In the Flesh (Books of Blood, #5)

ISBN: 074341733X
ISBN 13: 9780743417334
By: Clive Barker

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About this book

Terrifying and forbidding, subversive and insightful, Clive Barker's groundbreaking stories revolutionized the worlds of horrific and fantastical fiction and established Barker's dominance over the otherworldly and the all-too-real. Here, as two businessmen encounter beautiful and seductive women and an earnest young woman researches a city slum, Barker maps the boundless vistas of the unfettered imagination -- only to uncover a profound sense of terror and overwhelming dread.

Reader's Thoughts


In 1986, Clive Barker followed the enormous success of the first three volumes of The Books Of Blood, with a final three volumes to create the entire Books Of Blood series. His two omnibus's were later to be broken down, to be sold as individual books. Barker was invited to be able to illustrate these covers with his dark and twisted artwork. This volume was also released in America under the name 'In The Flesh'. The six volumes were all released in their individual forms back in 1985, this fifth volume contains the following short stories: The Forbidden - 37 pages "There are some taboos too terrible to be broken. Some stories too terrible to be true. Until you begin to believe them". Here we have the original inspiration for the film Candyman, which was adapted from the short and further developed upon. The forbidden offers up an intense atmospheric story of tension and horror. The story is very well written, delivering a well crafted and haunting story. The Madonna - 38 pages "She was older than legend: the Unholy Mother whose beautiful children were most men's dream, and every man's nightmare". A nail-biting short packed with more bizarre and horrific images vividly crafted from the mind of Clive Barker. The storyline is gripping and dark, with an atmosphere so chilling, it will haunt you for ages afterwards. The story was later adapted in 1990 into the graphic novel 'Tapping The Vein - Book 4' where it was illustrated by Stan Woch, Mark Farmer and Fred Von Tobel. Babel's Children - 27 pages "A paradise island, lost in a sparkling sea, what better place to plot the end of the world?" A bit of a different short story here, compared with the rest of the shorts in the Books Of Blood. The plot is carefully unfolded, creating an air of mystery to the whole storyline, until the final conclusion hits you in the face. I wasn't that keen on this one, but it was certainly an interesting read. In The Flesh - 46 pages "Every night they locked the cell doors for twelve hours; locked the prisoners in with their regrets and their secret terrors, and something more. Something from the lunatic world of pure slaughter that waited just beyond the walls". One of the most loved and enjoyed of Barker's short stories is this dark and twisted tale that takes you on a trip through the weird and limitless imagination of Clive Barker. The storyline is extremely well-constructed, dragging you further and further into the story as it hurtles towards the horrific conclusion. This is a definite must read for all fans of Barker's work. This volume as a whole offers up a perverse and imaginative world of horrific violence and disturbingly dark creatures. The stories are gripping and original, keeping you entertained and involved. Another superb addition to the Books Of Blood series.

Rowan MacBean

** spoiler alert ** The Forbidden - A woman doing her thesis on graffiti chooses a run-down low-rent apartment complex on which to focus her study. She becomes aware of a nasty series of crimes in the area and thinks it might be related. The locals are pretty weird about it. Even weirder than one might expect. This is the story the movie Candyman was based on. I think it actually works better as a movie (not just because more background info was added) but I still enjoyed the story.The Madonna - Some people are trying to redevelop an old swimming pool complex but some weird things start happening when they're separated or there alone. And in the end, both of the male main characters are turned into women. This was my least favorite of the stories in this book because there were a few parts that felt uncomfortably misogynistic to me. That happens with Clive Barker stories sometimes. and often I can't quite figure out if it's just the character or if it's really coming from him.Babel's Children - A woman gets stranded in the middle of nowhere when her car breaks down. She winds up finding and being locked up in a compound where a committee of great thinkers decide the outcome of everything that happens in the world. But instead of deciding through debate, they've come to decide by playing games of chance. This is the shortest story in the book, but it's also my favorite. I love the whole concept, the main character irritated and interested me (sometimes Clive Barker's women fall flat), and there were parts that were creepy and made me think, as well as parts that made me laugh.In The Flesh - Billy Tait is Cleve Smith's new cellmate in jail. It turns out Billy got himself caught and sent to this prison on purpose because he thinks his grandfather (who was an inmate and was hanged there decades before) is calling him there. Insert supernatural murders, secrets and lies, weird dream states, and purgatory. I read a summary of this story before I started it and it didn't sound all that interesting to me. But I was extremely pleasantly surprised. The story before this was my favorite in the book, but this one was still good enough to really stand out. I think it'll stick with me and become one of the stories I call a favorite when I'm asked for reading recommendations.


