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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A Swan Can Break A Man's Arm, You Know: A Short Appreciation of Sue Townsend



Wednesday April 2nd

I am thirty-five today.I am officially middle-aged. It is all downhill from now. A pathetic slide towards gum disease, wheelchair ramps and death.


Sunday May 5th

Trinity Sunday

Bowels – blocked.

Penis – unresponsive to stimuli.


Saturday November 16th

I am still without ntl. The engineer refused to get out of his van because Gielgud and the other swans were walking around the car park, looking as though they owned the place. Before he drove away he said, “A swan can break a man’s arm, you know.”


Sue Townsend, after a decade and more of ill health, died on April 2014, aged just 68. She was among my very favourite writers, perhaps at the very top of the list. THE SECRET DIArY OF ADRIAN MOLE AGE 13 ¾ was one of the first ‘grown up’ books I read, and I myself was around that age, or just a tad younger. I loved the book, having picked it up in a charity shop, and I remember saving my money and rushing to W H Smith’s to buy the sequel, THE GROWING PAINS OF ADRIAN MOLE. I’ve read them half a dozen times or more. At 12 or 13 I loved reading about Adrian and his chaotic family, their mishaps, and really funny incidents like the school trip to London which Adrian doggedly documents. Much of it went over my head; I was too young. I didn’t know who Dostoevsky was, or what The Female Eunuch was all about. At each subsequent reading, a little older each time, new things sprang out at me; new insights into character, new jokes, new humour. I have followed Adrian Mole through eight volumes into his 40’s, up to the cliff-hanger in THE PROSTRATE YEARS [none of Mole’s friends or family can pronounce ‘prostate’ properly] where his fate remains unclear after a battle with prostate cancer. Sue Townsend was working on another volume, Pandora’s Box, when she died. So while it is clear that Adrian Mole has survived his brush with death, it is unclear whether this book was anywhere near publishable, so Townsend’s thousands of fans may never get to read it.


Sunday July 18th

My father announced at breakfast that he is going to have a vasectomy. I pushed my sausages away untouched.


Sue Townsend was born into working-class poverty, a lifelong character in most of her books. She was a single parent for years, and wrote in secret, until her first Adrian Mole book became a huge success, being one of the most bestselling books of the 1980’s. Over four decades she has become widely recognised as Britain’s best-loved comedy writer, but there is far more to her work than just humour. Underpinning almost everything is a sense of the working-class, the normal man in the street, and hardship, poverty and the difficulties of life. Pervading through all this is perhaps one key message, one thing that makes the world a better place, no matter if you’re the Queen or an unemployed storage-heater salesman; simple kindness. Her writing is laugh-out-loud funny, but also humane, tragic and bittersweet. She has a brilliant sense of timing, an eye for off-beat but completely believable characters, and a quiet fondness for quiet and clever comedy. Her books mirror society; Thatcher and unemployment in ther 80’s, Facebook and celebrities in the ‘00’s.
Sue wasn’t all just about Adrian Mole. She wrote six other books, and six plays, winning great accolade and awards. My favourite of these is The Queen And I, a fantastically funny and moving novel, about the Queen and her family stripped of their royalty and estates and treated like anyone else, sent to live on a rough housing estate in the Midlands. Here, Prince Charles has an affair with a woman down the road, Prince Phillip goes a bit mental, and Harris, the Queen’s corgi, becomes the leader of a tough street-pack of homeless dogs. The Queen meanwhile is portrayed as a kind but sad character; she often has to borrow money to put in the gas meter, or go to the benefits office for a crisis loan, but when called upon to help her neighbours she repeatedly stands up to the plate, helping to deliver a baby in a poverty-stricken house, and cleaning up the messes left by her family. The point here is that no-matter who you are, rich or poor, everyone is the same, we all have our failings, we all have a heart.

Sue Townsend was, and will continue to be, onme of my favourite writers. I am sad that no new books will dance out of her pen. But I will continue to re-read her excellent books; she left us with some proper crackers.

Monday December 13th

Queenie’s Funeral

My mother and father sat together in the chapel, briefly united. Me and Pandora sat either side of Bert. He said he wanted to have ‘young ‘uns’ around him.

Then, while the organ played sad music, the coffin started sliding towards purple curtains around the altar. When the coffin reached the curtains Pandora whispered, “God, how perfectly barbaric.”

I watched with horror as the coffin disappeared. Bert said, “Tara old girl” and then Queenie was burnt in the oven.

