James Herbert, long-time horror writer, has passed away, aged 69.
For those who don’t read horror, his name is probably not one that springs immediately to mind. He certainly has not achieved the level of celebrity of Stephen King or Clive Barker, or considered a classic author like HP Lovecraft or Bram Stoker.
But to those of us who write (or attempt to write) horror, his name is one we recognise. Everyone mentions his novel The Rats, and. it is certainly a chilling tale. I own only a few of his books – The Rats, Portent, Lair, Haunted, and Domain. Portent is probably my favourite of that lot. I’ve also read a few others, but the only title I can think of at the moment is The Fog.
But what sets Herbert apart in my opinion is his style of writing. It is casual and easy and almost in the style of pulp fiction. He did not want to write 800 page epics of horror literature – he wanted to write things that scared and entertained, that could be read easily.
I loved his writing.
Early on in my writing ‘career’ I was accused of writing Stephen King pastiches. But then an editor told me that my style reminded him of James Herbert. I thought, ‘Who?’ So I went out to look for him and read the books the local library had and that was it. I was hooked. There was no plodding – you read his books and got lost and then it was over. None over-stayed their welcome, and all sent genuine chills through the reader.
I like the idea that I write like James Herbert. I am not even close to being in his league, don’t get me wrong. But the thought is a good one. And, more importantly, what it told me was that I could possibly make it as a writer. I was not even close to Stephen King in terms of my stories, but I felt closer to James Herbert. I don’t mean to demean his work – I mean that I now had a writer I felt I could aim myself and my skill at with a faint hope of approaching that level. I haven’t yet, but that aim is still there.
In essence, he is one of my writing heroes.
I think I now have to buy the extensive back catalogue. I need to read more of him.
RIP Mr Herbert. Thanks for the nightmares.