THE BOOK THAT MADE ME : JIM GOFORTH ON CLIVE BARKERS CABAL (ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR GINGER NUTS OF HORROR)

Posted: July 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

Though I will constantly make reference to the late great Richard Laymon as being the chief influence and inspiration on my writing, indeed the man whose work altered and honed the way I write, after I first read ‘Darkness, Tell Us’ back in the early 90’s, it was a little earlier than that when I became hooked on horror and there were myriad motivators prior to Laymon the king. Hutson, early Koontz, McCammon and old King were pivotal to me, but when it comes down to specific books that played a massive part in entrenching me in a lifelong love with the genre, in all its mediums, three novels in particular spring immediately to mind, because they’ve stuck with me from the moment I’ve read them, been re-read over and over again, and never lose any of the horrific charm that first obsessed me with them. They are Graham Masterton’s ‘Walker’s, Thomas Page’s ‘The Spirit’ and Clive Barker’s ‘Cabal’. Since this is the book that made me, singular, I will have to narrow that down to just one and in that event I’m going to run with ‘Cabal.’ Being the kid at school who was always writing tales about phantasmagorical monsters and bizarre beasts of my own creation, ‘Cabal’s’ fantastic graveyard community of Midian was a source of immediate fascination to me, fostering an instantaneous love for these oddities and the characters who joined with them. Having a love for all things dark and all things monstrous meant ‘Cabal’ was just about the most perfect story I’d ever read at that stage of the late eighties, a young impressionable lad with a profound desire to explore these dark and twisted worlds. The characters are all deeply flawed and damaged, and the portrayal as humans existing as the real monsters of the piece is something that has always remained with me, something I like to explore in my writing as well. The atmosphere throughout the entire thing is an epic one, laden with menace, darkness, and fantasy aspects, but often conjures up more emotional moments and feelings of alienation, and Barker is a master at being able to balance everything with just the right touch of poignancy, dropping in moments of shocking violence and a nice splash of sex as well. The copy I first read was the Fontana Collins edition from 1989 featuring Craig Sheffer as Boone in his monster personality after becoming one of the Nightbreed and Anne Bobby as Lori from the Nightbreed film adaptation which came out the following year, and it also contained the curious artwork from Barker himself, appearing throughout, before chapters, at the end of chapters. I was almost as intrigued by these artworks as I was the story and they definitely enhanced the assortment of atmospheres conjured up by the narrative itself. I still own that very same copy, along with Laymon’s ‘Darkness, Tell Us’, one of the very few books I actually have the one copy I’ve maintained from the very first reading way back then and consequently its pages are yellowing and it certainly looks aged, but otherwise I keep it in pristine condition. It has stood up to so many re-readings I have lost count of how many times I’ve pored over the same pages, been immersed in the same unusual characters and drifted away to the world of Midian. It may not be Barker’s most acclaimed or widely acknowledged work, and as a relatively short piece considered a novella these days, might not be as extensively convoluted as much of his other material, but to me it remains a classic and will forever hold a place as one of those books that leave an indelible mark. It’s one of three books that made me, but for the purpose of this article, it is the book that made me.

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