I was so shocked, I could hardly walk up the aisle. Pandora and I both looked up when we got outside. Smoke was pouring out of the chimney, and was carried away by the wind. Queenie always said she wanted to fly.

R.I.P Sue Townsend. 1946 - 2014

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Shining = Revisting The Overlook Hotel

Stephen King

I first read THE SHINING 17 years ago, when I was nineteen, and
it was among the first of King’s works that I read. Recently, and with its belated sequel DOCTOR SLEEP sitting by my bed, I picked it up for a revisit, to check back into The Overlook Hotel.

THE SHINING is among King’s most famous and iconic works; if you’re reading this, you’ll know what its about. Everything shines; six-year-old Danny shines, he is psychic, and gets visions from his imaginary friend, he can get hints of the future, or of possible futures, he can see dead things, things from long ago that linger. His parents, Jack and Wendy, like many characters in the book, also shine, but to a much lesser extent. King postulates that THE SHINING is a clairvoyance, a psychic sixth-sense that is latent in everyone, but not active; many people shine to a greater or lesser extent; some people have just a touch – intuition – but a few really shine on, doc, much like Danny Torrance here, and the Hotel’s cook, Halloran, who also has it big.  

The Overlook is a huge luxury hotel, high in the Colorado mountains, with a long, dark, history: it too shines, like a beacon, it shines it’s past to sensitive folk, the hotel is alive, it is The Overlook, it watches. When it gets a hint of the raw shining power in young Danny, it wants him, it lures him, casts its trap, and uses the old ghosts within Jack, ghosts of failure, and alcoholism, of despair and guilt, to make its catch. Jack, and Wendy, are haunted themselves, long before they get to the hotel, and once the Overlook has got its claws in, and the snows have closed around them, in their freezing isolation, the hotel strikes; through Jack’s ambition to succeed, it uses him, plays him like a marionette, to get what it wants. Had the hotel been successful, only King’s imagination knows how terrible the Overlook could have become.

So, then, THE SHINING, King’s 3rd novel, is a ghost-story with as many floors as the Overlook itself. It is largely about character, and about Jack’s journey from a problematic but loving husband and father, to a psychotic puppet of evil. Jack’s descent into madness is described at length; for me, some of it worked, and some didn’t quite, but I believed totally in Jack’s alcoholism, and family background, his character. Character is King’s best attribute; had he been writing successfully for 40 years in a genre other than horror, he would long ago have been widely recognised for his skills with character.

The story is a classic one, a gem of a story, iconic; the isolation, the background, the hedge animals, the shining, all great stuff, skilfully put together. I thought generally the writing was good here, although not as time-polished as some other novels, and occasionally I lost the pace in a few places. Conversely, though, in some places the writing shines. I loved the moment when Jack, locked in a bolted pantry by his wife, has been pounding on the metal door for hours; it is definitely locked, he is secure. Then Jack begins to talk to the hotel, to an ex-caretaker on the other side of the door, a ghost that slides along the bolt...   Prose-wise, and particularly, I loved this bit, some fine evocative writing:

Danny was still awake long after his parents’ false sleep had become the real thing. He rolled in his bed, twisting the sheets, grappling with a problem years too big for him, awake in the night like a single sentinel on picket. And sometime after midnight, he slept too and then only the wind was awake, prying at the hotel and hooting in its gables under the bright gimlet gaze of the stars.

The novel has pace, increasingly so, and I waited until I had a spare two hours to read the final quarter or so in one sitting. If you have only ever seen the film [ok but different] or the miniseries [more faithful], and you like that sort of thing, then you certainly should read, or re-read, THE SHINING. It is a fabulous idea, fabulous story, well-written, but for me personally doesn’t quite top some later works like THE DEAD ZONE, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, THE GREEN MILE, or DIFFERENT SEASONS. 8/10

This book cover above [right] makes the book look like a Barbara Cartland type family saga. There is more blog to follow, my waffling about the film and the miniseries versions, and later DOCTOR SLEEP. But for now, I leave you with Toy Shining below. What a long shadow the Overlook has left...

