Hammer Horror

(Kate Bush)

Yesterday (March 20th 2013) saw the untimely passing of James Herbert, one of Britain’s foremost authors.

Aged just sixty nine, he was taken too soon.

James Herbert


James burst onto the literary scene in 1974 with ‘The Rats’, published in paperback by the New English library.

I was seventeen at the time and James’ books quickly became required reading among British teenage males in the seventies. His horror was rooted in real life, not Victorian gran guignol, we could relate to it.

I later discovered Stephen King and my personal loyalties shifted. Anybody who quotes Bruce Springsteen is all right by me.

It was perhaps inevitable that, as a teenage boy, Gaz (our son) also became a James Herbert fan. And when, in late 1984,  I learned that James was to be holding a book signing near my office, I requested a full, signed, back catalogue for Gaz’s eighteenth birthday. James very kindly obliged.

The first few volumes were signed ‘To Gaz, best wishes, James’ while later books were dedicated ‘To Gaz, glad you like the books, James’ or ‘To Gaz, keep reading! James’. Of course these precious volumes were never read, they were sealed safely in plastic while Gaz bought unsigned copies to actually read.

A few years later, for Gaz’s 21st, I invited James to dinner, figuring it was the only way to top a signed collection, and while the invitation was declined, Gaz received a letter apologising for the writer’s shyness.

Since then, over the past nearly thirty years, whenever a new James Herbert book was published I would send James a brief update on Gaz’s life and career, enclosing a copy of the new volume for signing.

On each occasion they were returned within a matter of days, duly dedicated.

Okay, in the grand scheme of literary things it’s hardly ‘84 Charing Cross Road’, but ‘Jim’ – as he later signed the covering letters – wasn’t obliged to sign the books. But sign them he did, he took the trouble, and made one avid fan very happy, and I respected him for that.

If you’ll excuse the pun, he was all right, in my book, and I’ll miss our occasional exchanges.

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