James Herbert. I don't think he gets the respect that he deserves. Hell, that he has earned.

It's nearly impossible to accurately gauge just how influential James Herbert has been in the horror genre. He started publishing way back in 1974. This was the same year that Stephen King has his debut novel, Carrie, published. But Herbert's first novel was a lot nastier than Carrie. The Rats was and remains a hard-hitting, gut-wrenching, down-and-dirty story of chemically enhanced rats that have a voracious appetite for human flesh. Though more than a little bit pulpy, The Rats is a lean and well-written horror yarn. And it was very successful.

James Herbert followed The Rats a year later with The Fog, another novel about the dire effects of man's use of chemicals. The Fog is no relation to Carpenter's film. I like John's movie, but the novel makes it look like a bedtime story.

On a more or less yearly basis, James Herbert continued to deliver novel after novel to his legion of fans. As the adverts loved to say, he outsold Stephen King in England.

The early novels of James Herbert are almost comically violent. In time he learned restraint, but not without losing the vitality that his readers loved. His books range from atmospheric ghost stories, to dark fantasy, science fiction, and even family friendly fantasy, as with the delightful Fluke.

You just don't hear a lot about James Herbert in the community, which is a goddamn shame. The man has sold millions of books and directly or indirectly has influenced the entire genre.

If you haven't read him, you can start just about anywhere. If writers like Richard Laymon are your cup of tea, go for The Fog. If you enjoy haunted house stories, I recommend the appropriately titled Haunted. If you like grisly serial killer stories with a supernatural edge, you won't go wrong with Moon. The Magic Cottage is a fantastique tale something like a less wordy Clive Barker might write. Fluke is a tale of revenge and reincarnation that could be a work by a British Richard Matheson.

James Herbert has slowed down his frantic publication rate in the last decade, but he's still going strong. Coming up later this year is Ash, which presumably features the paranormal investigator, David Ash, who appeared in the previous novels, Haunted and The Ghosts of Sleath. I, for one, cannot wait.

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