When I was a boy back in the 1970s I don’t think there was a more popular author amongst myself and my schoolmates. I can remember in 1979 half my English class must have been reading either The Rats
, The Fog
. I can’t vouch for his later success, but it was at this time that his flame burned most brightly for me. I think he did three important things: he popularised British paperback horror, he made it even more of the ‘bad boy’ of literary genres than it had ever been before and he got kids reading (even if it was under the desk when we really shouldn’t have been).
And he also happened to be a pretty good writer. I remember a Fangoria article expressing shock at how vilified Herbert’s work had been in his homeland by highbrow publications. “They should try reading John Saul” it said, before going on to describe how very well written Herbert’s books actually were. I also remember the Halloween edition of BBC chat show Wogan on which both James Herbert and Clive Barker appeared. Both horror writers, but both seemingly with very different personalities and very different approaches to their craft. While Barker claimed he lived horror in everything he saw and experienced, Herbert just shrugged and said “Once I’m away from the keyboard I’m just Jim again.” I hope he’s enjoying being Jim again now.
R.I.P James Herbert.
JOHN LLEWELLYN PROBERT