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Best books by Clive Barker

Cliff Weitzman
By Cliff Weitzman Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify in Reading on February 19, 2023

    A closer look at the Hellraiser franchise author Clive Barker

    Clive Barker, author of many New York Times bestsellers, is an English novelist, playwright, author, screenwriter, and visual artist whose work has made him incredibly influential in the world of dark fantasy and the horror genre as a whole, within which he has written countless bestsellers even for movies and video games.

    Over the years, he has worked on over 40 movies and TV series in the horror and sci-fi genres, and five video games have been made based on his work. In 2005 he cooperated with film producer Jorge Saralegui and founded the Midnight Picture Show production company with the intention of making multiple movies a year. His works are also the subject of the Clive Barker Podcast.

    Unfortunately, troubles with his health has impeded his work in recent years. Due to toxic shock syndrome he suffered during a visit to the dentist, where deadly bacteria entered his body through the bloodstream nearly killed him. This incident left him wheelchair-bound.

    As for personal beliefs, Clive barker has declared himself a Christian but also claims he doesn’t identify as one. During one of his interviews, he said that he was in a relationship with multiple older women, but that around the age of 18 or 19 he also identified as a homosexual.

    Clive Barker’s childhood and breakthrough writing career

    Clive Barker was born on October 6, 1952, in Liverpool, England, where he attended the University of Liverpool.

    When he was around three years old, Clive Barker witnessed an accident and death of a French skydiver Leo Valentine, and he alluded to the man in many of his books.

    While still in school, he became involved in theater with the production of plays Voodoo and Inferno. Aside from that, he collaborated with The Theater of the Imagination on six more pieces and wrote pieces A Sodom’s Clown and Day of the Dog.

    He was co-founder of the theater group The Dog Company, which is where he met and first worked with many actors that later worked with him in many of the movies he made, a good example being Doug Bradley, an iconic actor that played the role of Pinhead from movie series Hellraiser.

    His first breakthrough as a novelist came during the 1980s with a series of short story collections called The Books of Blood (1-6), filled with his earliest work, and a Faustian novel, The Damnation Games (1985). After that, he moved to Modernday and Urban Fantasy novels with elements of horror, such as Weaveworld (1987), The Great and Secret Show (1989), Imajica (1991), and The Sacrament (1996).

    When The Books of Blood were first published in the USA, horror writer Stephen King said, “I have seen the future of horror, and his name is Clive Barker. “

    Among his favorite writers that Barker claims had influenced his writing style are Ray Bradbury, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Po, and Jean Cocteau, among many others.

    Most popular books by Clive Barker

    Even though Barker’s work covers a multitude of genres, he is most famous for his horror stories and novels. Some of the most popular Barker’s books include:

    The Hellbound Heart (1986)

    The Hellbound Heart is a novella published in November 1986 as the third book in the Night Vision series. The novella served as a basis for the first Hellraiser movie.

    In the book, Barker introduced Cenobites, demons summoned by a puzzle box later in a movie named The Lament Configuration Box. The sadistic creatures from Labirint (Hell) eagerly change themselves in search of ever greater pleasure and victims to make more of themselves. Frank Cotton, a hedonistic criminal, gets his hands on one of the puzzle boxes and, after accidentally summoning Cenobites, makes a pact with them out of a desire for infinite pleasure and satisfaction. The next thing he knows, he is dragged off to Labirint to receive his wishes.

    Sometime later, his brother moves to his house with his wife and discovers secrets of the events that transpired there.

    Barker’s 2015 novel, The Scarlet Gospels, continues the story.


    Hellraiser is a series of movies and comics inspired by Barker’s work that built on the story in his novella The Hellbound Heart (1986). Hellraiser movies were published between 1989–2022, most of them written and produced by different people. Many comic books have been heavily influenced by Barker’s Work and illustrations.

    While many people have worked on these movie and comic books series, it is still a great portion of Clive Barker’s magnum opus.

    Nightbreed (1990)

    Nightbreed is a dark fantasy horror film published in 1990. It was written and directed by Clive Barker and was based on his book Cabal (1988).

    Upon the original release, the movie was a complete failure, and in several interviews, Barker himself has commented and complained that the failure was caused by the studio trying to sell it as a standard slasher movie and that, as he said, “powers-to-be” had no knowledge of the Nightbreed story.

    The events of the movie transpire in Calgary, where one of the main characters dreams of Midian, a city where monsters are accepted. There he comes in contact with a Nightbreed, and during the initiation ceremony, he comes in contact with the blood of Baphomet.

    His ex-girlfriend is trying to uncover why he left her and, at the same time, unwillingly starts uncovering the secrets of Midian.

