It came as a shock to hear of James Herbert’s untimely passing last week. Just a few days earlier I was walking to work and paused to admire a bookshop’s window display for ‘Ash’, the great man’s latest – and now last – novel. Much has been written about Mr Herbert hence, and I particularly enjoyed Colum’s thoughtful piece at Dreadful Tales, which also includes tributes to David B. Silva and Rick Hautala, two more genre giants who sadly passed recently. Christopher Fowler’s brilliant blog gave further insight into the phenomenon of Herbert’s fiction and author Hari Kunzru evoked the school kid hobby of passing around dog-eared copies of The Rats and The Fog in an attempt to out-gross one another.
From a personal perspective, a couple of blog posts ago I mentioned how I admired Mr Herbert from afar during an interview he did at The London Dungeon many years ago. I remember how starstruck I was to see the great man in person. Now I think of it, so was everyone else in the room (or rather, the dungeon) that day as he wrapped everyone around his finger with his charm and fantastic sense of humour.
And I remain starstruck to this day.
Sure, the numbers are one thing (23 novels, worldwide sales of over 54 million copies) but the man’s ideas are another. Each and every book brought something fresh, enticing and fun to the party. An author friend posted online that he felt sad that there would be no more James Herbert books. I feel that sense of loss too, but the great thing about true legends is that they never really die. I haven’t read ‘Ash’ yet, and I’m looking forward to savouring each and every page. And I realised when I snapped the photo to accompany this blog entry that I never finished reading ‘Portent’. And when I’m done with those? Books like Herbert’s demand to be read and re-read, over and over.
Because true legends never really die.
R.I.P. James Herbert. May your tales haunt the nightmares of generations to come.