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Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic: The Authorized Biography

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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and personal journey into Barker's life is a grand tour through all of his fiction and film, from his earliest unpublished work -- including the short story "The Wood on the Hill," which is published here for the first time -- up to his most recent novel, Coldheart Canyon and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.

688 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2001

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About the author

Douglas E. Winter

88 books47 followers
Douglas E. Winter is an American writer, critic and lawyer. A life-long interest in horror has led him to develop a parallel career as horror writer and horror critic. Winter edited horror anthologies Prime Evil (1988), and Revelations (1997) as well as the interviews collection Faces of Fear (1985, revised 1990). He has also written biographies of Stephen King and Clive Barker. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

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5 stars
109 (43%)
4 stars
70 (28%)
3 stars
59 (23%)
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Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
Profile Image for Jo Bennie.
496 reviews27 followers
December 1, 2014
It took me I think three goes to read this weighty book but it was very much worth it. This is not the usual lightweight biography of an author focusing on his or her life and the expression of themes from it in their work, this is academic in style and prose, a deep introspection into the life and literary and artistic work of an extremely complex individual, Clive Barker, perhaps most famously the creator of Hellraiser, the Books of Blood and Candyman. Barker's work defies categorisation, straying at times into science fiction, other times fantasy and horror but always moving forwards and onwards, a mysticism grounded firmly in the material and earthly, sensual and sexual and often disturbing. Winter uses both an erudite critique of each of Barker's major film, book and art works to date and his own correspondence with Barker to create something that does what a good biography should, sends you straight back to the books.
Profile Image for Eva.
Author 5 books21 followers
January 31, 2015
This is pretty much THE authoritative Barker text, the first half going into his early life and his genesis into an artist and a writer, and then the second half focuses more on a critical literary analysis of his works, containing some insights into the production and adaptation processes of the films made based on Clive Barker's work. Any die hard Barker fan must have this on their bookshelf. It's a doorstopper, but it's jam-packed with the awesomeness that is this author. Very well-written, very well put together, and highly recommended.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 26 books20 followers
May 15, 2013
This oft-delayed Barker critical analysis / biography has finally made it to UK shops just in time for Christmas 2001, with the US edition out in July 2002. With one or two reservations, we'd say it's been well worth the wait.
Winter appears to have undertaken extensive interviews with just about anyone who's anyone in Barker's past and present; time-consuming research which has enabled him to pepper the biography with asides and footnotes which enhance the overall collection. The Dark Fantastic is clearly the work of someone who cares deeply about Barker and his work; a subjectivity to which Winter admits in his foreword, and which is perhaps among the book's most interesting aspects rather than being to its detriment.
As well as chapters covering Barker's early life and chapters on each of the novels and films, it includes the complete text of a never-before-published short story ('The Wood On The Hill' from 1966) and glimpses into additional unpublished stories and plays. It also has a fascinating Abarat preview chapter, notable for its freshness in an upcoming projects section that is otherwise hampered by the timing of the book's publication, some eighteen months after delivery of the main text.
The text presents information chronologically and gathers together an enormous number of facts and quotes. But... (and as self-confessed obsessives maybe we're not the best people to judge) given the unparallelled access that Winter has clearly had, the lack of much new information is a surprise.
There are certainly several gems that make the book a 'must-have' - for example, it really excels in its chapters on Underworld and Rawhead Rex (Winter having secured the first real interview with George Pavlou) and those on The Secret Life Of Cartoons and Chiliad. In other areas, however, subjects are dealt with disappointingly quickly - the four (soon to be five) Hellraiser sequels get just six pages (lifted from Winter's Hellraiser history published by Fangoria back in 1992) and Nightlives only warrants a single paragraph.
A heavy proportion of the book's heavy page count is devoted to detailed synopses of each book, film and play. The critical analysis that follows each synopsis intrigued us in places but elsewhere seemed that much of Winter's thunder had already been stolen by Barker's self-analysis in 1999's The Essential Clive Barker: Selected Fiction. The Everville chapter, meanwhile, crosses the fine line between academic endeavour and analysis in blind superlatives...
Long in the gestation, The Dark Fantastic is, of course, a hugely welcome addition to our shelves and reveals the influences and dilemmas of a hugely creative mind.
Look out for a limited edition produced by Cemetery Dance Publications which promises specially commissioned Barker artwork - and possibly other extras not in the regular mass-market edition. This has been delayed from an original publication date of January 2002 back to the end of 2003* - now long after the original trade editions...

