What’s My Damage? – Clive Barker’s Books of Blood (Vol. 1)

What’s shaking, people?

Seeing all these posts on Facebook regarding the ten books that have stuck with folks has me thinking quite a bit about books/comics/media that have utterly stuck with me—like, stay with me to this day.

Seeing as I could rant, and rant, and rant about them for days. It doesn’t seem right to just do a Facebook post with blurbs.

So, I think I have an idea for a new set of Blog posts – “What’s My Damage?” – a collection of  movies/comics/books/albums that totally influenced me as a writer (and maybe a person).

I’m so excited for this idea that we’ll start it off real easy and in the spirit of the original posts, with a book.

That book; Clive Barker’s short story collection, “The Books of Blood”. I’m going to focus on the first volume, as that’s the very first paperback of Barker’s I ever bought.

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This book blew my mind.

I’ll break down each story and my thoughts – no spoilers. Before that, let me set the stage here. I was 13, getting to that angry “phase”, completely confused about EVERYTHING. There I was, allowed to take the 6 train into Manhattan for the first time. The only stipulation: I couldn’t go further south than Astor Place (weird rule, but hey, mom).

So I troll around the East Village – no clue what the fuck I’m doing – and I find a Barnes and Noble. Realize, I’m from The Bronx at a time when malls and bookstores were scarce in my life. My fucking mind near exploded.

I was familiar with Hellraiser, so that explains why I “stumbled” onto this book. I could only afford the one (pretty sure it was under five bucks) so I took a chance.

I devoured the whole thing sitting in the bookstore and on the train ride home.

Then I read it again.

I was hooked. HOOKED. To this day I will always maintain my Barker fanboyism. He’s the reason I wanted to write and the reason I finally found a reason to be horrified of what I read.

So, the stories:

The Book of Blood

The opener (and first book-end of the three books worth of short stories). Stark, haunting, and horrifying. It sets the tone and gets you sprinting through Barker’s little haunted house.

The Midnight Meat Train

I have never been so scared to get on a train in my life as I was after reading this. The ending, shit, that ending opened my head in a way nothing hasn’t since. The mere concept of the things Barker brought to life in this story was so foreign to me, that I obsessed over it for months. That would set me down the path of reading Lovecraft and becoming a huge Cronenberg fan.

The Yattering and Jack

Barker can be funny? Like an R-rated Gremlins. May not be the best of the bunch, but it was a fantastic palate cleanser.

Pig-Blood Blues

Just when I thought we’d gone full-bizarre, Barker threw this at me. Ex-cop becomes a ward at a juvie hall. This may have be the root of why I gravitate to using animals in my fiction.

Sex, Death, and Starshine

The Twilight Zone by way of Barker. Fantastical, but still raw. The story tested my nerve for erotic horror. Unnerving visuals that Barker continued to bring in his future works.

In the Hills, the Cities

Barker’s best short story. That’s not opinion, it’s fact. Ahead of its time and jammed with such a bizarre and insane visual. There’s no way I would ever ruin this story. It needs to be experienced and then reread.

Bottom line – if I could ever write a short story collection at this level, I’d consider myself a success. Wouldn’t matter if it sold or was even picked up.

Tune in next time when I figure out exactly what damaged me about one of my favorite movies of all time: John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing.

Be easy,

Angel

One thought on “What’s My Damage? – Clive Barker’s Books of Blood (Vol. 1)

  1. Barker needs to come with the warning: “Do Not Read on Trains.” I read Hellbound Heart when I was 14, while on the Red Line heading to Harvard Square, and remember his language being so vivid it made me nauseous. I also remember being amazed someone could write in a way that triggered a physical response like that.

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