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


This was the American edition of the last tales of the Book of Blood. Barker managed to keep the quality high right to the end. After this, he concentrated on novels until he gravitated from horror to fantasy. I prefer these early works to anything later. There is a deep dark and very visceral feel to these stories.


Unrelenting horror from Clive Barker. While comparisons to Stephen King abound (including a comment from King himself on the front cover), I miss the dark humor and references to popular culture that King is so good at.I think this is one for the hardcore horror fans only.


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+).

Mark R.

****1/2I've read this book a few times. I couldn't say exactly how many; I only vividly recall the first read-through, when I was about twelve years old, this being the second of Barker's books that I picked up, after "The Thief of Always", his first "all-ages" novel.The "Books of Blood", of which this is technically "Part 5", are decidedly NOT all-ages, and the vivid descriptions, often of very dark, grim situations, hit me right away, as a distinct change from "Thief of Always". I loved this book when I was twelve, and I love, probably more, now that I'm twenty-seven.I know I've read the second story, "The Forbidden" a few times, but other than that, I couldn't say if I've read this book three times, four times--except that when I picked it up recently, I remembered almost nothing about any of the stories aside from "The Forbidden". So, time for a re-read.The first two stories, "In the Flesh" and "The Forbidden" are creepy horror stories, and both are very effective. The first story features a young man who ends up in jail, as he says, "on purpose" in an attempt to connect with his grandfather, who was hanged in, and buried on the grounds of, the prison. The reader can't possibly tell where the story is going from there, and it opens up and provides more and more fantasy and horror in its forty or fifty pages, more than most novels can manage."The Forbidden" is the story of the Candyman, a local legend who haunts residents of a broken-down, graffiti-ridden community. This one stays with me, creeps me out after I've finished reading it. One of my favorites of Barker's short stories.When I was younger, I didn't appreciate "The Madonna", the third story in this collection. Reading it again now, I enjoyed it much more, and I wonder if perhaps it really has been over a decade since I last took a look at this story. I can't explain how I could otherwise dismiss it, as it is quite good, and contains elements of "The Metamorphosis" (which, I admit, I hadn't read until fairly recently) along with some more bizarre gender discussion similar to nothing else I've ever read. Not quite as powerful or haunting as the first two stories, "The Madonna" is neverthless an enjoyable read.The last entry, "Babel's Children" is the least of the four, but is still a good time. This one actually has some elements of conspiracy of the government kind, and if my memory is correct--and it rarely is--this is the only story of Barker's that's ever dealt with this subject.Overall, "In the Flesh" is a great collection of four short stories (nearly novellas) that are frequently scary and always well-written. I would probably have to place this collection somewhere in the middle of the "Books of Blood": better than "The Inhuman Condition" and "Cabal" but probably not higher up than the first three. Although, based on what I remembered of these stories, I could be completely wrong. If I live a happy, long life, I'm sure I will read each of the "Books of Blood" at least ten times.


Onnistuneesti Candymanina filmattu Kielletty lyö silmille graffiteja ränsistyneissä lähiöissä ja niihin liittyvää urbaanilegendaa koukkukätisestä miehestä. Kirjan parempia tarinoita, mutta kuten The Hellbound Heartin kohdallakin kävi, elokuva vie mytologian ja yksityiskohdat pidemmälle. Tässä ne jäävät hieman puolitiehen. Hylättyyn, rapistuneeseen uimahalliin sijoittuva Madonna on niin ikään vähän sinne päin. Mysteeri kiehtoo aluksi, mutta jää kuitenkin loppujen lopuksi vaille kunnon näkemystä, kun äitijumalanpalvojat lapsineen ryömivät esiin. Tämä ilmentää myös sellaista puolta Barkerin kauhunovelleista, mikä on alkanut jo hieman toistaa itseään. Ideat, kertomusten ympäristöt ja teksti säilyvät omaperäisinä, mutta kokonaisuutta, jos ei nyt pilaa niin ainakin latistaa se, että kirjailija turhan usein rojauttaa loppuhuipennukseksi jonkin epämääräisen rujon mönkiäisen. Toisaalta se liha, tavalla tai toisella, on iskostunut aika voimakkaasti Barkerin tavaramerkiksi. Mukana on kylläkin myös yksi aivan päinvastaista tyylisuuntaa edustava kertomus, Baabelin lapset. Maailmantuhoa uumoilevasta taustatarinasta huolimatta, se erottuu joukosta lähinnä lepsun, hieman komedisen asenteen takia. Edes pieni irvailu politiikan eliittiä ja päätöksentekoa kohtaan ei pelasta. Ja ennen kaikkea: kauhunovellina se on täysin hyödytön. Päätösnovelli, Lihaa ja verta, on etenkin loppua kohden varsin kelvollinen antautuessaan murhamielen kuljetettavaksi. Pääosin vankiselliin sijoitettu novelli piirtää varsin onnistuneesti verenkyllästämää kuvastoa henkirikoksen seuraamuksista jossain tuonpuoleisessa. Katolisten limbon piirteistä on tainnut tulla vaikutteita, tosin Barkerin versiossa ovelimmat tulevat myös takaisin. Kolmesta pääosin maittavasta tarinasta huolimatta, siitä en kuitenkaan pääse yli en ympäri, että ei tämä ole kolmen ensimmäisen kirjan veroinen purskahdus hurmeista brittikauhua. Semmoisia Rawhead Rexin tai Keskiyön lihajunan kaltaisia muistiin syöpyviä satuja ei oikein irtoa, vaikka hieman nelososasta parantaakin.