Monday, 5 August 2013

Review: The Blue World by Jack Vance

By Jack Vance

THE BLUE WORLD is an engrossing, exciting and intelligent science-fantasy novel, set on an ocean planet with no landmass. Twelve generations ago, we are told, the Firsts came to the planet as a refuge, and set up home on a series of floating islands, made from reef, coral and other natural substances. Over the years the people have multiplied, and developed their society. Great hoodwink towers on each Float are used to communicate across stretches of sea, and to warn of the proximity of terrible sea-beasts called the Kragen. Over the years the People of the Floats have created religious Intercessors among their number, who have effectively deified one such large beast, King Kragen, and now live in a static society where King Kragen is kept fed and happy, in return for not destroying their floats, and keeping other lesser sea-monsters at bay. The novel tells the story of one man, Sklar Hast, who has tired of feeding King Kragen and is doubting the talents of the Intercessors; he makes an attempt on King Kragen’s life and this results in huge waves of discontent running through the entire society. What follows is a compelling, well-told story of rebellion within a closed society; ostensibly an adventure story about giant sea creatures, the book deals heavily with religion and the veracity thereof, and many of the long meetings of the townspeople are told with zeal and with flawless logic.
This is a great little book, with a colourful and exciting world, well-established [if perhaps two-dimensional] characters, great monsters and action, and an intelligent theme throughout. The character names, at first alien, are truly creative to behold; Sklar Hast, Semm Voidervegg, Barquan Blasdel, Emacho Feroxibus, and their slightly archaic style of speech and logical thinking is contagious. The book conjures up some great visual images, and Vance’s writing shines out without being pretentious; the action rolls along, and my only slight criticism is the ending is handled a bit quickly, and leaves a couple of ends dangling. I could have read a whole series set in this world; indeed, I wish I had read this when I was much younger, for it is the sort of story that lights up your imagination.
Jack Vance died recently [May 2013], but has left behind a huge shelf-load of imaginative books. If they are all as good as this one, I will be reviewing more soon.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Jack Vance: A Flash Non-Fiction [With Lots Of Pics]




Jack Vance, a lifelong writer of science-fiction and fantasy, died on May 26 2013. He was little-known outside the genre, but highly popular, prolific and respected.
He has won a mantelpiece of awards, the Hugo three times, the Nebula, the Jupiter Award, World Fantasy Award [and the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award], an Edgar for his mystery novel THE MAN IN THE CAGE, and is a SFWA Grand Master. Four years before his death, TheNew York Times Magazine described Vance as "one of American literature’s most distinctive and undervalued voices."
Vance was born in 1916, and spent his childhood in California, after which he had a string of badly-paid jobs. He worked as an electrician in the naval shipyards at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, and left only a month before the Japanese attacked it. His eyes were weak from childhood and this prevented a further career in the military, until he memorised an eye-chart to get in the Merchant Marines.A lifelong love of water and boats showed through in his future career.
He was a man of many talents; a minor jazz musician, a house-builder, a fine boatman, and an accomplished traveller, as well as his prolific writing. He married in 1946, and remained married until his wuife’s death in 2008,.
Vance wrote many science fiction short stories in the late 1940s and through the 1950s, which were published in magazines. He has said he got inspiration from a heavy childhood reading, and was taken with authors including Jeffery Farnol, a writer of adventure books, whose style of 'high' language he mentions, P.G. Wodehouse, L. Frank Baum, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Rice Burroughs,   Robert W. Chambers, Jules Verne and Lord Dunsany.  He was yet another great genre writer to be heavily influenced and encouraged by the magazines, Wierd Tales and Amazing Stories. These cheap ‘pulp’ magazines have left an outstanding and long-lived legacy; Robert E Howard, Robert Bloch, H.P.Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, Clark Ashton Smith, etc
One of his first writing jobs was as a screenwriter for the TV series Captain Video. His first published story appeared in Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1945, and since then has produced over sixty books. THE DYING EARTH was an early series of short fantasy stories, set in a far distant future in which the sun is slowly going out, and magic and technology coexist. Theis became a long-running and popular sequence and has given its name to that particular brand of far-future science-fantasy, the Dying Earth genre. This seqwuence continued with titles like THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD, CUGELS SAGA, RHIALTO THE MARVELLOUS, and THE LIGHTNING MAGICIAN. I think you can get a sense of the alien wonder simply be reading the title’s of many of Vance’s works; MAZIRIAN THE MAGICIAN, THE BLUE WORLD, THE DEMON PRINCES, THE HOUSES OF ISZM, THE DIRDIR, THE PNUME, the unfortunately titled SERVANTS OF THE WANKH, CITY OF THE CHASCH, THE DRAGON MASTERS, NIGHT LAMP, SLAVES OF THE KLAU, THE DARK OCEAN, THE MAGNIFICENT SHOWBOATS, LYONESSE, THE DEADLY ISLES and many many more. Colourful covers contain colourful characters and although usually set in a science-fiction background and setting, but featuring societies that have often evolved back to a mediaval-style fantasy type. His influence can be seen in a vast amount of writers but most especially Brian Aldiss, Michael Moorcock, Gene Wolfe,and Phillip Jose Farmer. The sci-fi authors Poul Anderson and Frank Herbert were close personal friends of Vance.
His poor eyesight continued to fail throughout his life, and in the 1980s he was declared blind, but still managed to write using specially-written computer software.
He died on May 26 2013. I had read a handful of his short stories in the past, and had a couple of yet-unread novels on my shelves. But, in that strange way of sychronicity, I read of his recent death in a magazine and within days I discovered his 1966 novel THE BLUE WORLD in a charity-shop in my home-town. More coincidence abounds, as a quick glance at the book tells me of a similar setting to my recently published [on Smashwords] story BLUE. Well, I’ve now read THE BLUE WORLD [review to follow] and I’m pleased we went in different directions with the setting. However, I had – and still have – plans for follow-up stories to BLUE, and I will work into them my own little tribute to Jack Vance.
For any fantasy or science-fiction readers who have not yet encountered his clear but magical words, I give a whole-hearted recommendation.
RIP Jack Vance 1916 - 2013

