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Noumenon 21st Mar 2013 1:04

James Herbert, R.I.P.
Sad to learn (via friend who described him as "one of my formative-years authors") that James Herbert died yesterday.

He was one of my formative-years authors too, and not just because he gave a fair bit more sex with his horror than Stephen King. Although I grew out of his little corner of the genre much faster than I did King's, I still recall my fondness for several of his books. I started out on the proper horror, The Rats, Domain, The Fog, etc., but now I cringe a little to think that I enjoyed The Magic Cottage so much that it became a comfort reading on more than one long family car journey (when, exactly? Early teens? Not later, I hope!).

I was enough of a fan to make a point of watching him interviewed on Wogan (for American Palimpers, Terry Wogan was an Irish TV and Radio personality who held a vice-like grip on BBC1's hottest evening slot for decades). It was the first time I'd seen the man aside from his cover-photo, and I remember feeling cheated when he turned out to have a rather weak, high pitched voice not at all as I'd imagined. The exact same thing happened later with King, but I got over the disappointment; now, since I'm trying my hand at genre writing and hardly have a rumbling baritone myself, I consider it a sign of things to come...

Here's to a guy who entertained, and gave me a taste for pulpy fiction.

JunkMonkey 22nd Mar 2013 23:03

Re: James Herbert, R.I.P.
I find it hard to believe (given my usual diet of trash) but I don't think I have ever read one of his books. I shall have to rectify this. Where's a good - or the least worst - place to start, Nou?

Noumenon 23rd Mar 2013 0:56

Re: James Herbert, R.I.P.
Yoiks, it's been so long all I can really do is list the titles I remember reading - no true assessment of quality could be attached! Urban animal-plague-horror The Rats was followed by two (now three, apparently) sequels, Lair (rural, I think) and Domain (post-nuclear-apocalyptic). The Fog was another urban horror in which an airborne bio-weapon causes psychotic murders, human and animal (I think there's a scene with pigeons... I'm not sure, but then "The Pigeons" would be a much harder sell as a title anyway). I vaguely remember Sepulchre being a sort of detective story-and-horror, and he did a few Nazi-connected horror stories but I don't think I read them.

The Magic Cottage is rural fantasy-horror and, like I said, was a big favourite of mine back in the day; I think I'd roll my eyes at it now. Portent was probably the last thing of his I read, but I think I quite liked that too - call it ecologically aware pseudo-science Gaia nonsense... His stuff was never high-lit, but then with titles like "The Rats" what do you expect? The one I'm skipping over is Fluke - a reincarnation story about a dog that becomes aware he was previously a man and ********************** ********************** **** **********************, if I remember correctly. No spoilers there, unless it's page 2 I'm spoiling. [EDIT: I changed my mind...]

So, I guess look to paragraph one if you want graphic descriptions of rats eating people and/or spouses going a bit wrong on their significant others, paragraph two if you like the sound of slightly cheesy fantasy with nice sharp lines between the goodies and the baddies. Sepulchre is probably somewhere in the middle, but falling on the darker side.

One thing that should definitely have you running for the charity shop, JM: you're pretty much guaranteed a sex scene along the way, in the paragraph one contenders at least (although the participants might not make it all the way to the pillow talk). I can't speak to the Nazis (or the dog) in that regard, but there may well be a bit of good old British rumpy-pumpy in The Magic Cottage too.

bill 23rd Mar 2013 13:27

Re: James Herbert, R.I.P.
I've never read Herbert either, though when I was younger I bought a few of his books and hovered around them. I don't know why I never did, but I probably will finally read one now (either The Rats of The Fog). It's also strange, considering I never read him, how shocking I found the news of his passing. Horror fiction had a terrible week (David B. Silver, Rick Hautala, and Herbert all dropped dead within a week of each other), and writers in the community are kind of in shock.

Noumenon 23rd Mar 2013 23:38

Re: James Herbert, R.I.P.
Shame. I don't know either of the other two, but when I googled Silver I found... nothing at all. Unless he was also a dentist.

bill 24th Mar 2013 20:13

Re: James Herbert, R.I.P.
That's because his last name was actually Silva. You should have known that's what I meant.

Noumenon 25th Mar 2013 10:41

Re: James Herbert, R.I.P.
Stupid, stupid. Sorry.

amner 25th Mar 2013 12:12

Re: James Herbert, R.I.P.
I probably (no, I actually did) read them all up to Creed. They were endearing, which is an odd thing to say, but there was a naffness included that you didn't mind. It was like a 70s scene-wobbling Dr Who episode, but with tits and brain splatter.

The Rats is fairly dreadful, and fits into that spate of British schlock horror animal epidemic rubbish we had to trawl through that included The Dogs, The Bats, The Slugs, The Crabs, etc. Terrible stuff. Herbert was a bit cuter than that, though, and wasn't afraid to stretch his talents to different-enough memes.

I had The Fog and loaned it out as a new, uncreased paperback, to have it returned many months later once it had done the rounds of not only my class but the whole school. It was handed back thumbed to Hell and back. Page 81 dropped open with ease. Ah, page 81.

It's probably the quickest of his to read (he does swift, gruesome scenes very well...that bit in the gym, eh kids?), but my favourite is The Dark. There's a very interesting premise hidden in there (that we all have a darkness inside us that can be harvested and used) and the orgy of destruction included in some sequences is pretty fearless. It also includes a chapter where I actually found myself gasping in terror. Really. Whether or not it'd have that effect now, I don't know.

Sadly, he became a little too ambitious and some of his later stuff is quite dire. Moon and The Jonah are particularly bad. Like Nou, I can find myself getting quite defensive about The Magic Cottage, too. It has a knowing quality about it, where he's taking the mick, but still gives you the exact thing he's taking the mick from.

He always seemed a decent chap when interviewed, too. I think he knew he'd lucked out, and was always smiling.

JunkMonkey 25th Mar 2013 15:33

Re: James Herbert, R.I.P.

Originally Posted by amner (Post 130610)
It was like a 70s scene-wobbling Dr Who episode, but with tits and brain splatter.

I'm sold!

gil 26th Mar 2013 17:03

Re: James Herbert, R.I.P.
Hmm.. Like JM, I am surprised I never read any. If I search my memory, I think I resented the fact that I kept seeing his books on sale in the sf section, and thinking they were by Frank Herbert (of the Dune series fame), then being disappointed that they turned out (according to the blurb) to be in the tradition of John Wyndham (British apocalyptic genre).

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