Thursday, March 21, 2013

James Herbert Has Died

James Herbert, a writer mentioned often on this blog, and sometimes referred to as "Britain's Stephen King" has died at 69. He originated what came to be known as 'the nasty', and, with THE RATS, launched an entire genre of horror fiction that spawned titles such as NIGHT OF THE CRABS, BLOWFLY, EAT THEM ALIVE, SLIME, WORMS, THE CATS, DEVIL'S COACH HORSE, SNAKES, and ALLIGATORS.

THE RATS, his first book, was a phenomenon that combined graphic violence and raw sex in the working class settings of London. James, the son of London street traders and an ex-advertising man, was a true success story. In the wake of THE RATS came THE FOG (no relation to the John Carpenter movie) THE SURVIVOR, THE DARK, FLUKE, DOMAIN, LAIR, THE MAGIC COTTAGE, THE SPEAR, HAUNTED, and many others. He even created a RATS installment as a graphic novel and penned two non-fiction works, the best being BY HORROR HAUNTED.

As a young lad, I wrote to Mr. Herbert to express my admiration for his early novels. Over a decade, we exchanged many handwritten letters and met in Melbourne when he was promoting THE JONAH with his publisher. I enjoyed an underaged beer with them.

A serious-minded writer who stressed the importance of research and wrote beautifully, he once told me that writing sex and violence opens up the mind's receptors, and often started his writing day by scribbling something juicy. He also rewrote two or three pages from the previous day's work to get himself back into the previous day's groove.

Mr. Herbert's work was not, generally, translated well to the silver screen. DEADLY EYES, an attempt to turn THE RATS into a movie, was a depressing misfire. THE SURVIVOR, a film made in Australia by director David Hemmings, took a great idea and made a mess of it.

More recently, Mr. Herbert angled towards more supernatural-focused fiction, and an adaptation of his novel HAUNTED fared better in a TV format. He moved away from the true hardcore horror of earlier works with a series of effective 'ghost' novels, but, right up until his final novel ASH, Mr. Herbert's skill to chill was unique and unequaled.

A man who suffered no fools and applied a no-nonsense approach to everything he did, he will be greatly missed by millions who were shaped by his special brand of horror.

You were a true Apostle of Pulp, and you did for British horror what Enid Blyton did for childrens' literature.

RIP, James.


  1. Definitely a sad time for horror fans: James Herbert and Rick Hautala gone within a day of each other! What are the odds?? I'll have to remember that quote about sex and violence opening up the mind's receptors...

  2. This is a very bad news. James Herbert was definitely one of my favourite writers, author of many masterpieces such as Liar, Haunted (as you mentioned), but also Once and Crickley Hall.

  3. TOM -- very bad news indeed. A world without a new Herbert will be a lonely one.

  4. very eloquent, the Jonah was always a personal fav of mine