I was saddened and shocked to learn today of the death of James Herbert. Though I only met James on two occasions, I felt a close connection having grown up with his books. I clearly remember when his first few novels were released: suddenly all my friends had these fantastic-sounding, distinctive-looking novels in their homes and I knew I had to read them… The Rats, The Fog, The Survivor… the list goes on. He dragged our much maligned genre kicking and screaming into the mainstream, and I for one am hugely grateful he did.
When I was in my late teens, I picked up a copy of Domain, the third book in the Rats series. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true – that book changed my life. I’d never read anything so horrific before, so unrelentingly dark and vividly realised. To this day it’s the only book I’ve ever finished reading then immediately turned back to the first page and started reading again. It was after reading Domain I decided I wanted to write horror, and I know many other authors have been similarly inspired by James Herbert’s work.
I was fortunate (and honoured) to be asked to host the two public appearances James did last year around the release of Ash. He was an absolute gentleman and a pleasure to interview: humble, hilarious, and full of anecdotes and advice. As a reader, it was wonderful to sit back and listen to him talk about his stories. As a writer, watching him at work with the public and hearing him talk about the craft of writing was nothing short of inspirational.
James Herbert wrote twenty-three novels which sold in excess of fifty-six million copies. Those are staggering numbers, particularly when you remember we’re talking about horror here – a genre we’re constantly being told isn’t the most commercially viable! After a number of quiet years, he was on the crest of a new wave of popularity with the release of Ash and the recent BBC TV adaptation of The Secret of Crickley Hall. Earlier this year I received a letter from James thanking me for the interviews and explaining that the next day he was due to start work on a new novel. Whilst it’s a great pity we’ll now never get to read that new book, he leaves us with a huge body of work that will continue to terrify and inspire future generations.
My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends. Rest in peace, James, and thank you.