Friday, 24 May 2013

The Lair Of The White Worm

The Lair Of The White Worm

Ken Russell’s film of this novel popped up on Sky, so I recorded it, as I hadn’t seen it in years, but I thought I would read the short novel first, and it had been sitting on my shelf unread for a long time. I’ve only read one of Stoker’s novels, the classic DRACULA, which I enjoyed, apart from healthy grown men fainting in horror all the time like a bunch of wussies. I’ve read a number of Stoker’s short stories too, varying from very good [“The Judge’s House”, “The Burial Of The Rats”] to poor [about half the stories in “Dracula’s Guest”].

I read THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, impressively, on three different mediums; on my kindle, on my android phone [it is a free download from Amazon or Project Guttenberg] and I even read some of it from my book, with pages in made from that paper stuff. Unfortunately, whichever medium you might choose, it won’t improve this confusing, boring, unbelievable, chaotic and slightly strange story.
Adam Salton has come from Australia to the Welsh border-country where he befriends his uncle, whose near neighbours are an odd lot; Sir Caswall is hated by the local farmers but fawned over by would-be-wives, hungry for his money, including another neighbour Lady Arabella March who is involved in some strange collusion with a primeval monster, the White Worm of the title. This beast nestles on rock outcrops and props itself up on its tail, surveying its territory with piercing luminous eyes. Every so often it eats someone. Two other characters, Lilla and Mima Watford, are local girls, whom Ada#m Salton takes a shine to, and despite being fairly important characters, are given no dialogue at all.  
The novel is confusing because the plot seems to have little structure; important events are afterwards almost forgotten by the characters, and any decisions to be made must be mulled over and discussed for a chapter or two. It’s disjointed; the book has too many wrists and ankles, and not enough brain. Events seem to be related, told to someone else, rather than actually happen, and there’s little mood or atmosphere.  There are psychic battles between people, which seem to consist of just looking at each other all afternoon. Mongooses [mongeese?] are torn apart with bare hands; a scary black African servant appears menacingly then falls in a hole and that’s him done; there’s a mildly interesting bit about vast flocks of birds and a giant scarecrow kite; this is quite interesting, but what is the point: if there ever was one, I’ve forgotten it. The characters do and say ridiculous things, that often are faintly stupid and in complete contrast to the natural evolution of the plot. It’s akin to a character being in a burning house and suddenly saying, “Oooh, I fancy a banana.” And Lady Arabella March, great name, interesting character, but was she the worms-keeper or did she actually transform herself into a vast were-worm; Stoker doesn’t really tell us; you sort of get the feeling he thinks he has, but actually, he’s just minced his words and forgotten.

