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The Thief of Always
First edition
Author Clive Barker
Illustrator Clive Barker
Cover artist Clive Barker
Country United States
Language English
Genre Dark fantasy suspense
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
1 November 1992
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 225 (first edition)
ISBN 0-06-017724-1
OCLC 26356764

The Thief of Always is a novel by Clive Barker that was published in 1992. The book is a fable written for children, but intended to be read by adults as well. The book's cover was created by Barker and the book contains several black and white illustrations by the author.


Harvey Swick is a 11-year-old boy bored with school, teachers, homework, and his day-to-day life. In response to Harvey's frustrated plea for change, a man named Rictus visits Harvey and tells him about a kid's paradise called the Holiday House. At the Holiday House, there are all the sweets a person could ask for, four seasons in a day, Halloween every evening, Christmas, with whatever gifts you could wish for every night, and everything else you could dream of. One week after his encounter with Rictus, Harvey hesitantly visits the house, entering through a wall of mist. Harvey stays at the Holiday House for 31 days, becoming friends with two other children staying alongside him, Wendell and Lulu. There is also a woman, Mrs. Griffin, who cooks all the meals for the children. She claims to have been there longer than anybody. And though she seems sweet, she appears to be keeping a secret about the house and its creator, Mr. Hood. Harvey eventually discovers that the house's creator, Mr. Hood, has sucked all of the children's souls away and turned them into fish, imprisoning them in the mysterious, dark, gloomy lake. Lulu is turned into a fish the night of Harvey's escape, but Harvey and Wendell still manage to flee the house by following a cat named Blue Cat through the mist barrier that constantly surrounds the property of the house at night.

When both Harvey and Wendell come home, they soon discover that for every day they had spent in the Holiday House, one year had passed in the rest of the world. When Harvey meets his parents, he thinks he went to the wrong house, but he is wrong. His parents also realize who he is and invite him in. He takes a long nap and then tells them what happened. They go on the search of the House, but Harvey had forgotten all the roads he took coming home. They try all day, but Harvey and his parents can't find the house.

Harvey's father finally decides to go to the police station. Harvey's mother decides to go out shopping and Harvey goes up to his room. When he is in his room, he sees Wendell in the street walking towards Harvey's house. Wendell tells Harvey that Wendell's mother is old, fat, and divorced. Harvey also tells Wendell what happened to him. They both think about what happened in the Holiday House and decide that the only way to regain their lost time is to return to the Holiday House. Upon doing so, Harvey learns that Hood runs the entire house on magic and illusions.

Harvey defeats Hood by tricking him into using up all of his magic by wishing for as many things he can think of as fast as he can. With his power drained, an exhausted Hood allows Harvey one more wish. Harvey wishes for all the seasons at once, resulting in a furious lightning storm that burns down the house. Hood seems to perish in the fire, but he manages to rebuild a body from the debris of the house, and remarks at Harvey's courage. He contrasts Harvey with Wendell, who has succumbed to the House's lures and wishes to stay forever in a trance. Hood then offers Harvey, whom he calls "A Thief of Always," the chance to become a vampire with him and be immortal. Harvey refuses, and the confrontation ends with Mr. Hood being sucked into the lake, which has turned into a whirlpool. The children all leave the remains of the house to go back to their respective times.


  • Harvey Swick– An 11-year-old boy, who is straw-haired and brown-eyed, and impulsive, is bored with his everyday life and wishes to go to a place that is a kids' paradise. His wish is granted when Rictus enters through the bedroom window and persuades him to come to this kids' paradise known as the Holiday House and agrees to come. When he arrives, Harvey becomes flabbergasted by the magic and wonders the Holiday House possessed. Harvey then discovers when he stays in the world of the Holiday House, all of the years of his life are stolen by Mr. Hood and he himself has realized that he has stolen the lives of children, including one of his friends Lulu, must put an end to all of the dark magic of Mr. Hood, destroy the House and all of its pitiful creatures that hide in its shadows. Harvey is bored and frustrated with his life in the first chapter, but he's very observant, smart, clever, and kind and does everything to help his friends and the children become free from the Holiday House and discovers in the end that there's nothing more powerful than the love of his family and friends and is the brightest child in the story.
  • Rictus – One of four servants of Hood's. Rictus is six inches taller than Harvey, wears gentlemen's clothes, a tall brim hat, and wears spectacles. He's very thin, has yellowish skin, and has a grin that can stretch wider than any grin, resembling the bizarre Cheshire Cat from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Rictus's name means "a fixed grimace or grin." Rictus' downfall occurs when Mr. Hood twists his head off due to being annoyed by Rictus.
  • Jive – One of four servants of Hood's. Jive's downfall occurs when he attempts to change Harvey's mind to stay at the Holiday House with pie and ice cream. Harvey tricks him by saying that the food's not real, but Jive unwillingly eats both plates of the pie and ice cream, which causes him to fall down and crawl on the stairs as he spews dirt and dust out of his mouth screaming for his master's help, and suddenly turns to a pile of dirt and dust. Jive's name means "deceitful or worthless."
  • Marr – One of four servants of Hood's. A grotesquely overweight female who is said to resemble a slug. Marr possesses the unique ability to manipulate human flesh into whichever shape she desires (similar to how one would mold clay). Marr's downfall occurs when Harvey forces her to see herself as the wretched slob that she is. Marr melts into a puddle of brackish, fleshy liquid. Marr's name is similar to the word "mar" which means to "impair the appearance of; disfigure."
  • Carna – One of four servants of Hood's. Carna's name could be alluding to the word "carnivore", which means "an animal that feeds on flesh." Carna is not a human. Carna's death occurs when Harvey pets its head and comforts it, ultimately being killed by kindness.
  • Wendell – A naive, obnoxious boy who loves to be in the Holiday House and becomes friends with Harvey. At some point in the book, he becomes obese due to the food in the house, and wants to stay in the house, but ultimately leaves when the house burns down.
  • Lulu – A girl about the same age as Harvey, who's been there longer than both he and Wendell. She has a room full of Christmas presents, as she has been there for months. She eventually has her soul taken by Mr. Hood.
  • Mrs. Griffin – The housekeeper, and a fantastic cook. She has been there longer than anyone and seems to know more than she lets on.
  • Mr. Hood – The owner of the Holiday House and is a part of the house.
  • The Holiday House – The place where every day is perfect, and children can go to live out the rest of their lives if they are not careful.
  • Blue Cat – Owned by Mrs. Griffin, who according to Mrs. Griffin, "has a good sense of direction" and helped Harvey and Wendell leave the holiday house. Blue Cat also dies because once Wendell and Harvey leave, Mr. Hood kills it.
  • Clue Cat – Owned by Mrs. Griffin, who happened to die during lunch from burning alive due to a number of factors.
  • Stew Cat – Owned by Mrs. Griffin.


The Thief of Always has been adapted as a bimonthly three-part comic book, published between January 2005 and May 2005 by IDW Publishing.

An animated musical version of the novel was planned in the early 1990s by Paramount Productions. It was to be directed by Robin Budd, animated by Nelvana, and produced by Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy. Besides adapting the book for the screen, Barker was to have been one of the four executive producers. The project did not eventuate.

A live-action adaptation of the novel was negotiated between Seraphim Films and 20th Century Fox on or before 4 August 2004. The movie was scheduled for release in 2010, but as of now, no adaption has been made.

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