Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Herbert, James

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(1943-2013) UK writer generally associated with Horror, but most of whose works are also Supernatural Fiction and/or Dark Fantasy. At the same time, JH often offers cod sf explanations for supernatural events, which reduces his impact on the fantasy genre. He began with what has remained his most popular work, the Rats sequence – The Rats (1974; vt Deadly Eyes 1983 US), Lair (1979), Domain (1984) and The City (graph 1994 illus Ian Miller); the first instalment was filmed as The Rats (1982). In a sense an Urban Fantasy set in a devastated London, the sequence traces an escalating war between humans and the huge mutant rats (see Mice and Rats) who attack us from their Underground redoubts. JH's second series, the David Ash books – Haunted (1988) and The Ghosts of Sleath (1994) – features a latter-day Occult Detective.

Singletons began with The Fog (1975), in which a malign yellow fog – its existence inspired by Revenants – transforms all those who breathe it into homicidal maniacs. In Fluke (1977) a man is reincarnated as a dog (see Reincarnation). In The Spear (1978) neo-Nazis use the spear that pierced Christ's side to resurrect Heinrich Himmler (see also Hitler Wins). The Dark (1980) traces the effect of an ancient malignity on modern folk. The police officer referred to in the title of The Jonah (1981) discovers he is a bad-luck carrier. In Shrine (1983) a miraculously cured girl turns out, perhaps, to be a victim of the Devil. Moon (1985) features a man of Talent linked telepathically to a Serial Killer. The Magic Cottage (1986) is a Ghost Story and, although (or perhaps because) modest, possibly JH's best book. In Sepulchre (1987) an Elder God hopes to gain Possession of contemporary folk. Creed (1990) is supernatural horror. Portent (1992), set circa 1999, pits various troubled Britishers against a giant black woman from abroad (see Colour-Coding) who wishes to invoke the Goddess as rightful inheritor of the polluted world. [JC]

further reading: James Herbert: By Horror Haunted (anth 1992) ed Stephen Jones.

James Herbert


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.