My love of James Herbert began with Shrine, a story about a little girl who claims to see divine visions and ends up being a vessel for evil.
After Shrine I quickly worked my way through Herbert’s back catalogue; Moon, Magic Cottage, Haunted, Ghosts of Sleath, Sepulchre, Domain, The Fog and of course, his classic debut: Rats.
Herbert wrote about horrible things happening to everyday people in the most mundane of settings, and while there are many writers who do just the same, it was Herbert’s mix of picking out the small details of everyday life and juxtaposing them with moments of brutal horror that grabbed my imagination.
His was a very English kind of horror, set in inner-city landscapes or grand country houses, in remote villages and secluded spots in the forest. It reflected the world around me and made me believe, at least while reading and sometimes beyond, that spooks and spectres lurked in every dark corner, every shadow of this land.
I stopped reading Herbert around the time the Others came out. There wasn’t any particular reason for it, I just moved on to other authors and other genres.
But his books lingered longest in my mind, and I returned to his work this past year wondering if I would feel the same.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I tried to read Once and The Secret of Crickley Hall, but gave up on both. The text was too wordy, too description heavy and the characters left me cold and disinterested.
Reading The Magic Cottage again kindled some of my former love for Herbert, but the sex scenes were over the top and cringe-worthy and again the description was hard to struggle through.
Though time has tempered my love for Herbert’s books, his influence on my writing can’t be underestimated.
Because of Herbert, I wanted to write about ordinary people facing extraordinary situations and it’s that desire that’s buried in the dark heart of Badlands.
My top 5 Recommended James Herbert Reads
1. The Magic Cottage
4. Ghosts of Sleath