Night in a run-down theatre. The production is not going well. Terry conducts a distracted affair with his leading lady, Diane Duvall, a former soap opera star who is a dreadful actress. A mysterious man in a mask, Mr. Lichfield, tells Calloway that his wife, Constantia, would have been a better Viola. Aside from Constantia being dead, Terry cannot replace Diane because her television renown provides a boost to the show's publicity.
On the day of the final rehearsal, Mr. Lichfield confronts Diane about her lack of "style" on the stage. He states that his wife will play the role of Viola on opening night. Diane removes Lichfield's mask, revealing him as an animated corpse. Lichfield kisses Diane, and she slips into a coma. Constantia is announced as the new Viola, and Diane is taken to intensive care. Following her "recovery", Terry realises during sex that she is undead, just before she kills him.
The play opens to a packed house. When the house lights are extinguished after the performance, the actors realise that the audience consists entirely of ghosts and decaying corpses. The theatre trustee, newly-dead Tallulah, burns down the theatre. Every living player in the production is killed. Several of the actors and Terry join Mr. Lichfield and Constantia on the road as a repertory company of the undead.
In the Hills, the Cities
Two gay men, Mick and Judd, take a romantic but strained vacation in Yugoslavia. In an isolated rural area, two entire cities, Popolac and Podujevo, create massive communal creatures by binding together the bodies of their citizens. Almost forty thousand people walk as the body of a single giant as tall as a skyscraper. This ritual occurs every ten years, but this time things go wrong and the Podujevo giant collapses, killing tens of thousands of citizens horribly. In shock, the entire population of Popolac goes mad and become the giant they are strapped into. Popolac wanders the hills aimlessly. By nightfall many of the people who make up the giant die from exhaustion, but the giant continues walking.
Mick and Judd come upon the smashed bodies of the Podujevans in a ravine awash with blood. A local man tries to steal their car to catch up with Popolac and reason with it before it collapses and destroys the people who compose it. The man explains the truth of the situation to Mick and Judd, but they do not believe his story. They seek shelter at a remote farm, where Popolac blunders into the farmhouse, killing Judd accidentally. Mick and the elderly couple who own the farmhouse are driven mad with fear. Mick wants to join Popolac. He climbs up the tower of ropes and bodies, and is carried away as it walks into the hills.
A young student, Steve, becomes acquainted with an older student named Quaid. Quaid is an intellectual with a morbid fascination with fear. He eventually shows Steve how he, Quaid, kidnapped a vegetarian woman and imprisoned her in a room with merely a steak for sustenance, only releasing her when she finally overcame her dread of eating meat to prevent starvation; she eats the meat even though it has spoiled. Steve becomes Quaid's next candidate for his experiments, held captive in a dark, silent room, forcing him to relive a childhood period of deafness that terrified him. Steve is driven insane by this forced sensory deprivation and eventually returns to Quaid's house and butchers him with an axe. Quaid's experiments, all along, were to try to help him understand the nature of fear, but ironically his experiments in phobias made his own worst fears come to life.
Every one-hundred years, a race is held in London. Satan sends one of his representatives to run it against the (unsuspecting) human runners. If Satan's minion wins, then he, Satan, gets to rule the Earth. An athlete taking part in the event, Joel, begins to realise the true meaning of things and what is at stake when his fellow human competitors begin to fall, savaged by some unseen beast. We also learn of the deal a satanist, Gregory, makes with Hell. He has staked his life and soul on this race. Meanwhile, Joel does not win the race due to a struggle with Hell's shape-shifting runner, a demonic familiar who bites off Joel's face. However, during this struggle, the last surviving runner jogs past them to the finishing line. Hell loses out once again. Gregory is hardly surprised when he is punished for his overconfidence by being gruesomely slain.
Jacqueline Ess: Her Will And Testament
Jacqueline Ess is a housewife who attempts suicide after becoming bored with her life. She recovers only to find that she has an ability to change people's body shapes simply with her mind. She accidentally kills her therapist and then – somewhat less accidentally – kills her husband, simply by willing their bodies into tearing apart or folding in on themselves. One man becomes obsessed with her and tracks her down. Jacqueline eventually becomes a prostitute, her abilities giving her the power to give men the ultimate sexual experience, albeit one that always proves fatal. She has by now lost control of herself and has to be watched while sleeping in case she unconsciously mutilates her own body. The man obsessed with her eventually makes love to Jacqueline and they willingly die together by Jacqueline's powers.
