Douglas E. Winter, author of Stephen King: The Art of Darkness and editor of two major dark-fiction anthologies (Prime Evil and Revelations), may be the reigning expert on modern horror. If his book Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic is not the definitive biography of that polymathic author-playwright-auteur, it is only because the volume appeared when its subject was still in his late forties.
At 501 pages, plus 50 pages of endnotes and nearly 100 pages of Primary and Secondary Bibliography, The Dark Fantastic is an impressively thorough document. It covers Clive Barker's life from before birth (giving background on his parents, grandparents, and the hometown he shares with the Beatles) through the early years of struggle to his successes as an internationally bestselling author, Hollywood screenwriter-producer-director, and family man. The biography makes it clear that Barker has always had exceptional talent. (The Dark Fantastic includes, as an appendix, a previously unpublished story, written in Barker's early teens, "The Wood on the Hill." This uneven but fully developed fable of hubris is a tale authors twice as old would be proud to have written.)
Readers expecting a tell-all biography will be disappointed. A good portion of The Dark Fantastic is devoted to summaries and assessments of Barker's creations in many media. However, Winter's critical examinations are interesting, sympathetic, and honest. The Dark Fantastic is a must for all Barker fans and all serious scholars of horror and the fantastic. --Cynthia Ward