I hadn’t read his novels for some time; for me, he was at his best in the late 1970s and early 80s, delivering fiction that was raw, uncompromising and ferocious. The novel of his that stays with me most of all is Domain; it terrified the life out of me when I was twelve, mainly because of its unsparing account of a nuclear attack on Britain and its aftermath (the flesh-eating rats were practically light relief in comparison), but I actually loved The Magic Cottage – a quieter, warmer novel by far – too.
Herbert transformed British horror. Along with Stephen King and Dean Koontz, he wrote tales of the horrific and supernatural that were set in the world you saw every morning on your way to work, and rooted in the anxieties of the time – the Bomb, science as Pandora’s Box, Nature turning against Man, the question of whether or not this life is all there is. His best stuff packed a real punch and influenced, in one way or another, almost every horror writer working in Britain today.
By all accounts he was a very nice man, as well. I was at two events where he was present – WHC 2010 and Fantasycon 2012. On both occasions, I’m now ashamed to say I missed the chance to hear him speak, or to talk, however briefly, to the man and shake his hand. I would have liked to at least have had the chance to thank him for the stories he told.