Book: Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic

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Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic

Author: Douglas E. Winter
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Clive Barker: a modern myth-maker, explorer of our darkest instincts and ultimate fears, the writer who—more than any other contemporary figure—has shaped our nightmares through diverse media. Novelist, playwright, scriptwriter, artist and director, he is a master at twisting the mundane to make it fantastic, frightening and ultimately meaningful.

Douglas E. Winter’s detailed and highly literate biography, made possible by unprecedented access to Barker and his closest friends and family, offers readers a privileged insight into Barker’s own story: his Liverpool childhood and adolescence; his forays into the world of theatre, mime and direction; his meteoric rise to fame as the author of the Books of Blood and Weaveworld, and the director of Hellraiser; his move to Hollywood to pursue a film career and his growth as an artist in many different media, which has taken him from theatre—the first form of human expression—into the digital age.

Interwoven with this revealing and personal journey into Barker’s life is a grand tour through all of his fiction and film, from his earliest unpublished work—including the short story “The Wood on the Hill,” which is published here for the first time—up to his most recent novel, Coldheart Canyon and beyond, giving a tantalising glimpse of things to come.

Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic unlocks the beating heart of a polymath, a creator, a true artist, and reveals at last a man with one of the twentieth century’s most phenomenal imaginations, and the vision to lead us on many strange and fabulous journeys in the years ahead.


Douglas E. Winter, author of Stephen King: The Art of Darkness and editor of two major dark-fiction anthologies (Prime Evil and Revelations), may be the reigning expert on modern horror. If his book Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic is not the definitive biography of that polymathic author-playwright-auteur, it is only because the volume appeared when its subject was still in his late forties.

At 501 pages, plus 50 pages of endnotes and nearly 100 pages of Primary and Secondary Bibliography, The Dark Fantastic is an impressively thorough document. It covers Clive Barker’s life from before birth (giving background on his parents, grandparents, and the hometown he shares with the Beatles) through the early years of struggle to his successes as an internationally bestselling author, Hollywood screenwriter-producer-director, and family man. The biography makes it clear that Barker has always had exceptional talent. (The Dark Fantastic includes, as an appendix, a previously unpublished story, written in Barker’s early teens, “The Wood on the Hill.” This uneven but fully developed fable of hubris is a tale authors twice as old would be proud to have written.)

Readers expecting a tell-all biography will be disappointed. A good portion of The Dark Fantastic is devoted to summaries and assessments of Barker’s creations in many media. However, Winter’s critical examinations are interesting, sympathetic, and honest. The Dark Fantastic is a must for all Barker fans and all serious scholars of horror and the fantastic. —Cynthia Ward

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