James Herbert, the UK horror writer who shot to fame in the 1970s with The Rats and The Fog , died yesterday at the age of 69.
In a career spanning 23 books he sold over 50 million copies worldwide. Despite those wonderfully lurid titles of his breakthrough novels – and sniffy reviews from some literary snobs (Martin Amis was not a fan) – he quickly transcended a reputation for gory sensationalism (which was never really deserved – The Rats and The Fog are far more than just that). He was proud that his fourth novel, Fluke, sound its way onto the GCSE syllabus at one point, and books like The Magic Cottage , Nobody True, The Secret Of Crickley Hall a nd his final book, published last year Ash , saw him experimenting with various different approached to the horror genre.
Herbert, who lived in Sussex is survived by his wife, Eileen, and their three daughters. He was awarded an OBE in 2010, which he spoke about in his final SFX interview:
“When I went up to get the OBE, it was Charles who actually pinned the medal onto me. The Queen was upstairs, washing her hair I think. He’s very nice. Funnily enough, I’ve always liked Prince Charles. I think he’s a man with soul. Despite the bad press he gets I think he’s a good man and he’ll make a good king someday. He said to me, ‘Are you working on a new book at the moment?’ And I said, ‘Yeah,’ and I forgot all protocol and pointed at him and said, ‘And you’re in it.’ If you’ve ever seen a man blanche, that was Prince Charles. I said to him, ‘But it’s okay, you come out fine, but there are certain things in there that may make you feel uncomfortable.’
“In fact, when I got my OBE, I forgot every protocol because you’re sort of drilled – in a very nice way – in the way you’re supposed to act. You don’t talk to the prince first, he speaks to you, and he’ll ask you a question like, ‘Have you come a long way?’ And you’re supposed to answer the question with, ‘Your Royal Highness’. After that, every other question you say ‘sir’. I didn’t do any of that, none at all. And it wasn’t out of reverse snobbery, it’s just not the way I am. I only call headwaiters sir.”
If you had to give back the Grand Master Of Horror you also received in 2010 or the OBE, which would go?
“I’d give back the Grand Master Of Horror because I know Steve King, who’s an old friend of mine, is the grand master of horror. He knows that I know, y’know? The OBE is something that would have made my mother, had she still been alive – so proud.”
Thanks for all the books, James Herbert.