So far so good. Very intense writing. I am sure this will be the first of many Clive Barker books thanks to a good friend's recommendation.

Alex Telander

The Dark Weaveworld of Clive Barker, Part 2 of 3: “In the Flesh”BIOGRAPHY: Clive Barker is the bestselling author of nineteen books, including Weaveworld, Imagica, and Galilee. He regularly shows his art in Los Angeles and New York, and produces and directs for both large and small screen. Recent projects include the Oscar-wining film Gods and Monsters, and an exhibition of erotic paintings and photographs, The Weird and the Wicked. He lives with his husband, the photographer David Armstrong, in Los Angeles, along with his family of dogs, rats, geckos, iguanas, and turtles.“In the Flesh”: A new inmate has joined the prison: a descendant of a man who murdered his wife and children; the man was hung and his grave is under an old bush. The inmate, through the powers of the supernatural, is able to transcend the real world and pass into the plane of death, reaching the town where murderers live after they die. There he finds his grandfather and a reconnoiter of the unusual kind takes place. But what the inmate doesn’t know is that the grandfather has other plans in mind, which involve a trade-off, bringing his old body back to life, where he will be able to continue where he left off.“The Forbidden”: The true story to the successful movie, Candyman, brings a college student to the ghettos of New York, where she hears the local legend of the man who smells of sweets and takes lives. The police pretend he doesn’t exist, even though lives have been taken. It is all very much shrouded in mystery, as Helen tries to solve what is really going on. There is a final confrontation between Helen and the Candyman, while the world around continues on as if nothing is happening.“The Madonna”: In a special building of astounding architecture there is a supernal activity taking place. In a pool the genesis of this metaphysical creation happens. A female beast of disgust, creating imps of revulsion, which are suckled by lolitas of captivating beauty and innocence. And when people discover this repulsive Eden, they inevitably engage it, but then an astounding change takes place from which they can never return to their former selves.“Babel’s Children”: A small island in Greece supports a prison facility of the most exceptional kind. A group of the most powerful people on the planet, created after the Second World War to control worldly decisions. Their existence must remain hidden, since they are like gods. But when they are visited by an inquisitive female, all this will change, and their existence is brought into doubt.Originally published on October 1st 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.For over 500 book reviews, and over 40 exclusive author interviews (both audio and written), visit BookBanter.


This has been my first Clive Barker read, and I was very pleasantly surprised by it. From what I had heard of Barker before, I had assumed his work was in the gory blood porn genre. As such I was never very interested in trying out any of his work, since the more trashy kind of cheap thrills that Stephen King used to grind out in his earlier years, really never did sit well with me. Neither does the kind of horror that features sexy teenagers being systematically mangled by homicidal maniacs (usually with very long butcher's knives) .On the contrary, the volume I’ve just finished is a small collection of short stories that is intelligent, imaginative and satirical dark fantasy, the likes of which you see in the work of authors like Ray Bradbury and Gene Wolfe, with just a touch of a Lovecraftian sense of the macabre and a dollop of Kafka’s sense of the absurd.A trademark feature seems to be that the stories start off with a very commonplace scenario, where everything is sane and normal, and as commonplace as the routine you or I experience every day as we set off to work or school. Gradually a sense of weirdness starts to encroach as the stories progresss;- in come cases it works well, though in The Forbidden it did not work for me at first. At first glance it seemed like a childish attempt at painting a horror figure, and I think this is a clue as to how the picture of Barker as a cheap thrill goremonger might have evolved. However, after reading the rest of the stories, I realised that Barker’s works work on two levels. Despite throwing in a few bones for the cheap thrill junkies, (some of them being decidedly gore-less, nevertheless), there is a lot of social commentary and satire going on in the background. I had a squiz at the plot of the movie “Candyman” which was based on The Forbidden, and there it was obvious to me that the hidden theme was distorted and ignored in the film – its maker opting to put it into the slasher genre. (I’ll bet they made more money that way). The actual theme originally intended by Barker, (besides a bit of a poke at the snobbish one-upmanship always to be found in intellectual/academic circles) seemed pretty obviously to me, to be a working of the theme that there is nothing worse for the human psyche than to be ignored, impotent, ridiculed, and/or nondescript, since everybody needs their existence validated somehow. For some the issue is important enough as to even draw attention to themselves in negative ways, as long as it means they get attention, of whatever kind.The Candyman is a symbol of the allure of fame or notoriety, and Helen withstands this allure for a while, though she succumbs at the very end. Earlier in the story, other characters also succumbed to the Candyman, by telling sensationalist lies and …*censored for spoilers*.The story also offers an effortless juxtaposition of the contrasting worlds of people living on the edges of society, with that of snobbish university circles. Barker delivers his double message cleverly enough camouflaged that sadly, a lot of people probably do dismiss works like The Forbidden as simply being of the horror “slasher” genre.The Madonna is a wonderfully imaginative tale of ambiguity, which touches on relationship and gender issues, but overall delivers a delightful sense of the weird and macabre that only a Kafka or Lovecraft can match, yet delivered in pleasantly muted tones which makes it an enjoyable read.Babel’s Children is a delightful little comic satire displaying Barker’s disdain for world politics.In the Flesh was probably the story that touched me the most deeply and remained with me the longest, even managing to find it’s way into my dreams. I found myself identifying and empathizing with the characters in this one. Some of the story actually seems to have come from a dreamworld itself, and is guaranteed to please lovers of dark fantasy who enjoy exploring the landscapes of dream and psyche.My interest has definitely been piqued, so I will be reading more Barker soon.EDIT: (later) After reading some earlier Barker, I wasn't quite as impressed. It seems that his later, more mature works are definitely an improvement on his earlier fare.


