Monday, June 16, 2008

Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume One, by Clive Barker

(hb; 1984: story anthology)

Overall review:

Excellent horror anthology, the first of three volumes: easily one of the best anthologies I've read from a still-breathing writer. All the stories are above-average word fare, engaging, sometimes gory, and always fascinating. By all, means check this anthology out.

Review, story by story:

1.) "The Book of Blood" - A psychic researcher (Mary Florescu), her assistant (Reg Fuller), and a con-artist medium (Simon McNeal) move into a haunted house (Number 65, Tollington Place) in order to study it. The more they observe/tap into the energies of this metaphysical crossroads, or susurrating "highway of the dead," however, the more they risk ticking off the spirits they're studying. Fresh, Bradybury-esque take on the haunted house theme.

This story became a film in 2008. Currently in post-production, the film uses another Barker story, "On Jerusalem Street," as a co-basis for the film. Jonas Armstrong played Simon McNeal. Sophie Ward played Mary Florescu. Paul Blair played Reg Fuller. Doug Bradley, Barker's real-life friend and an actor who often appears in Barker's film projects, played Tollington. Directed and co-scripted by John Harrison; co-scripted by Darin Silverman.

2.) "The Midnight Meat Train" - An accountant (Kaufman) and a "divinely-inspired" serial killer (Mahogany, aka "The Butcher") cross paths on the Avenues of the Americas line. Classic work, touching on the themes of disillusionment, faith and (possibly) destiny. One of my favorite stories in this collection.

This story became a film in 2008. Set to be released Stateside on August 1, 2008, it was scripted by Jeff Buhler. Ryuhei Kitamura directed. Bradley Cooper played Leon Kaufman. Vinnie Jones played Mahogany. Leslie Bibb played Maya, a character absent from the source story. Brook Shields played Susan Hoff, another character absent from the source story.

3.) "The Yattering and Jack" - A low-echelon demon (The Yattering) is assigned to torment a quiet human nobody (Jack Polo), who seems not to notice the Yattering's sometimes-grisly poltergeist-like activities. Light (when compared to other stories in this collection), spirited Christmastime romp, this. An instant classic.

This story became the basis for an episode of the 1984 television show, Tales From the Darkside. It aired on November 8, 1987, the seventh episode of Tale's fourth season. Danielle Brisebois played Amanda. Anthony Carbone played Jack Polo - Carbone is listed in the credits as "Tony Carbone". Phil Fondacaro played The Yattering. Thomas Newman played Beezlebub. Barbara Shapiro played Caroler.

4.) "Pig Blood Blues" - An ex-cop-turned-woodshop-teacher (Neil Redman) discovers mysterious going-ons at Remand Centre for Adolescent Offenders, a reform school for teenage boys. Its story arc makes its end-twist predictable, but Barker made this reader care about the lead characters (Redman, Lacey), while ramping up the story's progressive tension. Well-written, at times ironic; not the best story in the bunch.

This is scheduled to be released as a film in the near future. I have no further details about the film at this point.

In 1989, Eclipse Books published a comic book mini-series, Tapping The Vein, that is based on Barker's writings.

Chuck Wagner adapted, and Scott Hampton illustrated "Pig Blood Blues" in issue #1 (its front cover is seen below). This issue also contains an adaptation of one of Barker's other stories, "Human Remains" (published in Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Three).

5.) "Sex, Death and Starshine" - A troubled stage production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, led by a talentless crowd-popular actress (Diane Duvall) and directed by a jaded Terry Calloway, gets new life breathed into it with the unexpected appearance of a charming theatre-savvy stranger, Richard Walden Lichfield, and his actress lover, Constantia. Aptly-titled, clever, personable tale, and memorable.

6.) "In the Hills, the Cities" - Two Eastern bloc towns, Popolac and Podujevo, wage a bizarre contest-battle, utilizing the entirety of their citizenry. Caught between the town-giants are two warring lovers, a Right-leaning pundit (Judd) and an art aficionado (Mick). Strange, visually stunning tale, with an equally stunning end-line. Unforgettable, this.

"In the Hills, the Cities" also appeared in issue #2 of the comic book mini-series, Tapping The Vein.

Chuck Wagner and Fred Burke adapted, and John Bolton illustrated the story. This issue, its cover seen below, also contains an adaptation of one of Barker's other (re-titled) stories, "Skins of the Fathers" (published in Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Two).

This anthology is followed by Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Two.

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