The Thief of Always

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The Thief of Always
First edition
Author Clive Barker
Illustrator Clive Barker
Cover artist Clive Barker
Country United States
Language English
Genre Dark fantasy
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
November 1, 1992
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 225 pp (first edition)
ISBN 0-06-017724-1
OCLC 26356764

The Thief of Always is a novel by Clive Barker that was published in 1992.

It is a fable written for children, by Clive Barker. It is also intended for adults as well. The book contains many black and white drawings by the author, and the cover illustrated by Clive Barker. His official site has an extensive online gallery of all The Thief of Always illustrations.[1]


The Thief of Always starts out by introducing the main character, Harvey Swick. Harvey Swick is a 10-year-old boy who finds himself bored with school, uninteresting teachers, homework, and his day-to-day life. In response to a frustrated plea for change, a man named Rictus flies up to Harvey's window and tells him about a kid's paradise, the Holiday House. At the Holiday House, there are all the sweets a person could ask for, four seasons in a day, Halloween every evening, Christmas, with whatever gifts you could wish for, every night, and everything else you could dream of. Harvey reluctantly goes to the house after a week of thinking, and enters the house through a wall of mist. Harvey enjoys the wonders of the Holiday House, and stays there for thirty-one days, becoming friends with Wendell and Lulu, two other kids at the house. There was also a woman, Mrs. Griffin. She cooked all the meals for the children. She was very nice and sweet. However, he eventually starts to suspect that the house is not as perfect as it seems. Upon investigation, Harvey discovers that the house's creator, Mr. Hood, has sucked all of the children's souls away and turned them into fish, imprisoning them in a dark, gloomy lake. After that, Harvey and Wendell are trapped in the house, and escape by following a cat named Blue-Cat through the mist barrier that constantly surrounds the property of the house at night.

When both Harvey and Wendell come home, they soon discover that for every day they spend in the Holiday House, a year has passed in the rest of the world. When Harvey met his parents, he thought he went to the wrong house, but he was wrong. The moment he saw his mother he knew that something was fishy. His parents also realized who he was and invited him in. He took a long nap and told them what happened. At first they didn't believe him, but Harvey told them it was true. They went on the search of the House, but Harvey forgot all the roads he took coming home. It seemed like everything was different. They tried all day, but Harvey and his parents couldn't find the House.

Harvey's father finally decided to go to the police station. While he was at the police station, Harvey and his mother were at home. Harvey's mother decided to go out shopping and Harvey went up to his room. When he was in his room, he saw Wendell in the street walking towards Harvey's house. Harvey went downstairs, opened the door, and let Wendell come in. Wendell told Harvey that Wendell's mother was old, fat, and got divorced. Harvey also told Wendell what happened to him. They both think about what happened in the Holiday House and decide that the only way to regain their lost time is to return to the Holiday House. Upon doing so, Harvey learns that Hood runs the entire house on magic and illusions.

Harvey defeats Hood by tricking him into using up all of his magic by wishing for as many things as he can think of as fast as he can, to drain Hood's power. When an exhausted Hood allows Harvey one more wish, Harvey asks for all the seasons at once, resulting in a furious lightning storm that burns down the house. Hood seems to perish in the fire, but he manages to rebuild a body from the debris of the house, and remarks at Harvey's courage, contrasting Harvey with Wendell, who has succumbed to the House's lures and wishes to stay forever in a trance. Hood then offers Harvey, whom he calls A Thief of Always, to be a vampire with him and be immortal. Harvey refuses, and this final confrontation ends when Hood is knocked into the lake, which has turned into a vortex (or whirlpool) and sucks him in. The children all leave the remains of the house to go back to their respective times.