    Imajica (1991)

    Imajica is a fantasy novel Barker declared his favorite work in 1997.

    The first edition had 824 pages in 1991, but due to its size, it was separated into two parts: Imajica: The Fifth Domain and Imajica: The Reconciliation.

    It chronicles events surrounding Fifth Dominion with the remaining Four Domains, as only a select few people are aware of what transpired. The book covers a vast spectrum of themes written in great detail. The Earth or also known as the Fifth Domain in the book, is one of five connected realms being overseen by a Hapexamendios (God). The Earth has been separated from the rest of the Domains by In Ovo (The Void). Powerful wizards have been trying to bring the Earth back and connect it with the remaining four Domains as it should have been.

    Book of the Art (1989)

    This is an incomplete trilogy of novels of which only two have been published as of now. Barker claims that he wants the third novel in the trilogy to be written with as much emotion as possible.

    The first one, The Great and Secret Show (1989), revolves around two people in conflict over a mythical sea. The second book, Everville (1994), continues the story of The Great and Secret Show with a focus on Detective D’Amour and the creation and transformation of a small town Everville.

    The Books of Abarat (2002)

    The Books of Abarat are a series of adult fantasy novels written and illustrated by Clive Barker. The series is meant to be a five books series. As of yet, three books have been published between 2002 and 2011. Paintings used for illustrations are oil paintings made by Clive Barker himself.

    Abarat (2002) is the first book in the series, introducing readers to Abarat, a fictional archipelago where most of the story in the series is located. The story follows Candy Quackenbush, a young, ordinary girl from Minnesota.

    Days of Magic, Nights of War (2004) is the second book in the series, where Candy Quackenbush finds herself stuck in Abarat with Malingo the Geshart, a character introduced in Abarat (2002), avoiding a bounty hunter.

    Absolute Midnight (2011) is the third book, in which Barker throws us a curveball as a dystopian fantasy adventure is taking a turn for the darker.

    Clive Barker’s impact on horror films

    He had a massive influence on horror movies due to a large number of movies in which he was a screenwriter, producer, or director. In many cases, he had multiple roles. Many pieces of his cinematic work have inspired many filmmakers both in Hollywood and worldwide.

    Some of the more well-known movies he worked on were Hellraiser (1987) and two other films of the same series Hellbound: Hellraiser 2HellraiserBloodline, and Hellraiser (2022), a remake of the original movie.

    Candyman (1992)

    Candyman (1992), inspired by a short story from The Book of Blood called “The Forbidden,” follows a young graduate student from Chicago working on her thesis on urban legends, which leads her to the story of Candyman, a ghost of a black artist who was killed due to his relationship with a daughter of a rich white man. It has several sequels but only one on which Barker cooperated as a writer—Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh a supernatural slasher film. Unfortunately, the movie was not well received by the audience and critics.

    Lord of Illusions (1995)

    Lord of Illusions (1995) was written and produced by Clive Barker based on the short story “The Last Illusion.” In the movie, he first introduces an occult detective Harry D’amour. This film greatly surprised fans and audiences alike because, while he kept some elements from the original work, Barker almost completely changed the story.

    Rawhead Rex (1986)

    Rawhead Rex (1986) is an Irish fantasy horror film based on a short story of the same name. The movie follows a rampage of an ancient monstrous pagan deity Rawhead.

    Gods and Monsters (1998)

    Gods and Monsters (1998), on which Barker worked as an executive producer, is a historical drama that recounts partially fictionalized last days of James Whale and his experience as a soldier in the First World War. The movie was a co-production between UK and US, and the film features a reconstruction of the 1985 movies Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein.

    The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

    The Midnight Meat Train (2008) is an American Horror movie based on a same-named short story found in Book of Blood. The story follows a photographer trying to find a serial killer known as a Subway Butcher. He found him, and like in many of Barker’s works, he also found much more than he could have dreamed of.

    Dread (2009)

    Dread (2009) is a British horror movie based on a short story of the same name. At the university of Quaid, students are talking about their greatest fears as they are conducting experiments on the subject, and unfortunately, one of the students is psychotic and wishes to raise the intensity of an experiment, causing test subjects and his colleagues to experience dread and fear like nothing they experienced before.

    Listen to books by Clive Barker and other horror authors on Speechify

    There are over 60,000 audiobooks to choose from on Speechify. If you can’t get enough of horror authors like Stephen King or newer trending authors, you can get your fill of stories that scare through Speechify’s high-quality audiobooks. Listen to Clive Barker’s books including Mister B. Gone, Coldheart Canyon, The Scarlet Gospels, Galilee, Abarat: Absolute Midnight, and Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War. Try Speechify audiobooks today for free.

    Cliff Weitzman
    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.