Fans of pulpy British horror novels were dismayed to learn that James Herbert, author of books including "The Rats," "Magic Cottage" and "Haunted," had died at his home Wednesday. The 69-year-old died peacefully in his sleep, according to publisher Pan Macmillan.
Herbert was an art director at an advertising agency when he began writing his first novel, "The Rats," which was published when he was 30. His most recent book, "Ash," came out in the U.S. late last year. In all, he wrote 23 novels that have been published in 34 languages, selling more than 54 million copies worldwide.
"I hate violence and I didn't plan to write horror; it just poured out of me," Herbert said last year. "The great thing is that you can write humour, romance or political thrillers under that genre."
Herbert has been called the British Stephen King; King called him punk rock. "If The Rats, with its scenes of gruesome horror and its blasted East End landscape, is not a literary version of Anarchy in the UK, what is?" King once wrote.
Herbert's longtime editor Jeremy Trevathan told the BBC, "It's a true testament to his writing and his enduring creativity that his books continued to be huge bestsellers right up until his death."
In the Guardian, writer Hari Kunzru remembered reading Herbert as an 11-year-old. "Boys who generally showed no interest in books were furtively passing round copies of 'The Rats' and 'The Dark,' marking particularly grotesque passages.
" 'The Dark' was supposed to be about an ancient malignant evil. I knew about that from 'The Lord of the Rings.' How bad could it be? Very bad indeed, as it turned out. 'The Dark' is a force, a visible evil miasma, the type of thing that came easily to English imaginations before the clean air act. It makes people do terrible, often sexually violent, things. We'd just moved into an old house, which had been owned by an elderly lady. My room had no carpet. The bulb in the ceiling light flickered. I had no paranormal investigators to help me fight. I succumbed to a state of abject terror ... I did finish it, but I had to do it by daylight, in cheerful communal places, mostly the living room. I never read another."
The books Kunzru missed include "The Survivor," "The Fluke," "The Fog" and "The Dark."
Herbert was awarded an OBE in 2010.
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