  • Harvey Swick – A 10-year-old boy, who is straw-haired and browned eyed, and impulsive, is bored with his everyday life and wishes to go to a place that is a kids' paradise. His wish is granted when Rictus enters through bedroom window and persuades him to come to this kids' paradise known as the Holiday House and agrees to come. When he arrives, Harvey becomes flabbergasted by the magic and wonders the Holiday House possessed. Harvey then discovers when he stays in the world of the Holiday House, all of the years of his life are stolen by Mr. Hood and he himself has realized that he has stolen the lives of children, including one of his friends Lulu, must put an end to all of the dark magic of Mr. Hood, destroy the House and all of its pitiful creatures that hide in its shadows. Harvey is bored and frustrated with his life in the first chapter, but he's very observant, smart, clever, and kind and does everything to help his friends and the children become free from the Holiday House and discovers in the end that there's nothing more powerful than the love of his family and friends and is the brightest child in the story.
  • Rictus – One of four servants of Hood's. Rictus is six inches taller that Harvey, wears gentlemen's clothes, a tall brim hat, and wears spectacles. He's very thin, has yellowish skin, and has a grin that can stretch wider than any grin, resembling the bizarre Cheshire Cat from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Rictus's name means "a fixed grimace or grin."
  • Jive – One of four servants of Hood's. Jive's downfall occurs when he attempts to change Harvey's mind to stay at the Holiday House with pie and ice cream. Harvey tricks him by saying that the food's not real, but Jive unwillingly eats both plates of the pie and ice cream, which causes him to fall down and crawl on the stairs as he spews dirt and dust out of his mouth screaming for his master's help, and suddenly turns to a pile of dirt and dust. Jive's name means "deceitful or worthless."
  • Marr – One of four servants of Hood's. A grotesquely overweight female who is said to resemble a slug. Marr possesses the unique ability to manipulate human flesh into whichever shape she desires (similar to how one would mold clay). Marr's downfall occurs when Harvey forces her to see herself as the wretched slob that she is. Marr melts into a puddle of brackish, fleshy liquid. Marr's name is similar to the word "mar" which means to "impair the appearance of; disfigure."
  • Carna – One of four servants of Hood's. Carna's name could be eluding to the word "carnivore", which means "an animal that feeds on flesh."
  • Wendell – A naive, obnoxious boy who loves to be in the Holiday House and becomes friends with Harvey.
  • Lulu – A girl a few years older than Harvey, who's been there longer than both he and Wendell. She has a room full of Christmas presents, hinting she has been there for many months.
  • Mrs. Griffin – The housekeeper, and fantastic cook. She has been there longer than anyone, and seems to know more than she lets on.
  • Mr. Hood – The owner of the Holiday House, he is very powerful and has never been seen.
  • The Holiday House – The place where every day is perfect, and children can go to live out the rest of their lives if they are not careful.
  • Blue Cat – Owned by Mrs. Griffin.
  • Clue Cat – Owned by Mrs. Griffin.
  • Stew Cat – Owned by Mrs. Griffin.


"The Thief of Always" while remaining rather obscure, has received positive reviews from both critics and casual readers alike. Goodreads' readers give the book an approximate 4.16 out of 5 stars.[2] In one positive review (of which was advertised on some copies of the book) by Publishers Weekly it was stated: "In a tale that manages to be both cute and horrifying, bestselling novelist and screenwriter Barker puts the dark side back into childhood fantasy."


The Thief of Always has been adapted as a bimonthly three-part comic book, published between January 2005 and May 2005 by IDW Publishing.

An animated musical version of the novel was planned in the early 1990s by Paramount Productions. It was to be directed by Robin Budd, and produced by Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy. Besides adapting the book for the screen, Barker was to have been one of the four executive producers. The project did not eventuate.

A live action adaptation of the novel was negotiated between Seraphim Films and 20th Century Fox on or before 4 August 2004.[3] The movie was scheduled for release in 2010, but as of 2014, no adaption has been made.


  1. ^ "The Thief of Always". Clive Barker. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Thief of Always." Goodreads. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.
  3. ^ What's New with Clive? Retrieved 3 March 2005.

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