 In fact, that seems to be a theme running through the book; Stoker seems to be in a muddle. Sometimes it seems that he’s forgotten to include a chapter, like he’s written it in his head but not in reality, or that he’s had a stray idea in his head – largely unconnected with his story – and decided to write it down and stick it in somewhere. It’s a messy, poorly-written, terribly executed, muddled story. It should have been great, it had some great ideas to be great, but it hasn’t worked.  WORM was Stoker’s final novel, and it was written in his final years when his health was failing, and, possibly, he was addicted to laudanum. Those circumstances would certainly help to explain this difficult-to-read book. In a later edition, the publishers actually removed several chapters, which would only seem to confuse the plot even further. Lovecraft, in his “Supernatural Horror In Literature” says that Stoker has “poor technique”, and, of WORM, he writes; “Stoker...utterly ruins a magnificent idea by a development almost infantile”. Stephen King, in DANSE MACABRE, notes that it is was not as successful as DRACULA, while Glen St John Barclay, in his strange book ANATOMY OF HORROR says, among other insulting things, “ could not possibly have been less competently written.” I wouldn’t quite go that far [it could have been written less competently by a blind dyslexic paraplegiac bat-monkey creature] but I agree strongly with Lovecraft here; It is a poor swan-song for Bram Stoker, and a novel which, were it not by the celebrated author of DRACULA, arguably the most famous and successful horror novel in literature, WORM  would almost certainly never have been published, and had it been, it would be deservedly forgotten today. Read DRACULA instead, or his short stories “The Judges House” or “The Squaw”.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Doctor Who And The Creative Synchronicity

I'm annoyed, and instead of ranting at my wife I'm gonna get this out now, in blog form. I have just read the brief episode details of the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who, and was aghast at what I read. It seems that this upcoming episode (to be aired in five days or so) has certain striking similarities to the "original" ghost story, "Uncontainable", that I have been working on for the last few weeks. Bugger!

I hate this creative synchronicity; something you have been working on for a while, thinking it's a fairly new and original idea, and suddenly something huge comes along with the same idea, so that, in the future, anyone reading your story will simply think you have just copied the idea. Bugger again. In science-fiction terms, I don't think there's anything bigger than Doctor Who, certainly nothing that will reach so large an audience. And it's very annoying when this sort of thing happens, so that your small, original, and very modest story, even though it was written independently and/or earlier, becomes nothing more than a re-hash of "that Doctor Who episode", or whatever. It is extremely frustrating! 

Certainly I will watch the episode, although not when it is aired. I will take care to complete my story first [it is nearly done], and then watch it, to see how similar things were. No doubt, I'm just having a rant here, and the two stories will be very different [hopefully]. But Bugger again anyway!

Curiously, this has sort of happenned before, although not as simoultaeneously as this time. The last Christmas episode of Doctor Who [I forget the title, but the one with Richard E Grant in], had an idea about sentient snow. I wrote a story about this, "Snow Wonder", ten years ago; and even though this story was published on Smashwords before the episode aired, I'm sure that any Doctor Who fans who might read my story would simply think it was a rip-off of their idea. Don't imagine for a second that I'm saying that Stephen Moffat and crew are spying on my writing, in some clever science-fictional way, and ripping off my ideas. Not at all; I'm simply having a grrr at this writers coincidence. One shiny bit of fruit in the clouds though is this; if I'm having the same sort of creative ideas as the Doctor Who people, then that can't be a bad thing, really.

I have heard tales of it happening before; authors working in secret on "great-idea" novels, and just as they are writing the last page, the same idea comes out in a film by James Cameron or a Michael Chrichton novel or something like that. If I remember rightly, I think John Brosnan [as Harry Adam Knight] wrote CARNOSAUR, about genetically-engineered dinosaurs, at the same time, or before, Chrichton's JURASSIC PARK came out. I also remember that Roger Corman bought the rights to CARNOSAUR and made it into a confusing film, just so, I think, he could say that although his film came out after JURASSIC PARK, he could say it was based on a book that came out before Chrichton's novel, and thus that he sort of had the first film-rights to the idea of "genetically-engineered dinosaurs". But that's very off topic. So for now, Grrrr, and I'd better go and finish my story.
P.S. Jenna-Louise Coleman's character seems to be a much better companion to the Doctor; I was never really keen on Amy Pond, and I'm sick of her now [in fact, am just watching her final episodes now, about six months or so after they were shown.] But bring back Jon Pertwee, that's what I say!

Monday, 25 March 2013

James Herbert Is Dead!