This story is also published in the book I Shudder at Your Touch.
The Skins of the Fathers
Davidson is stuck in Arizona after his car breaks down. He then witnesses a bizarre parade of freakish monsters. It turns out that these creatures mated with a woman in a nearby town six years previously and are intending on reclaiming the child, which they promptly achieve. Davidson reaches the town where a posse of gun-toting locals are eager to set out to slay the monsters. Everything goes wrong, however, and Davidson and just a few other survivors end up with a horrific fate; they sink in quicksand which then hardens when they are half-buried (one man is left with just his face exposed, the rest of him in the solidified ground) and are left for dead in the burning desert heat.
This was used as a scene in the movie Lord of Illusions, which was in turn based on "The Last Illusion", a story in volume six.
New Murders in the Rue Morgue
Lewis is a 73-year-old man who goes to Paris after his friend, Phillipe, is arrested for butchering a young woman. Phillipe eventually commits suicide in his cell after babbling about an orangutan who committed the murder he had been arrested for. Lewis does not believe it until he sees the primate – dressed like a human, completely shaved, and wielding a razor – for himself. The beast had been raised by Philippe, a notorious eccentric, as a strange experiment on Edgar Allan Poe's classic story.
Son of Celluloid
An escaped convict dies behind a movie screen. After his death, his cancerous tumor gains sentience, over the years, from the strong emotions of the cinema's audiences and torments the few people that remain after a show. The sole survivor of the massacre is seen some time later, having tracked down the murderous entity which was roaming the country after possessing the body of a young girl unaccounted for after the events. She covers the creature with acid, killing it completely.
An ancient, malevolent monster, magically imprisoned underground, is accidentally awakened in the town of Zeal, Kent. Rawhead is a nine-foot humanoid with a huge, toothed head, and is extremely ferocious. Rawhead goes on a rampage, killing and eating people, including two children. He corrupts the local Verger, who surrenders to the violent, depraved impulses that Rawhead represents, and who helps the monster slay the Vicar, Coot.
Rawhead sets Zeal alight, and is eventually overcome by Ron, father of one of Rawhead's victims, who uses a talisman to stall the beast until he is overrun by a mob of enraged village folk. The talisman depicts a pregnant woman, Rawhead's antithesis and the only thing he fears.
Rawhead Rex has a structure similar to Alien or The Thing from Another World, but uses a disturbing rural setting. The story was later turned into the movie Rawhead Rex (1986), which Barker has disowned.
Confessions of a (Pornographer's) Shroud
Ronnie is a strait-laced Catholic man who is set up to look like the king of a pornography cartel. He kills some of his enemies, but is murdered by their cohorts. Awakening as a ghost, he possesses the shroud that covers his body in the morgue, and in the shape of the shroud takes revenge on the rest of his enemies. In a gory finale, he enters the mouth of the man responsible for his ordeal and turns him inside out, literally.
Despite containing graphic descriptions of acts of extreme violence, the story is written as a black comedy, revolving around the visual gag of a real ghost looking like someone wearing a bedsheet over his or her head.
A yacht is stranded on the beach of a deserted island. The island is located at a point in the North Atlantic ocean where converging undersea currents bring all the human bodies of sailors and those who drown in the sea. The hundreds of bodies littering the ocean floor, unfortunately for the stranded crew, aren't as dead as they should be.
A young gay prostitute is hired by an archaeologist. During the course of night he stumbles into the bathroom to discover a Roman-esque statue of a man lying in the bath. Over the next few weeks he has the sense of being followed and being haunted by a doppelgänger. At the same time, his mind and body transforms; he becomes cold and lifeless, no longer needing to eat or sleep. He finally discovers his doppelganger, the statue from the bath, at his father's grave, crying in sorrow, while he is unmoved. It becomes clear that the doppelganger has become more convincing as a human than he is, and he wanders away, allowing it to continue living in his persona.
