Has Barker done a book for kids?


Clive Barker's doing what?

Yes, Mr. Barker -- the author Stephen King says should be read with an airplane burp bag in hand, the writer who stares into our collective unconscious and spews out erotic gore, the unblinking creator of Pinhead -- says "his first book for children" is coming out.

But hearing that Mr. Barker calls "The Thief of Always" "a book for children" seems to horrify his publicist at HarperCollins.

"It's a book for all ages," the publicist says. "But it's definitely not a book for children. While there are illustrations in it, it's not illustrated like a children's book. I'll have to talk to Clive."

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Mr. Barker, also the productive executive producer of "Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth," is chatty, even merry, busy with his many projects and full of a great love of books.

Eighteen months ago, the Liverpool native moved his one-man horror industry to California. "It's wonderful," he fairly shouts. "The sun shines! I look out, and I see hummingbirds and palm trees."

"I'm sitting in my study now," he explains in a free-flowing phone interview. "It's a big airy space with thousands of books. So it feels similar to my study on Wimpole Street in London. I have the same books, the same atmosphere of loving words and access to all the stuff that is an influence on my work."

The difference, he says, is that he no longer looks out the window at the brick wall next door. Of course, it was a very famous brick wall, belonging to the house where Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning "first got together," as Mr. Barker puts it.

Give him a desk, a piece of paper and a pencil, and Mr. Barker says he has all the essentials.

"You can do it just about any place. I don't even have a computer terminal. I hand-write everything. Actually, there are a lot of us non-technicals hiding in our studies. But then somebody has to translate the hieroglyphics."

At 21, Mr. Barker founded a theater company to perform his plays. Early works such as "The History of the Devil," "Frankenstein in Love" and "Subtle Bodies," in which a hotel turns into a ship and sinks, gave a horrific clue of things to come.

Then came a spate of short fiction, including "The Books of Blood" (all six volumes), and his first novel, "Damnation Game," in 1985.

Disappointed in the film adaptations of his stories "Rawhead Rex" and "Transmutations," he decided to direct his own. His film, "Hellraiser," which marked his directorial debut, was shot in London in 1986, sparking a cult complete with comic books and plastic models.

The writer, whose literary influences include the Bible, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, Herman Melville, William Blake and William Burroughs, is having a busy fall.

"Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth," the third in his Pinhead saga, is already "Hellraiser" sparked a cult complete with comic books and plastic models.

gagging fans. Shot in Greensboro, N.C., the film, which feature an appearance by the heavy-metal band Armored Saints, was scored by the Symphony Orchestra of Mosfilm Studios in Moscow.

On Oct. 16, TriStar Pictures' "Candy Man," based on Mr. Barker's story, "The Forbidden," will be released. The film, starring Virginia Madsen, was scored by avant-garde composer Philip Glass. Bernard Rose ("Paperhouse") directed.

"Bernard is a great stylist," Mr. Barker says. "He has that British quality of being able to scare the [bejabbers] out of people. It's about urban legends and the fact that in every culture the same stories of bogyman and lovers arise. Many of the tales which you and I were taught as a kid were all lies, of course, but were represented to us as real."

"Candy Man" is "a very intelligent picture," he says. "It could not be more different from 'Hellraiser III,' which is a florid, baroque and fantastical film. 'Candy Man' is very much reality. It gets under your skin the way Philip Glass' music gets under your skin."

On Nov. 16, his so-called "children's" book, "The Thief of Always," hits the stands.

"People raise their eyebrows that Clive Barker's writing children's fiction," he says. "But many of the things which led me to dark fantasies were seeds sown when I was very small. You look at Disney movies. There's a large slice of darkness in the middle of those movies.

"The things that made impressions upon me when I was a kid were the dragon from 'Sleeping Beauty' or 'The Night on Bald Mountain' sequence from 'Fantasia.' They completely etched themselves in my imagination in a way that the good fairy never did.

"It's true for a lot of kids. If you ask kids what they remember, it's not the three pastoral fairies. It's the dragon; it's the force of darkness."

Now Mr. Barker says his interest in darkness takes different forms. "I've grown to adulthood, so now it's the Candy Man stalking the ghettos of Cabrini Green or it's Pinhead, the lead demon from the 'Hellraiser' movies, on the streets of New York.

"But the essence, the inspirational point, remains the same," he says. "If you don't have fun with it, you shouldn't be doing it."

And Mr. Barker, long acquainted with the night, is having fun.

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