The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker (1989)
During the eighties, I was an avid fan of the novelist Clive Barker. I consumed all his work voraciously and sought out magazine and television interviews with him whenever I could, finding the man equally as fascinating as his work. Oh, to be a twenty something horror fan during the genre renaissance of that decade. Despite the yolk of the Video Recordings Acts and the scaremongering of the tabloid press over “Video nasties”, horror fiction both in print and on the big screen was elevated to new levels due to the creativity of one British author and director. These were halcyon days for fan boys and girls.
In August 1989 Clive Barker released his fifth major novel, The Great and Secret Show. Expectations among fans were high as they prepared themselves for another cerebral, densely plotted and philosophical tale. Barker has always had a gift for characters and is an author that doesn’t give his readers everything on a plate. You have to bring your imagination and intellect with you when you read his work. Let other’s sit around and debate Proust or Kafka. We had Clive Barker who provided not only comparable brain food but did so via the medium of the horror genre. Such work provided a great opportunity for fans to pose, get their fix and stroke their beards.
Naturally there was a various book signings across the UK to promote the new book. My memory is a little vague here but I believe an autumn appearance at The Forbidden Planet in London offered me the best opportunity to meet Clive Barker. However, something came up unexpectedly and I was unable to attend the signing, so my friend Paul went alone, entrusted with a vital message like R2-D2. I awaited eagerly at home pondering how my thoughtful and penetrating question would be greeted by the great author. What words of wisdom would I be given in return? How the hubris of my youth still haunts me to this day.
When I next met with Paul, I was presented with a first edition copy of The Great and Secret Show. To my surprise, Paul did not convey to me verbally, the reply Clive Barker had made to my probing enquiry or regale me with a lengthy anecdote about his experience. He simply opened the book, presenting me with a hand-written inscription from the author himself. I remember being utterly stunned that Clive Barker huimself had not only written a personal message but had addressed my point head on in a succinct and candid fashion. To this very day, I’m still impressed that he took the time to do this. I think it speaks volumes about the man and his approach to fans and life.
Today as I was going through some storage crates, searching for a specific book, I found my copy of The Great and Secret Show. Naturally this whole story came flooding back and I found myself reminiscing about not only these specific events but the entire horror scene at the time. They were happy days. But I digress. Here finally is a picture of the very inscription that Clive Barker wrote. It just remains for me to tell you exactly what it was that I had asked by proxy. My question was simply this. “Why was Hellbound: Hellraiser II so shit?” Clive’s answer, as you can see, is magnificent.
Twenty-seven years on I find myself both older and little wiser. I still consider Clive Barker to be one of the best writers of those times. I also have enormous respect for the way he treats his readers and audience. I know he’s had some bad experiences in the past and I’m amazed he found the good humour to deal with such a crass and puerile enquiry such as mine. If I were ever to meet him in the future I like to think I’d ask him something a little more respectful and interesting this time round. They say that fans shouldn’t meet their heroes. However, I believe there’s something to be said about the reverse. I’ll let you ponder that while I re-read The Great and Secret Show.