(published in the United States as The Inhuman Condition)
The Body Politic
In a bizarre version of a revolution, it appears that all our hands have their own consciousness and are not happy at being ordered what to do by their owners. The hands of a factory worker named Charlie plan to lead the revolution. Charlie's hands even have their own personalities, with Left being more cautious and Right being very determined and even proclaiming himself a Messiah. Right – against Charlie's own wishes – chops off Left, who scuttles away to summon other hands to do the same before returning to rescue Right, starting an unfortunate revolution for the population. This book was later adapted and used, in part, for the movie Quicksilver Highway.
The Inhuman Condition
A young man named Karney and his friends beat up a vagrant for fun. Karney steals a strange knotted piece of string he finds on the vagrant. A keen fan of puzzles, Karney undoes the knots that evening, not knowing that in doing so he is releasing a succession of demons who proceed to kill off his friends. The demons seem progressively more advanced, appearing to evolve with each knot. When he realises what he has done, Karney has to seek out the vagrant for help.
A woman named Virginia is unwillingly taken on a tour of the USA by her unfeeling preacher husband named John. They stay at a motel which is visited by the ghosts of Buck and Sadie, who were married while they were alive, having visited the motel 30 years ago. Sadie murdered Buck at the motel and was subsequently put to death for the murder. Buck and Sadie find that Virginia has the ability to both see and hear them. Meanwhile a scuffle ensues when the preacher discovers their driver had been giving Virginia pills to deal with her anxiety issues, while looking for the driver to confront him about the pills, John finds the married driver in bed with the daughter of the motel owner. Virginia ends up getting her hands on the exact murder weapon Sadie used to kill Buck 30 years prior and accidentally shoots her husband while aiming for Buck.
One of the shortest stories relates the tale of a wealthy middle-aged businessman, Gregorius, who becomes depressed when he believes God has deserted him, and he comes up with a plan to build a Hell on Earth to summon Satan, believing that God will then sweep him (Gregorius) out of Satan's clutches and into His heavenly fold. In his vast Satanic Cathedral, Gregorious soon loses sight of his original intention of attracting God's attention, and he is captured after torturing hundreds of people to death in the well-equipped torture chambers. It is deliberately left ambiguous whether Gregorius went insane, or if he really did succeed in tempting Satan into taking residence in his own personal Hell.
The Age of Desire
A private laboratory runs experiments on volunteers to investigate the libido and try to develop a chemical aphrodisiac. One of the experiments goes wrong when a man goes insane with lust. His perpetual state of arousal erodes his respect for morality or the law. He rapes, murders and mutilates one of the scientists and then escapes to cause wanton mayhem, eventually burning himself out and dying.
(published in the United States as In the Flesh)
A university student named Helen is doing a thesis on graffiti, and selects a run-down estate to focus her study. She notices disturbing graffiti in an abandoned building that makes references to some sort of mythical figure known as the Candyman. Further enquiries lead her to believe this is connected with recent murders and mutilations in the neighbourhood, although the locals are seemingly reluctant to discuss the incidents. She eventually encounters the Candyman himself, gaining notoriety by becoming his latest victim. This book was later adapted and made into the movie Candyman.
A man named Jerry is trying to talk a local shady businessman into financing the redevelopment of an old swimming pool complex. However, the swimming pool has some mysterious inhabitants in the form of nude teenage girls who flee should Jerry or his would-be financial backer encounter them. A swimming pool in the centre is, unlike the other pools in the building, full, and glows with a strange light and appears to be inhabited by some misshapen life-form. Curiosity leads Jerry to return to the place, which somehow causes him to wake up one morning to see that he has been transformed into a woman.
After breaking down in the middle of nowhere, a young woman happens across a secluded compound in which the world's greatest minds, a group of elderly scientists and scholars, are responsible for determining the outcome of major world events. They have lived in the complex for many years and by this point their decisions have degenerated to being made solely via games of chance. Chaos ensues when the woman and the men seek to flee the compound. They end up getting in a car accident and all the elders are killed with the exception of the single one who refused to go along. The woman is forced to participate in the games of chance with him until replacements can be found.
