Best-selling author James Herbert, who wrote the horror classic The Rats, has died aged 69.
His publisher, Pan Macmillan, confirmed that he died at his home in Sussex this morning. No cause of death was given.
Jeremy Trevathan, his editor for 10 years, described him as "one of the keystone authors in a genre that had its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s".
He is survived by his wife, Eileen, whom he married in 1967, and their three daughters Kerry, Emma and Casey.
Herbert's first novel, The Rats, depicted London overrun by mutant flesh-eating rodents and sold 100,000 copies within two weeks of being published in 1974.
Since then, he has published 23 novels in more than 30 languages, selling 54 million copies worldwide. His latest book, Ash, was published last week.
Herbert was appointed an OBE by the Queen in 2010 - the same year he was made Grand Master of Horror by the World of Horror Convention.
Mr Trevathan described Herbert as "one of the giants of popular fiction in the 20th Century".
"It's a true testament to his writing and his enduring creativity that his books continued to be huge bestsellers right up until his death.
"He has the rare distinction that his novels were considered classics of the genre within his lifetime," he added.
Born in London's East End on 8 April 1943, Herbert won a scholarship to St Aloysius Grammar School in Highgate at the age of 10.
After a college course in graphic design, he went on to work at an advertising agency.
He started his first novel, The Rats, at the age of 28 and completed it within 10 months. He submitted the manuscript to six publishers, three of whom replied.
Of those, two rejected the novel and one accepted it.
The Rats was one of four Herbert novels made into films, along with The Survivor, Fluke and Haunted.
His novel The Secret Of Crickley Hall was adapted for television and broadcast on BBC One in December, while The Magic Cottage was dramatised for BBC Radio 4.
One of his friends, Gordon Giltrap, paid tribute to the author on Twitter: "Received some sad news this morning that my good friend James Herbert has passed away. Am in no mood for music, that's for sure. RIP Jim."
Another, Peter James, wrote: "Deeply saddened to hear today that my dear friend, writer James Herbert, died last night. Will miss you lots, Jim, you were a diamond."