‘James Herbert, a best-selling author of horror novels whose books about mutant flesh-eating rats, Nazi-inspired plagues and children seized by malevolent forces made him the British counterpart to Stephen King, died March 20 at his home in Sussex, England. He was 69.
Ghosts came to life in his books, quaint country cottages possessed deadly powers, plagues were unleashed on innocent victims, and the little voice in the back of people’s heads commanded them to commit unspeakable crimes.
His first book, “The Rats,” was published in 1974 — the same year King published his debut novel, “Carrie.”
In his second novel, “The Fog” (1975), Mr. Herbert envisioned a dystopia in which a chemical released into the environment caused people to lose their moral compass and commit horrible crimes. In that book, a 747 jumbo jet deliberately crashed into a tower in London.
With his third novel, the ghost story The Survivor, Herbert used supernatural horror rather than the science fiction horror of his first two books.
In Shrine, he explored his Roman Catholic heritage with the story of an apparent miracle which turns out to be something much more sinister.
Haunted, the story of a sceptical paranormal investigator taunted by malicious ghosts, began life as a screenplay for the BBC, though this was not the screenplay used in the eventual film version. Its sequel was The Ghosts of Sleath. Others of Herbert’s books, such as Moon, Sepulchre and Portent, are structured as thrillers, and include espionage and detective story elements along with the supernatural.
The Jonah is in large part the story of a police investigation, albeit by a policeman whose life is overshadowed by a supernatural presence.
Reviewing “The Rats” under a pseudonym for Britain’s Observer newspaper, Amis noted Mr. Herbert’s graphic depiction of rats devouring a child and said such scenes were “enough to make a rodent retch . . . and enough to make any human pitch the book aside.”
James Herbert was born April 8, 1943, in a working-class section of London. His parents were fruit mongers.
He grew up in a Dickensian neighborhood where Jack the Ripper had supposedly roamed in the 19th century.
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