Readersforum's Blog

March 21, 2013

James Herbert: Master of British horror fiction

OthersThe late writer’s early novels mined primal fears of scurrying rodents and lethal chemical spillages, inspiring a new wave of dystopian fiction

By David Barnett

James Herbert, who has died aged 69, will be remembered as one of the pillars of British horror writing. Herbert managed the rare feat of straddling both genre and mainstream fiction; at the height of his career, he was often spoken of in the same breath as Stephen King, and sales of his books have run to more than 42m.

He shot to fame in 1974 with the publication of The Rats, and there can be few people who grew up in the 70s who didn’t furtively pass around a dog-eared copy of this and its follow-up, Lair, revelling in Herbert’s gory set-pieces and plentiful graphic sex scenes.

With The Rats, Herbert established himself as a master of the sort of apocalyptic horror that’s so popular today – from Justin Cronin’s The Passage to any number of zombie novels. There can be few authors working in the field of modern dystopian fiction who don’t owe a debt to his work.

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