Revelations Review (first published at Revelations)

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, December 2001
*now sadly cancelled (2012)
3 reviews
September 11, 2011
I'm still in the middle of it, and it's slow going. The author describes, at lenght, each of Barker's plays and stories. He tells us of the plot, themes, 'and then this happened's, and he quotes the stories as well. I could read the stories myself and get a better understanding. What I want with this book is the story of Barker, not the stories of Barker. I need to develop my skimming skills.....
Profile Image for Olivera.
70 reviews6 followers
May 15, 2011
Started reading this as research for my dissertation. Haven't actually read it all, but I love it. Clive Barker is so cool, and Douglas Winter incorporates the literary analysis with the personal really well. Don't necessarily expect a full biography, but it's a good introduction to a lot of his work.
Profile Image for Stephen Lord.
14 reviews
July 12, 2013
A superb and exhaustive insight into the life, heart, mind and work of one of my favourite creators. I return to it often to read about the stories behind Barker's stories, and find fresh inspiration for my own.
Profile Image for Ard.
123 reviews9 followers
October 6, 2018
While it was interesting to read a bit more about this great author, the writing started to get on my nerves after about fifty pages and the long, winding descriptions about his plays while in school I found just uninteresting. Even the chapters about his books were mostly outlines of the stories, and for me the book just didn't deliver. Had the feeling I would much rather read some of his books again than plough through this dull work. A man with a mind like Barker's deserves a better biography.
Profile Image for Mal.
7 reviews
September 15, 2022
This book took me over a year to read. Overall, it's a good read just a lot to digest. The book takes a lot of time going through entire plots of his plays, books and films. So, if you never have or never plan on reading any of his works, this book will be more for you. I wish it focused more on the behind the scenes of things or his life stories a little more.
Profile Image for Kris.
35 reviews
July 27, 2018
Great biography. It covered his life, loves and work.
May 16, 2020
I found myself skipping over the lengthy descriptions of his work to get to the tidbits about his personal life. This is so long and detailed, but the actual biography part could fill a pamphlet.
Profile Image for John J Questore.
Author 2 books24 followers
July 19, 2014
Let me preface this review with this: I LOVE Clive Barker. If he published a book of his grocery lists from the last 20 years, I would buy it.

So naturally I thought this would be an awesome book. Not really. 80% was nothing more than a rehash of his novels - which I already read! If I wanted to reread them, I would.

On top of that, the writing was so dry I found myself falling asleep as I was reading it.

This book could have easily been half the size had the author just stuck more to Clive's life and less to his well known body of work.

I couldn't wait to start the book when I first got it. Actually had to put it down because I couldn't get into it. Tried to read it a second time and forced my way through - with the knowledge that it will actually end.
Profile Image for Mark.
Author 69 books146 followers
October 26, 2009
Exhaustively complete, this is about as good a resource of Clive Barker and his work (the biography takes him from birth right up to publication) that you're likely to ever get. Taking in his early films, the Dog Company and his theatre work, his Hollywood experiences and on, this is a terrific read. Very highly recommended.
Profile Image for Martyn.
10 reviews11 followers
September 13, 2010
this has got to be one of the worst biographies I've ever read. As much as I like Clive Barker's work, this is nothing but gush.
Profile Image for Melanie.
219 reviews6 followers
April 20, 2013
An interesting subject but the writing got bogged down in recounting every detail of every play Barker and his Dog Group every put on... over decades! So I gave up.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,134 reviews44 followers
January 24, 2021
By-the-numbers biography of visionary, horror, writer and disappointing. I expected more from Douglas E. Winter. Still sufficient to add to Barker library.
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews

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