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Creator / James Herbert

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"I hate violence, and I didn't plan to write horror; it just poured out of me."

James John Herbert OBE (8 April 1943 – 20 March 2013) was one of Britain’s most prolific and biggest selling horror novelists. His stories are notable for their highly descriptive narratives and graphic depictions of sex, carnage, and destruction. His first book, The Rats, was rejected by several publishers, but was finally published in 1974, and sold out within three weeks, despite (or because of) widespread criticism from reviewers for its graphic depictions of mutilation and death, some going as far to label its social commentary about the government’s neglect of the post-World War II London suburbs and the underclasses as too extreme. At the time of his death, he had written twenty-four novels, several short stories, and even one graphic novel, The City. Some of his works have been adapted into other media, most notably The Rats, which was adapted into the film Deadly Eyes in 1982, and even into a 1985 computer game, titled… The Rats for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum.



Graphic novel:

  • The City (1993)


  • By Horror Haunted (1992)
  • James Herbert's Dark Places (1993)

Short stories:

  • Maurice and Mog (cut from some early editions of Domain)
  • Breakfast (cut from some early editions of Domain)
  • The Ghost Hunter (excerpt from Haunted)
  • Halloween's Child
  • They Don't Like Us
  • Extinct
  • Cora's Needs

Works by James Herbert provide examples of:

  • Adaptation Deviation: The film of The Survivor was set in Australia, Fluke in the USA and Deadly Eyes in Canada - even though they were all based on books set in Britain. Also, the novel Haunted took place in the present day and its film was set in the early 20th century.
  • After the End: Played with in '48 and Domain.
  • An Astral Projection, Not a Ghost: Subverted in Nobody True; the protagonist ended up becoming a ghost because he was busy astrally projecting somewhere when he was brutally murdered in his bed. A "Who Dunnit To Me" plot ensues.
  • Anti-Hero: Herbert protagonists usually fall between Type II and III. A notable exception is Joe Creed, who comes off as a mix of I and IV, and given the tongue-in-cheek tone of Creed, these traits make him seem like a borderline Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist.
  • Asshole Victim: This comes up quite a lot. Many minor characters are fleshed out and some of them are revealed to be rather unlikable and unpleasant, even depraved at worst. They often die horribly. This isn't a strict rule, however, as some other minor characters are more sympathetic, and some actually live.
    • Averted even more notably by James True, protagonist of Nobody True and a rare case of a sympathetic and likeable advertising executive who really didn't deserve any of the Trauma Conga Line he went through in the book.
  • Badass Normal: Most of Herbert's heroes are these. empowered or otherwise.
  • Badass Teacher: Harris, the protagonist of The Rats, and Childs of Moon.
  • Body Horror: Others is quite notable for this, as the hero was himself born hideously deformed and later discovers a large group of unfortunates with defects even more repulsive and horrifying than his who are kept as lab rats.
  • Book Ends: At the beginning of Domain Culver, Dealey and Kate manage to get into the government shelter in the nick of time while everyone around them is killed either by the nukes or rats, or are exposed to lethal amounts of fallout. By the end of the novel, the three of them are the only survivors of the government shelter and they are saved in the nick of time by three RAF Puma helicopters before they are overrun by the rats, though Kate loses a hand and Dealey is seriously wounded by the rats.
  • The Cavalry: Culver, Dealey and Kate are ultimately rescued by three RAF Puma helicopters who pick them up from the Thames, in the middle of a devastated London, before the rats can get them.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Joe Creed from Creed is described as looking a little like a sleazy Mickey Rourke. This, however, was written before Rourke went back to boxing, and subsequently had reconstructive surgery...
  • Dark Is Evil: Quite literally in 1980's The Dark.
  • Demonic Possession: Shrine is centred around a little girl who is an apparent "faith healer", but who turns out to be possessed by the vengeful spirit of an evil nun who practised dark magic. Also this is apparently what happens in the ending of ''The Jonah".
  • Determinator: The traveler in "The City." Not even having to kill his own wife will cause him to pause in his quest.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: The Rats' titular Lair is in the pastoral glades of Epping Forest.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Kingsway Telephone Exchange is really a government nuclear shelter in Domain.
  • The Fair Folk: The "faerefolkis" depicted in Once are elemental beings who exist on a higher dimension. Most are benevolent, but the "weak and nasty" ones delight in tormenting humans.
  • Half-Human Hybrid:
    • Thom Kindred from Once... is the son of a human male and a faerie woman.
    • A more horrifying example occurs in Domain, where the protagonist discovers that a giant mutant rat, the hideous "Mother Creature", has given birth to what appear to be rat/human hybrids. A group of these, fully grown and capable of speech and tool use, appear in the semi-canonical sequel, The City.
  • The Jinx: The Jonah's Jim Kelso courts an alarmingly recurrent succession of hazardous misfortune. The ghost of his crazed twin sister, to all to whom he gets too close, threatens disaster.
  • Knight in Sour Armour: This is almost a requirement for a Herbert protagonist.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: A scene cut from some editions of Domain and sometimes published as a stand-alone story named Breakfast.
  • Papa Wolf: Some of Herbert's protagonists go into this mode when defending children. Even Joe Creed, who is a deadbeat dad, and a coward besides, who finds his son "obnoxious"(with some justification), goes into this mode when the boy is kidnapped.