James Herbert’s legacy – A Personal Take

By 24th October 2012Uncategorised

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  • Adam, I tried adding this comment to your wonderful article on James Herbert on the Tor website, but it wouldn't go through for some reason. So, I'm posting it here if you don't mind:

    Great article. I completely agree. James Herbert, along with King, and to a lesser extent Ramsey Campbell, was one of those authors who defined my teenage reading years. His books were passed around the classroom and certain scenes were discussed in hushed, awed tones.

    In my 40s now, looking at Herbert's oeuvre again, I think he's a much better writer than the teenage me ever realised. There's a lot more going on in his books than those scenes of sex and violence that so thrilled me as a teenager.

    Ramsey Campbell wrote a brilliant essay on Herbert, printed in "Ramsey Campbell, Probably" in which he says that Herbert was looked down on by other horror authors because he write about working class people. Most British horror fiction dealt with the middle-classes. Herbert, however, dealt with people on the margins of society. You only have to look at his first book, "The Rats" to realise this.

    In "The Rats" there's a very moving chapter about a man whose latent homosexuality results in him losing his job and becoming homeless and an alcoholic. It's a very sympathetic portrayal and is just one example of many in his books that deals with people who are outcasts.

    Herbert was also never one to rest on his laurels and wrote books that went against what people would expect from him, e.g. "The Jonah", "Shrine", "The Magic Cottage" etc. I, for one, think that his work is ripe for re-appraisal. He's a much better writer than most people (including, once upon a time, me) give him credit for.

    Thank you for this article.

  • Thanks for the comments, Slack. And for reading the blog piece. Yes, he's a very significant writer in the field of horror, quite radical too I often thought. Ilove that Campbell book too – packed with great insights and recommendations. The next volume is out soon from PS Publishing too.

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