I was trying to come up with a clever intellectual title for this page but then thought bollocks, if people wanted clever intellectual stuff they'd be reading Bret Easton Ellis (I don't fucking think...)
Anyway, this is me speaking to you, direct (well, sort of).
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James Herbert: A few words
I was gutted to discover that James Herbert died recently.
I'll just repeat that for people who think it was a typing error or that I'm taking the piss... I was gutted to see that James Herbert had died. I know a lot of my readers will feel the same way.
There was lots of bullshit in the "horror press" over the years about how he and I hated each other and it's true we did slag each other off every now and then in interviews and shit like that but that was many years ago... . I just wanted to say that I certainly didn't expect to be so upset to hear that he'd died and not that any of them will ever read this but I would like to send my deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his wife and family.
James and I had met a few times over the years and we always got on well when we met (we might have called each other Christ knows what when our backs were turned but face to face we were fine!!!) Not long after SLUGS was published I had lunch with him and was quite in awe of him. He had been a very big influence on my early writing but let's make no mistake about this; he was a massive influence on just about every horror writer working today. In fact, let's amend that, he was an influence on EVERY fucking writer writing horror back in the 70's and up to date! That isn't an opinion or a matter of taste or judgement by the way. It's a fact!!!
I remember talking to some tedious little "straight out of University" editor not too long ago who hadn't even heard of him! At the time I was thinking no, he's a bit too traditional for you isn't he? Not quite PC enough, a bit too old school. And that was what he was so fucking good at. He wrote brilliant "traditional" horror. Editors these days (if they even bother looking for horror which few do) are so busy trying to find someone "edgy", "visionary," or "ground breaking" or whatever other fancy fucking label they want to give that they don't know what traditional horror is or how much people want to read it.
Fuck Twilight and its pathetic legion of imitators. Fuck all the trendy twats trumpeted by the British Fantasy Society and other nobheads like that. Fuck all the editors who can't see past the end of their own University Degrees. James Herbert was a true master of his craft and I loved his early stuff. I read him when I was a teenager (yes, he was that much older than me...) and in his best books THE RATS, THE FOG, LAIR, THE SURVIVOR, DOMAIN and SHRINE he was matchless. Without him there would never have been a NIGHT OF THE CRABS (ok, maybe that's one thing to hold against him...) or any of those other "terror by animals" books that appeared in the mid-70's. (SLUGS was published in 1982 before anyone says anything... But yep, I freely admit that the episodic style was probably nicked from James. My violence was even more brutal but he could deliver the goods when he wanted to.)
In fact, before THE RATS was published, the only thing you'd find in the horror section of any bookshop (remember horror sections in bookshops? Well, remember fucking bookshops for that matter..?) were a few Dennis Wheatley books, the Pan Books of Horror Stories, ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE EXORCIST. With the success of The Rats etc., things got better for us sick bastards!!!
Now, if you can find a horror section anywhere, all that's in it is Stephenie fucking Meyer, Darren "ooh I want to be taken seriously as an adult author" Shan and the other worthless shit that passes for horror these days (other than 96 shelves of Stephen King obviously!!!) But much of it is "re-imagined" and "edgy" offerings from twats who wouldn't know traditional horror if it kicked them in the balls. A pity their writing has no balls either...
Not long after THE RATS and THE FOG came out the first Stephen King books also appeared in this country (King was published by the same guy who published James Herbert, myself and Dean Koontz, the inimitable Bob Tanner who also died not too long ago... Now there really was a visionary...) The horror genre grew steadily and exploded in the early 80's until Thomas Harris and the indifference of publishers for a genre they'd always hated killed it off in the 90's with THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and the massive amounts of serial killer books that followed. Horror was killed off, had a stake hammered through its heart and was decapitated (just to be on the safe side...) A few of us hung on by our fingernails but the genre was fucked! Killed off as surely as a subsidiary character in one of mine or James Herbert's novels!!!
James Herbert was the guvnor. It's as simple as that (and no, I'm not being paid by his publishers to write this...) He wasn't too fond of bullshit (despite the fact he'd worked in advertising) and when writing he didn't waste words (no twenty page descriptions of someone's fucking car or what fags they smoked for him) He told great stories and he told them well. Our writing styles were similar to begin with; I'd be a twat not to acknowledge that. All I'd say was that my writing had a kind of unrestrained ferocity to it whereas James was more disciplined... Well, he was older...!!!
I'd go as far as to say that he was as important to the English Horror novel as M. R. James was to the English ghost story... There you go... I've said it!!! So, I just want to say goodbye, in my own way, to one of the greats of this genre I chose to work in and to say again what a sad day this is for me personally and also for anyone who loved traditional horror.
Wherever you are, James, I for one salute you. You will be missed.