Entertainment & Arts

Fellow authors pay tribute to The Rats novelist James Herbert

James Herbert
Image caption Herbert wrote The Rats at the age of 28

Tributes have been paid to British horror writer James Herbert, who died on Wednesday aged 69.

The author of The Rats and The Fog, wrote 23 books which sold more than 54 million copies worldwide.

His friend and bestselling author Neil Gaiman described him as "incredibly encouraging".

Gaiman said one of the "joys" of his fiction was that "for so many people it was the virtual soundtrack to their teenage years".

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.

Paying tribute on Twitter, crime writer Ian Rankin said: "Sad news about James Herbert - as a teen, I scared myself silly reading him. He led me to King, Barker, others. RIP."

Guardian columnist Ali Catterall said that "for certain boys of a certain generation he was probably the greatest writer that ever lived".

'Profound influence'

"Partially because of the sex and horror which was extremely enticing to teenage boys. But majorly because what he did was to make British horror relevant again," he told the Breakfast show on BBC Radio 5 live.

Catterall said he brought British horror out of the doldrums and made it appealing to a new audience.

"By the early 70s when he first started writing British horror was still mired in musty old Hammer horror gothic films.

"He made horror very relevant for that (teenage) generation that was living through the likes of the Vietnam and the IRA bombings.

"He brought that visceral urgency back and [placed] horror among the everyday in a very recognisable England, in the same way Stephen King did for Americana," he added.

Noting Herbert's "extremely profound" influence on modern-day horror, Catterall added: "You can really see his influence on 28 Days Later which is very reminiscent of his book, The Dark, and in The Sixth Sense which is very similar to The Survivor," he said.

Herbert published 23 books in his lifetime, with his latest, Ash, published just last week.

His editor of 10 years, Jeremy Trevathan, described him 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," said Mr Trevathan.

"He has the rare distinction that his novels were considered classics of the genre within his lifetime."

The Rats was one of four Herbert novels made into films, along with The Survivor, Fluke and Haunted, while his book The Secret Of Crickley Hall was adapted for television and broadcast on BBC One in December.

Paying tribute to a "dear friend", crime writer Peter James said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of Herbert's death.

"Will miss you lots, Jim, you were a diamond. RIP," he wrote on Twitter.

Your comments

The first book I ever read was Rats at 16. My formative years have been spent reading his work and I am deeply saddened by this news. An amazing writer, he will be missed by many. My thoughts go out to his family who must be devastated. I hope they find solace in the fact that he was so loved. Andy Crompton from Greasby, Wirral

A very difficult writer to describe, an everyman with an uncommon gift. I read Herbert and then Wheatly and then King, then Koontz, Lovecraft... well just about everybody! But then I always returned back to Herbert. His stories had an almost magnetic, alluring quality, a schoolboy's imagination gone feral and generating such malevolent tales but told through the mind's eye of an articulate adult - what a brilliant combination! Be honest, rats as the centre piece to a novel is kind of daft to think about, until you read the book that is. My favourite? Well, all of them really. RIP Mr Herbert and if you're not rated in heaven as the best at what you did, then give 'em hell! Mike, Barrow, Cumbria

I remember reading Rats and being terrified to the point I would read a couple of chapters in bed then would have to put the book outside my bedroom door whilst I slept. I have read all of James Herbert's books and I am currently reading Ash in hardback. My parents were so concerned that I was a moody teenager due to my choice of books, I have to say that my hunger for all books written by James Herbert encouraged me to continue reading through a time most teenagers give up on reading. I have three children now, and one who is a teenager and will be very much encouraged to start reading James Herbert's books. Thank you James for encouraging me to explore the what if! Angelique Nichols, Exeter

Growing up in the 70s-80s I had a problem with my reading and writing. It was James' books that transformed my life. After spending a long time reading Rats I was hooked and wanted to read more. I have been a fan ever since and will sorely miss waiting for the next book. My thoughts go out to his family. Danny, Crawley, England

So sorry to hear about James Herbert's death. His books were a big part of my teenage years, and I still have them all - yellowed, scuffed, torn..... but loved. His work was controversial, visceral, bit racy (fans will know the bits I mean), and adept at exposing the best and worst of the human condition. I regret that he is one of the authors that I never had the chance to meet in person. Thank you, Mr H, for a lifetime of scaring me senseless. Kate Dapre, West Kilbride

Only two days ago I finished one of his novels, Fluke. Such sad news. I have been a huge fan of his writing for quite some time, and truth be told he has shaped my storytelling as a film-maker immensely. It's the way he wrote his books, you'd pick one up and then time would just fly. Total immersion, unbelievably thrilling, his writing - as well as the man, will be sorely, sorely missed. I for one will continue to emulate his ingenuousness throughout my film-making for years to come. To pick a favourite, probably Nobody True. Darren Mark Douglas, Olsztyn, Poland

I felt so sad when I heard the news. He once invited me at his house in Sussex. I will never forget that. He also offered me four original paintings for book covers of his novel. They are now hanging framed with his signature on the wall. I met him last September at Foyles for the book signing of Ash. He looked vulnerable and not healthy. Rest in Peace Jim. Ronald Verheyen, Mortsel, Belgium

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