Director Mark Savage remembers legendary author James HerbertBooks/Art/Culture,News Samuel Zimmerman
Australian director of intense cinema Mark Savage (MARAUDERS, DEFENCELESS: A BLOOD SYMPHONY) remembers one of Britain’s longstanding masters of frightening literature, James Herbert, with whom the filmmaker shared a decade-long, influential correspondence…
James Herbert, Britain’s Stephen King, has died at 69. He originated what came to be known as “the nasty,” and launched an entire genre of horror fiction. THE RATS, his first book, was a phenomenon that combined graphic violence and raw sex in the working class settings of London.
James, the son of London street traders and an ex-advertising man, was a true success story. In the wake of THE RATS, came THE FOG (no relation to the John Carpenter movie) THE SURVIVOR, THE DARK, FLUKE, DOMAIN, LAIR, THE MAGIC COTTAGE, THE SPEAR, and HAUNTED. As a young lad, I wrote to James Herbert to express my admiration for his first novels. Over a decade, we exchanged many handwritten letters and met in Melbourne when he was promoting THE JONAH with his publisher. I enjoyed an underaged beer with them.
A serious-minded writer who stressed the importance of research and wrote beautifully, he once told me that writing sex and violence opens up the mind’s receptors, and often started his writing day by scribbling something juicy. He also rewrote two or three pages from the previous day’s work to get him back in the groove.
Mr. Herbert’s work was not, generally, translated well to the silver screen. DEADLY EYES, an attempt to turn THE RATS into a movie, was a depressing misfire. THE SURVIVOR, a film made in Australia by director David Hemmings, took a great idea and made a mess of it.
More recently, Mr. Herbert angled towards more supernatural-focused fiction, and an adaptation of his novel HAUNTED faired better in a TV format. He moved away from the true hardcore with a series of effective “ghost” novels, but, right up until his final novel ASH, Mr. Herbert’s skill to chill was unique and unequaled.
He will be greatly missed by millions.