The volume 1—3 omnibus was published with a foreword by Barker's fellow Liverpudlian horror writer Ramsey Campbell.
They were published between and 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 s 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. 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. 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 attack him for real and carve words in his flesh — comprising the rest of the stories as a literal, living "Book of Blood.
After New York office worker Leon Kaufman falls asleep on a late-night subway train, he awakens to discover that the next car over has been turned into an abattoir where other passengers have been butchered. Kaufman encounters the killer, a man named Mahogany, and kills him in self-defense. The motorman, nonplussed at Mahogany's death, brings the train into a secret station where strange, malformed humanoid creatures board and eat the bodies. It is revealed that the creatures, the "City Fathers", have been the secret rulers of New York for centuries, and show Kaufman an immense being further inside the catacombs.
They then pull out Kaufman's tongue to ensure his silence, recruiting him as the new "butcher" devoted to bringing fresh meat to the City Fathers. A film of the same name was released on 1 August The film differs from the book in a number of ways, most notably with the introduction of additional characters such as Maya, Leon's girlfriend.
Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones star in the film. 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 , 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 insane are answered with good cheer and apparent obliviousness. Unknown to the Yattering, Jack is purposely ignoring the demon in order to simultaneously frustrate it and maintain his own sanity.
The Yattering subjects him to increasingly severe torments, including killing his cats and terrorising his family, but these efforts all fail. Eventually Jack tricks the Yattering 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. Former policeman 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 rather 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 sty on the grounds is possessed by Henessey's soul. Terry Calloway is directing Twelfth Night in a run-down theatre. Terry relies on the soap opera fame of his leading lady, Diane Duvall, to bring in a big audience; however, this is compromised by his affair with Diane and her poor acting skills.
W. Somerset Maugham
A mysterious man with an obscured face, Mr. Lichfield, introduces himself and expresses dissatisfaction with Diane's casting as Viola. On the day of the final rehearsal, Lichfield confronts Diane and states that his wife, Constantia, will play the role on opening night.
Diane removes Lichfield's mask to reveal him as an animated corpse. Lichfield kisses Diane, and she slips into a coma. Constantia takes over the role of Viola while Diane is put in intensive care. Following her "recovery", Terry realises during sex that Diane is undead , just before she kills him.
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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 an isolated rural area of Yugoslavia , 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 becomes 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, two gay men vacationing in the area, 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.
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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 line from this story, "stale incense, old sweat, and lies," appears in the song Sin on the album Pretty Hate Machine by the American industrial band Nine Inch Nails. Steve, a young university student, becomes acquainted with an older classmate named Quaid, an intellectual who has a morbid fascination with fear. Quaid reveals to Steve that he kidnapped a vegetarian classmate of theirs 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 escapes. Steve then happens into a homeless shelter where he is mistaken for a drug-addicted vagrant and is given new clothes and shoes, but these don't fit him well. He is mad, pale with shock, and his lips are red and chapped from dehydration.
Later, Steve steals a fire axe from the shelter and breaks into Quaid's home. Quaid's experiments, all along, were to try to help him understand the nature of fear in order to cure his own coulrophobia , but he is ironically butchered by Steven, whose ghastly appearance, ill-fitting clothes, and over-sized shoes have given him the appearance of a clown. This story has been made into a film , with Jackson Rathbone playing Steve.
The film's story diverges from the short story and introduces new characters, but retains the same basic concept and story outline. Every one-hundred years, during an annual London marathon, Satan sends one of his representatives to compete against the unsuspecting human runners. If Satan's minion wins, he gets to rule the Earth. An athlete taking part in the event, Joel, begins to realise the actual stakes of the race when the other runners begin to fall, savaged by some unseen beast. A satanist politician, Gregory, has made a bargain with Hell on the outcome of the race.
"Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book"
Alban, as was his way, tipped the porter generously and then went to the bookstall and bought papers. He came back to the carriage and threw them on the seat. I've been starved so long.
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Isn't it grand to think that to-morrow morning we shall have to-morrow's Times , and the Express and the Mail? She did not answer and he turned away, for he saw coming towards them two persons, a man and his wife, who had been fellow-passengers from Singapore. He lit a cigarette and lingered at the carriage door.
Clive on The Books of Blood
On his face was a happy smile. When they had passed through the Red Sea and found a sharp wind in the Canal, Anne had been surprised to see how much the men who had looked presentable enough in the white ducks in which she had been accustomed to see them, were changed when they left them off for warmer clothes. They looked like nothing on earth then. Their ties were awful and their shirts all wrong. They wore grubby flannel trousers and shabby old golf-coats that had too obviously been bought off the nail, or blue serge suits that betrayed the provincial tailor.
Most of the passengers had got off at Marseilles, but a dozen or so, either because after a long period in the East they thought the trip through the Bay would do them good, or, like themselves, for economy's sake, had gone all the way to Tilbury, and now several of them walked along the platform. They wore solar topees or double-brimmed terais, and heavy greatcoats, or else shapeless soft hats or bowlers, not too well brushed, that looked too small for them.
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