Adore him. No better horror fiction anywhere. "In the Flesh" and "The Madonna" were great. "The Forbidden" (the inspiration for the Candyman movies) was phenomenal. "Babel's Children" was perfectly good, but it wasn't a horror story. It could have been, but then it became a little dopey and just somewhat effective as a comedy. His writing style is totally engaging, as always. I could have used more sex, since he slips it into horror in ways that make perfect sense. His power to locate fear and malice in sex is maybe his strongest attribute as an author and artist. I have read too much of him this past year so I'm a bit on overkill, but his work is peerless within the genre.


Another stand-out book from Barker, this contains four stories ("In The Flesh" is a novella) and all of them pick at you, showing you dark things you're perhaps not sure you want to see. Excellent stuff, highly recommended.

Lee Thompson

This is my favorite volume in the Books of Blood.

Matteo Pellegrini

Un macabro massacratore dal nome dolcissimo; una comunità di vecchi pazzi che tiene in pugno il mondo; sensuali fanciulle dai corpi lucenti che abitano in una piscina e mutano continuamente aspetto; apparizioni spettrali che aprono la via d'accesso a un'orribile città dei morti. Quattro racconti raccapriccianti e venati di un sottile erotismo.


The manifestation of evil, "in the flesh" is the theme that unites all four novellas in this early Barker work.The highlight here is, undoubtedly, "The Forbidden". This is the basis for what is perhaps the MOST UNDERRATED HORROR FILM OF ALL TIME: Bernard Rose's "Candyman." The story itself, 60 pages that really do chill the blood, I've penciled in on a list of the best short stories ever. It is melancholia wrapped in detective noir, supernatural urban legend; a human investment into something larger than the self. Helen, the doomed protagonist, looks for an interesting thesis in walls exploded with urban symbols: graffiti. The residents of a delapadated city complex are all in on a secret conspiracy. The killer mesmorizes, comes from the realms of hell, literally. The personification is so complete in this study on urban decay. The myth baring a hook is more effective than Pinhead! The last paragraph plagues the reader with worry: it seems so possible that evil exists, is indeed a human disease made up of interior and exterior traumas. I almost cried for Helen.I read "The Forbidden" and felt immediately that Horror is alive and well (true-this comes to us from the 80s... but one has the instinct to hope). Stephen King's constant commendments for the British author are not without substantiation. Barker can write circles around King: he practices brevity, brings out strong sexual themes (which of course soon delve into absolute terror), has an outright, singular poetic penmanship. The other stories are pretty good, too. The story about the Candyman, a must read for all aspiring writers, was an A+. The rest involve a doorway to hell in a prison with no relatable characters (B), a sick gender-bending misadventure in a satanic spa (B-) and bizzaro geriatric oracles in Greece (C+).

