On Being a Clive Barker Virgin

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I’ve been saying for a while that if loving horror is an orientation, I’ve only just come out of the closet. I denied myself a lot of wonderful horror writing for years because of this and I’m only now catching up.

First came Shirley Jackson and The Haunting of Hill House, which I've blogged about here.

Then I was preparing for my YouTube show Title Fright 10: Curious Cruelty, which pits Hellraiser against Candyman. I felt I should at least read The Hellbound Heart and The Forbidden, on which they are based respectively. So I opened my first ever Clive Barker book.

Clear, cool and lyrical, with riveting and stunningly relevant plots, they could have been written yesterday, or even in ten years time.

They were also much more frightening than I expected. When I got to that famous line in The Forbidden....

‘I am rumour,’ he sang in her ear. ‘It’s a blessed condition, believe me. To live in people’s dreams; to be whispered at street-corners; but not have to be. Do you understand?’

…it bowled me over. It was as if Candyman was transcending his fictional status by owning it as his chief characteristic. It was as if he had stepped off the page into my reality, and I got a tremor in my gut that is the absolute holy grail of any horror fan.

Good as the film Candyman is, it doesn’t quite manage that.

It’s ridiculous that it’s taken me this long to get into Barker, but I’m seeing my glass as half full - there can’t be many horror fans at my age who can jump in fresh to his oeuvre.

As they say, it’s never as good as the first time.