JAMES HERBERT OBE (1943 – 2013)

By now I’m sure you’ve heard that horror legend James Herbert passed away yesterday. There are countless tributes all over the web, and you can read a few words I put together for This is Horror here.

Meeting James last year was an amazing experience, and it was only when I found out I was going to be interviewing him and I started my preparation that it became obvious just how much of an inspiration he’d been to me as a writer. I don’t profess to have read all of his books, it was more what he did and how he did it that had a real impact on my career.

domainThere was a period in the early 1980’s when it seemed every home in the UK had been issued a regulation set of James Herbert novels. Everybody had them, even those who reckoned they didn’t read horror. I’d been working my way through them when I got hold of a copy of DOMAIN and, as I’ve said previously, that was the book which redefined what a horror novel could be for me. It made me want to write horror. I’ve taken my yellowed with age paperback (signed by James last year) down off the shelf to read again this morning, and I’ll write more about it in the near future.

But I just want to go back to some statistics for a moment. James Herbert sold more than fifty six million books (I know everyone quotes the figure fifty four million, but he told me otherwise…) which were translated into more than thirty languages. Despite his international success, though, the bulk of those sales were here in the UK. I think that’s the most astonishing thing… to have generated such spectacular sales in a relatively small market, writing for what’s often thought of as a niche audience. Amazing.

He sent me a letter earlier this year, thanking me for interviewing him last September. In the letter he said he hoped we’d get to catch up again soon on the horror circuit. I’m devastated that’s not going to happen now, because I learned a huge amount in the few hours I spent in his company and I would have loved the opportunity to talk with him some more.

DM and JH

Goodbye, James, and thanks for the cracking advice and the wonderful stories. My deepest sympathies go out to his wife and family.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7URSmC-UCmM

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  • Richard Mountfort

    Sad news indeed . I remember going to my local library and finding the rats . One of my memory’s of getting into reading .

  • Jack Ulyanov

    I think every kid in the UK wrote their book report on the The Rats trilogy!

  • Matty-Bob Cash

    I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to meet the legend at that book signing. I was expecting to feint in the throes of fangasm but he was such a diamond. I didn’t have trainfare to get to Brum and ended up getting a court fine for fare dodging the first time in my life. But it was worth it. R.I.P

  • Shaz Fraser

    I think I actually have read every single one of his books except Ash. I met him once when he signed a copy of Sepulchre for me. I am also someone who grew up with The Rats trilogy. However, I think his two best books for me were The Fog and The Dark. I dont normally read a book more than once but I have read these two four or five times each. Every time I devour the book. A fantastic author who seemed to be able to turn his hand to lots of different ‘horror’ themes. He will be sadly missed. RIP James Herbert.

  • Stephen Holloway

    He is a household name! You can not do better than that for a writer RIP

  • Joseph Glessner

    James Herbert was simply awesome. Also an introduction to horror for me. It is amazing for me to think about all of the films and books he inspired. His legend lives on.

  • SimonPayne1

    A nice piece. I’m amazed that you picked out Domain as it had a very similar impact. Granted it didn’t send me down the road of thinking I was talented enough to be a proper writer (though it certainly stoked my imaginative writing) but it was one of only two books that I’ve ever read from cover to cover in one sitting.  
    I think I was still at school, probably the sixth form, but I must have started reading it around 9ish in the evening and finished it at around 6am ish.

    It rocked my world. Horror, apocalyptic scenario – it was just manna from the Gods. I’ve never been as interested in the more individual horror and have always been drawn to the wider, more apocalptic tales (The Stand, The Mist etc) and I think Domain is probably hugely responsible for that.
    No endless flam at the beginning, no need to set characters before the events. No, just straight into the horror of a nuclear attack (at a time when the likes of Threads and The Day After made it’s possibility just as horrifying) with then the craziness of the rats thrown in.
    As I’ve got older, I’ve come to read less (the seduction of gaming and lack of rail commuting which always provided a great opportunity) but there is no denying the impact that Herbert (along with King and a dash of Koontz) had on the blossoming imagination of this particular man as a teenager.
    A great loss but I’m glad to see the praise that is being lauded on him.

  • Thanks Simon. The praise is most definitely deserved. Domain just hit me at the right time and had a startling effect on me. I’ve spoken to a lot of folks over the last couple of days, and I can’t recall the death of a public figure having such an impact. The outpouring of affection for the guy has been remarkable.

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  • John Hodgert

    his books were the first horror books i read when i was in primary school

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