Tippy Jackson

This book started off really strong with "In the Flesh." Really creepy,couldn't put it down. The other world aspect of it was so well written and the characters and places appropriately creepy. I am also declaring Clive Barker the king of metaphor. Best of all, about 3/4 of the way through, I predicted what I thought the ending would be and I was totally wrong. Yay for unpredictable endings!He continues strong with "The Forbidden," and his descriptions were so powerful that I swear I could smell the old abandoned room. Weird is the word to describe this story, but weird is good. The weird does not stop with number 3, "The Madonna." I felt lured in slowly, with just a bit of curiosity (kind of like the men in the story) What's going on in here? Did he see someone? And then, BOOM! He hits you with everything all at once. Leaves you a little breathless. Sadly, the book really petered out at the end with "Babel's Children." It starts off great with a hostage situation and I like most of the premise, but it had a comparatively uneventful and unrealistic ending. Yes, the endings of the others, those that border on insanity I can get with, but this one not so much. I think perhaps because it's about real systems and not imaginary ones, so I guess my brain doesn't like it when it's not consistent with this world when it's about this world. If that makes sense. Anyway, 4 stars because of the first three stories, but probably closer to 3.8 because of the last one.

Althea Ann

This book is a collection of 4 novelettes from "The New Master of Horror." (not so new anymore!)The title piece, "In the Flesh" deals with a petty criminal trapped in a jail cell with a first-time offender who's messing with more than he bargained for in the spirit of his executed murderer grandfather...."The Forbidden" is the story the movie Candyman was based on. I'm sure you've seen it. The story is shorter, snappier, and more powerful. (And set in England! Huh!)"The Madonna" reminded me of a modern Lovecraft story.... a business deal with a mobster turns into something far more when chthonic horrors lurk in a closed public pool complex..."Babel's Children" - not so much a horror story as a paranoid conspiracy theory. Who do you think is *really* controlling the world governments???Good fun, all of them..


"Terrifying and forbidding, subversive and insightful,"...but in reality, kind of disappointing. I found this at the used book store, after having an unsettling day that I wanted a distraction from. Lo and behold, an entire collection of Clive Barker stories I'd never heard of! Now that I've read them, I can understand why his "Books of Blood" are so well known while this one...isn't. A couple of interesting moments, some deliberate cliches (Instead of a hand, his arm ended in *gasp* a hook!), and probably the most florid prose I've ever read. I'm glad Clive has calmed down a little since writing these; saying something in twenty-five words when five would do doesn't make a story scarier, or more interesting.


Frog races to determine the fate of the world? The developing story of a stalker and a social worker. And then there's the woman who seduces a couple of businessmen. Throughout there is a sense of otherworldliness that is devilishly chilling...

Coni Warren

I had read a lot of Clive Barker’s short stories when I was younger, but forgot which ones I had read since I hadn’t read them all. I couldn’t remember if I had read In the Flesh or Inhuman Condition since they both started with the same letter. While reading this one, none of it was familiar until I got to the second of four stories, called “The Forbidden”. It is the basis for the Candyman movies. I never saw the movies, but the story stuck with me since it was very creepy and gross. When I read it, the movie had not been made, but one scene in it became ingrained in my brain. A woman who is doing some graduate school research on a very poor neighborhood goes into an abandoned house to find an extremely disturbing face drawn on the wall. It is laughing, but the doorway was being used as the mouth. It was so descriptive that when I had an assignment in my junior English class to describe a room that another person in the class would have to guess who it belonged to, I described that room. No one guessed it was the room of a psychopathic killer, but instead thought it was a messed up teenager. :)The first story in the book, called “In the Flesh”, didn’t do much for me. It had supernatural and horror elements to it with a guy who had questions about good and evil and where sin comes from. Then he gets a cellmate who just isn’t quite right. I think when I first started reading Clive Barker, I was attracted more to his horror stories, but as I got older, I enjoyed his fantasy stories more. The first one was more in the horror realm, but beyond the final twist and the “city” that he dreams about, I didn’t care much about the crazy cellmate. I actually could have enjoyed the entire story if the cellmate had been left out, even though I guess it was the point of the story, I just didn’t care for that half of it.As I progressed through the book, I enjoyed each story more than the last one. “The Forbidden,” was the story with the room description described earlier. That was my favorite part, but the rest of the story was not as great as I remembered. “The Madonna” did have supernatural elements, but it was more in the fantasy vein. It is about an abandoned bath house where naked women wooed men to come visit them, but it doesn’t end well for them. It was creepy and fascinating.My favorite story was the last one called “Babel’s Children” where a woman who loves to drive off the beaten path comes across a nunnery that isn’t run by nuns, but has held some brilliant minds captive for years for some very twisted games. It was the most realistic story out of all of them, but you still had to suspend your disbelief about the games being played. With the way some things happen in the world, you wonder sometimes that maybe major world decisions are being made the way it is described in the book. I had a good chuckle about the absurdity of it.

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