On 20 March 2013 the shock news was announced by his office that the bestselling horror novelist James Herbert had died, aged only 69. He was a true giant of the horror world, and was one of the leading horror authors to change the face of horror literature in the 70’s.  Before Herbert’s first novel THE RATS was published in 1974, the most popular author in the horror genre was Dennis Wheatley, with his leisurely and stuffy black-magic stories. James Herbert changed the landscape of horror instantly with THE RATS, with graphic descriptions of violence and horror; men, women, old people and babies being killed and eaten alive by hungry rats in the heart of London. It caused a sensation and in the days before VHS players or Nintendo’s, the novel sold 100,000 copies in just two weeks, and went on to sell millions of copies. He instantly became a bestselling writer, and he followed it up with hit after hit; THE FOG [“For God’s sake don’t leave it on Aunt Edna’s chair!” said one reviewer] was about a poison gas cloud that caused violence and horror wherever it drifted, THE SURVIVOR, FLUKE, THE DARK, SHRINE and more. He wrote two great sequels to THE RATS; LAIR had the rats grouping en masse in Epping Forest, while DOMAIN saw the rats mutated hideously after a nuclear apocalypse.
I discovered James Herbert in 1994, when I was 16, and probably got the books from that windy market stall I mentioned earlier in my blog. I remember reading THE RATS and LAIR during English lessons when I should have been reading Dickens or Skakespeare and preparing for my GCSE’s. I got wrong off my English teacher Mr.Keegans when some lads in my class pointed out to him that I was reading LAIR in class. He took it off me and said something like “read it after your exams, Michael” when he gave me it back after the lesson. Little did he know I had already read most of THE RATS in his class earlier that week. Anyway, that May of 1994, so my notes tell me, I read THE RATS trilogy [as well as RED DWARF for the fifth time] when I think I should have been revising for, or doing, my GCSE exams. I love THE RATS books; not only are they fast-paced icky reads but they opened the door for me marked “Animal Attack Books”, and in the years that followed I’ve read all sorts of titles, some good [THE SCURRYING, THE SWARM, THE BLOODSNARL, DEVOUR, various CRABS books by Guy.N.Smith,  BATS OUT OF HELL, etc], some not so good [THE PIKE, PIRAHNA, THE CATS, NIGHT OF THE BUDGIES etc], but THE RATS was the original and best and kick-started my love for Creature Feature stories. Thanks for that Mr.Herbert, and I can happily say that my in-progress creature-feature novel DALE OF TEARS owes more than a little to Herberts style and substance.
Like Stephen King, Herbert had his first book published in 1974, and in his native England, in the 1980’s, Herbert regularly outsold King. Film and Television weren’t so quick to adapt Herbert’s novels; the recent three hour series THE SECRET OF CRICKLEY HALL wasn’t bad, but films FLUKE and HAUNTED stumbled at the box office, and THE SURVIVOR, the first of his books to be filmed, turned out to be a confusing mess of a movie. I love the anecdote that when James Herbert was watching THE SURVIVOR, based on his novel, he fell asleep because he couldn’t understand the story.
Over the years I’ve read ten Herbert novels, my favourites of which are the three RATS books, THE FOG, and PORTENT [about sudden and dramatic – and supernatural – climate change], while I wasn’t overly keen on HAUNTED or THE MAGIC COTTAGE [with MOON, ONCE and THE SURVIVOR somewhere in between]. His latest [and now last] book ASH  garnered quite a lot of poor reviews on Amazon, many readers apologising in their reviews for giving a Herbert book such low ratings. I don’t know why, but for a couple of weeks as soon as ASH was published it was released as a Kindle book for just 20p; perhaps the publishers had an idea this might be his last book, and wanted to nudge it to the top of the charts. His output has slowed over the years, and, although I haven’t yet read it, ASH would seem to be poor Herbert; perhaps his health, and talent, has been flagging for some time. But never mind that; the majority of authors flag towards the end of their career. Herbert’s legacy is that he pumped much-needed momentum and fresh blood into the horror genre, and during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s he was very much the face of, and the king of horror writing in England, and has left behind some cracking books; THE RATS and THE FOG in particular will be remembered with affection.
As my own small tribute to Herbert, I’ve a) written this article, and b) I’ll read another of his novels [he wrote 23], one I’ve not yet read, a Herbert classic.  
R.I.P. James Herbert.

ADDENDUM: It is now five days after Herberts death, and I am reading, and enjoying, his novel THE DARK, that has been sitting on my shelf for many years. A quick check of the Bestselling Horror charts, at Amazons’ Kindle Store [which is used for all the e-book bestseller charts you might see], and I see that all but one [THE JONAH] of Herberts books have shot into the Top 100, with 8 of them dominating the Top 10. Clearly, dying does your career no harm at all.