Adrian Lilly

I thoroughly enjoyed In the Flesh. It’s a strong collection, and it’s obvious from this why Clive Barker is so revered. The title story was an unusual tale of terror, cloistered in a jail cell for the vast majority. The claustrophobic atmosphere played well, and the moments outside the cell were even darker. The second story, The Forbidden, was the inspiration for the film Candyman. Most of the action in the film is taken from the short story, with the locale switched from the UK to the US. The story vacillates from subtly creepy to gory while building to a dramatic and fitting end. The Madonna was a dark tale of just deserts in which two men get what they deserve for how they’ve treated women. The final tale was a departure from the others. Entitled Babel’s Children, it was more of a farce or dark comedy. This enjoyable read built to a satisfying if not predictable end.


In The Flesh formed the fifth part of Barker's famed Books of Blood series. It features four works of fiction that was imaginative as well as iconic.The first story, In The Flesh, felt like an extension of the Hellbound Heart (his book that spawned the Hellraiser series). A prisoner gets a new cell-mate, and it doesn't take long before things start going bump in the night, and then some!The second story, Forbidden - about a young university student who gets too curious about strange graffiti in abandoned buildings - proved quite gripping, and spawned the Candyman movies (and obviously great liberties were taken when converted to celluloid). The third tale, The Madonna, i think, was the weakest link in the set. Containing a subtext on social mores and sexuality, it seemed not wholly fleshed out and lacked the courage that Barker would show in his 90's work.Babel's Children was more tongue-in-cheek and crossed over a little into fantasy. An overly curious young woman (yep, another one), takes the road less travelled, and ends up in a monastery where the aged inhabitants are more than what they seem. Some parts of this, i felt, paid a slight homage to the fantastic stories of Bradbury.Published in 1987, it was a period where Barker could do no wrong, and was heir to the mantle of modern horror fiction. I read the entire Books of Blood ages ago, and re-reading this set again now reminds me of how great Barker once was. He did not need to tread into extensive gore or hyper-sexualised fantasies. He just wrote brilliantly creepy stories.How things have changed since then. (If u've picked up Mister B Goode recently, u would know what i mean ...). But I'll still snap up his new books as they come out. Hoping that one day, he would come up with a collection as potent as the Books of Blood. ~ Shob

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.


One of the follow up collections of short stories after his Books of Blood (in England it was another book of blood). In any case, some great short stories that aim to horrify; it's not as strong as the first three collections (Books of Blood), but worthy of any horror collection. "The Forbidden" introduces us to the Candyman and "The Madonna" is another must read.

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..


This review should be called, San Franciscans put shit on the street every day. Books I have found on the street and then read. The Serpent and The Rainbow. A Wrinkle In Time. A medical book of swallowing disorders (called oddly enough Swallowing Disorders).I was walking around the other night and I found this book on the sidewalk. It's a cheap mass-market paperback with yellowing pages and binding that is on the verge of coming undone. There’s something vaguely ejaculatory about the cover art. In one corner, a kid, whose eyes are screaming mouths, opens his coat only to reveal a missing abdomen and torso, erupting with bees. There’s also some kind of phallic floating troll clutching a bunch of eyeballs that splatter the embossed glossy cover in white pearlescent gobs. See, ejaculatory? Anyway, so I picked it up and took it home with me. I read the book in a little over an hour. I closed the book. I felt neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. There were interesting moments but for the most part … he didn’t go there. It’s pulp operating under the premise of risk, but the stories themselves felt cliché beyond belief. Maybe, they weren’t back in 1986 when this came out. Maybe our culture has chewed up, swallowed and regurgitated this content so many times that it has become tired. Or maybe it was never interesting. But the point is, it’s not really this book, but the fact that a couple of days ago I picked up a book in my neighborhood, took it home, and read it.


Worthwhile reading novella / short story collection from a horror master, Clive Barker. His imagery is strong and vivid and at times he evokes an Edgar Allen Poe sort of creepiness. The title story is the best in my opinion and the kind that may keep even the seemingly impervious to fear type to remain up all night. The only piece that didn't grab my attention too well was the one involving the Candyman ( later made into a movie ). " The Madonna " is a winner, buoyed by the subplot of a hit man, who later meets up with a fertile creature. The wit and social commentary of the final story is a bizarre change of pace tale. Overall a very good read.


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.

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.


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.

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