In The Flesh
A career criminal named Cleve has a new cellmate, a mysterious young man called Tait who admits that he committed a crime with the sole intention of coming to this particular prison. Tait believes he has been summoned there by his grandfather, a supposedly powerful sorcerer, who is buried in the jail having been executed for murder years before. Cleve is later haunted by dreams in which he is in a form of purgatory for murderers, where killers are obliged to spend some portion of their after life in a replica of the scene of their crime. In the end, Tait vanishes from his cell. His grandfather's coffin is exhumed and found to contain Tait curled up next to his dead grandfather. Once released, Cleve finds that he can now hear thoughts, as long as they revolve around killing people. He becomes disillusioned with humanity and later commits a murder himself. He is shot dead by the police and soon finds himself in the murderer's purgatory he previously saw in his dreams.
(several of these stories are also published in Cabal)
The Life of Death
Elaine, a 36-year-old woman, has just had a hysterectomy following a brush with cancer. Feeling lethargic and empty after the operation, she becomes fascinated by a church that is being demolished. She encounters a cheerfully morbid man named Kavanagh who shares her fascination. The church demolition soon reveals a tomb of plague victims that had been fermenting for centuries, and Elaine breaks in at night to view the bodies. Later, when her friends begin to die off and when the police come after her, Elaine takes refuge with Kavanagh, who she firmly believes, due to his mysterious personality and skeletal features, to be Death. It turns out Kavanagh is only a serial killer and necrophile; he strangles and rapes Elaine. As her soul flees her body, Elaine takes a sick glee in realising that Kavanagh will now be the carrier of the plague she contracted in the tomb and will spread it far and wide.
How Spoilers Bleed
Several European men, led by a cold-hearted man named Locke, have bought land in the jungles of South America, uncaring that it is inhabited by a tribe of Amazonian natives. When the tribe refuse to move, Locke's cohort shoots one of them dead accidentally. The elder of the tribe puts a curse on the men which, one by one, strikes them down with a gruesome condition that makes their bodies incredibly delicate; a mote of dust can slice their skin open, the soles of their feet crack when they stand. After his men die off, Locke goes back to the tribe to beg for forgiveness; however, when he gets there, the tribe has been massacred by some of his other colleagues. Locke begins to suffer the symptoms of the deadly curse just as he realises there is now no way of having it removed.
Twilight at the Towers
A British agent (Ballard) stationed in Berlin meets with a Russian KGB man (Mironenko). After their meet, the KGB man disappears. Ballard witnesses a vicious mauling, then soon learns that he and Mironenko are both werewolves, trained by each agency to defeat the other. Both governments raid their meeting place, causing Mironenko to transform fully. Ballard runs and wakes up in a fellow operative's house. Ballard's rival (Suckling) arrives and kills the agent, only to be killed by the transformed Ballard. Ballard seeks Mironenko, and finds him preaching to a group of wolves, verbally preparing them to overthrow humankind.
The Last Illusion
The private investigator Harry D'Amour takes a strange case where a magician named Swann has been killed under mysterious circumstances. D'Amour is recruited by Swann's wife to watch over his body so he can be cremated in line with a letter written before his death. Almost immediately, D'Amour is drawn into a mystery beyond this world and enters a survival battle with disgusting demons from the underworld seeking to claim Swann's body due to a deal he made with them which gave him the magical powers he possessed. With the assistance of Swann's underling Valentin, who is secretly a demon himself, D'Amour fights off the demons desiring Swann's body and manages to cremate it, but not before Swann performs one last magical act. This story was later adapted by Barker himself into the film Lord of Illusions.
On Jerusalem Street (a postscript)
Only included in some UK editions of the Books of Blood, "On Jerusalem Street" is a sequel to "The Book of Blood" from Volume One told as a sort of wrap-around tale. Wyburd is hired to obtain the Book of Blood for a collector. He captures and skins Simon McNeal. Later, the skin starts to bleed and won't stop, and Wyburd eventually drowns. He ends up on the Highways of the dead where he tells his story. This story, along with the prologue from Volume One, was adapted and directed into the film Book of Blood by John Harrison.
- Revelations – The Official Clive Barker Online Resource – Includes a full bibliography, filmography and frequently updated news.
- Books of Blood Volume 2 at SFReader.com