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James Herbert (1943-2013), British Horror Author: Biographical Notes and Timeline

English horror story author James Herbert was born in the East End, a region of London, in 1943. His parents were Herbert and Eileen Herbert who owned and ran a fresh fruit and vegetables market stall, most frequently trading from Brick Lane and Bethnal Green markets. In later life James was to become one of the most recognisable faces in the world of horror fiction: It seems likely he was drawn towards the genre by elements of his childhood:

The family lived behind Petticoat Lane in the Whitechapel area of the city, close to the site where one of serial killer Jack the Ripper's victims was found in Victorian times. The area had been further blighted by severe bomb damage during the second world war and had a large rat population (rats were the main villains in four of James' best known books). The family also kept their stock of fruit and vegetables at nearby stables where the rat infestation was particularly high.

At school James often fascinated other children with fictional tales. His inspiration seems to have come from the ghost stories and American horror comics his brother Peter used to read, along with the American cowboy comic book Casey Ruggles.

At fifteen James was accepted into the Hornsea College of Art where he studied graphic design, photography and print for four years. When he began working it was with an advertising agency: John Collings. He worked in the art department before subsequently moving to Charles Barker Advertising, where he established himself as the art director and then the group head. Although James was to become known as an author, these early experiences put him in good stead: Even when he was writing full time he retained a big influence on the cover designs for his books, and their publicity. His books, often a marriage between horror and thriller, became so successful that over fifty-four million of them were sold and they appeared in thirty-four different languages.

Below is a timeline from the publication of James Herbert's first book in 1974. His titles include horror, supernatural and ghost stories as well as some non-fiction, poetry and essays on similar subjects. He was not considered a 'literary' writer, but rather that he relied on graphic descriptions of scenes and events in his stories, engendering a level of fear and shock in the reader which other writers have tried, and largely failed, to copy. There's nothing like the original:

  • 1974 The Rats, first edition of James Herbert's debut novel published by New English Library. This was also the first of four books featuring rats as the main villains. The first draft, like all of his writings, was written longhand on a large notepad. It took ten months to write and was accepted for publication by New English Library, one of six publishers the completed manuscript was sent to. The book was largely criticised by reviews because of its graphic scenes of violence and mutilation, but the first edition of one hundred thousand paperbacks sold out within three weeks.
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  • 1975 The Fog, 2nd novel, first edition published by New English Library.
  • 1976 The Survivor, 3rd novel, first edition published by New English Library.
  • 1977 Fluke, 4th novel, first edition published by New English Library.
  • 1978 The Spear, 5th novel, first edition published by New English Library.
  • 1979 Lair, 6th novel, first edition published by New English Library, the second of four books featuring rats as the main villains.
  • 1979 James Herbert and his publisher, New English Library, lost a plagarism case and were forced to pay damages. The case was brought by Trevor Ravenscroft who claimed that parts of Herbert's novel, The Spear, were plagarised from his own book known as The Spear of Destiny. Opinion of Herbert's writing was still divided and the judge in the case alledgedly referred to it as 'rubbish'. Ironically, publicity from the case did much to further heighten Herbert's popularity with readers.
  • 1980 The Dark, 7th novel, first edition published by New English Library.
  • 1981 The Jonah, 8th novel, first edition published by New English Library.
  • 1981 The film adaptation of Herbert's third novel, The Survivor, is produced. It starred Robert Powell and Jenny Agutter.
  • 1982 A film adaptaion of The Rats, James Herbert's first novel, is produced under the title: Deadly Eyes.
  • 1983 Shrine, 9th novel, first edition published by New English Library.
  • 1984 Domain, 10th novel, first edition published by New English Library, the third of four books featuring rats as the main villains.
  • 1985 Moon, 11th novel, first edition published by New English Library.
  • 1985 James Herbert's debut novel, The Rats, is further adapted, this time for a computer game for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum home computers.
  • 1986 The Magic Cottage, 12th novel, first edition published by Hodder and Stoughton with whom New English Library had amalgamated some years earlier.
  • 1987 Sepulchre, 13th novel, first edition published by Hodder and Stoughton.
  • 1987 Maurice and Mog, a short story first published in Masques II.
  • 1988 Haunted, 14th novel, first edition published by Hodder and Stoughton, first of a series of three books featuring the main character David Ash.
  • 1988 Halloween's Child, a short story first published in Gaslight & Ghosts.
  • 1989 Breakfast, a short story first published in Scare Care.
  • 1990 Creed, 15th novel, first edition published by Hodder and Stoughton.
  • 1990 Creed, an excerpt from the novel of the same name first published in Fear #20.
  • 1991 Waiting…, a poem first published in Now We Are Sick: An Anthology of Nasty Verse.
  • 1992 By Horror Haunted, 1st non-fiction book, first edition published by New English Library.
  • 1992 Portent, 16th novel, first edition published by Hodder and Stoughton.
  • 1992 Not Very Psychic, an essay first published in Dancing with the Dark.
  • 1993 James Herbert's Dark Places, 2nd non-fiction book, first edition published by Harper Collins who, after being founded in 1989, were one of the fastest growing English language publishers.
  • 1994 The Ghosts of Sleath, 17th novel, first edition published by Harper Collins, second of a series of three books featuring the main character David Ash.
  • 1994 The City, first and only graphic novel, first edition (softcover) published by Pan/Macmillan who, like Harper Collins, were considered one of the 'big five' English language publishers, the fourth of four books featuring rats as the main villains.
  • 1995 James Herbert was the subject of This Is Your Life, an independent television programme filmed at the Teddington Studios in November of the previous year. Guests included his wife Eileen, mother Kitty, his three daughters Kerry, Emma and Casey along with other family members, friends and colleagues. The show included video tributes from authors Jeffrey Archer and Stephen King.
  • 1995 James Herbert's fourth novel, Fluke, was adapted for film and starred Samuel L. Jackson.
  • 1995 James Herbert's fourteenth novel, Haunted, was adapted for film and starred Kate Beckinsale.
  • 1996 '48, 18th novel, first edition published by Harper Collins.
  • 1997 They Don't Like Us, a short story first published in A Feast of Stories by Britain's Favourite Authors.
  • 1998 James Herbert's twelfth novel, The Magic Cottage, is produced as a radio drama and aired on BBC Radio 4.
  • 1999 Others, 19th novel, first edition published by Macmillan.
  • 1999 Others, an excerpt from the novel of the same name first published in The Mammoth Book of Body Horror.
  • 2000 The Ghost Hunter, a short story first published in The Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories.
  • 2001 Once, 20th novel, first edition published by Macmillan.
  • 2003 Nobody True, 21st novel, first edition published by Macmillan.
  • 2006 The Secret of Crickley Hall, 22nd novel, first edition published by Macmillan.
  • 2010 Lara's Lament, a poem first published in Brighton Shock!
  • 2010 My Most Scary Movie and TV Moments, an essay first published in Brighton Shock!
  • 2010 James Herbert was honoured with the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award, which was presented to him by another horror writer of similar stature: Stephen King.
  • 2010 James was rewarded in the Queen's Birthday Honours for his contribution to literature. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.), which was presented to him by Prince Charles.
  • 2012 Ash, 23rd novel, first edition published by Macmillan.
  • 2012 A televised adaptation of The Secret of Crickley Hall, was broadcast in three parts on BBC television. It starred Suranne Jones and Tom Ellis.
  • 2013 Aged sixty-nine, James Herbert suddenly passed away at his home in Woodmancote, West Sussex.

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