Archive for the james herbert Category

Ashes to ashes

Posted in ash, james herbert on 08/30/2012 by vincentstark

The long awaited and much delayed new novel by James Herbert finally sees print today.


David Ash detective of the paranormal is sent to the mysterious Comraich Castle, secluded deep in the Scottish countryside, to investigate a strange, high-profile case: a man has been found crucified in a room that was locked.

The reports suggest that the cliff-top castle is being haunted.

Who or what is the reclusive hooded figure that Ash has seen from the window walking across the courtyard in the dead of night? What are the strange, animal-like sounds that come from the surrounding woods? And why are the castle’s inhabitants so reluctant to talk about what they have seen?

What Ash eventually discovers is truly shocking.

James Herbert’s rampaging rodents

Posted in james herbert on 06/16/2012 by vincentstark

When James Herbert published The Rats in 1974 not only did he have a worldwide best-seller on his hands but he also invented a horror fiction subgenre – let’s call it Creature-thrillers as a nod to the 1950’s/1960’s Creature Feature movies.

Herbert said he thought of the story after watching Todd Browning’s Dracula on the television and being horrified by Renfield’s description of his nightmare involving hordes of rats. The author also recalled the packs of rats he had seen on London’s old bomb sites during his childhood and he brought the feelings of dread the creatures had always inspired in himself to his first novel.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time, I was as naive as that.” James Herbert, talking about writing The Rats.

The book met with a poor critical reception but the first print run sold out within three weeks and the book’s remained in print ever since. For many the book was too graphic and the overall theme too pessimistic but what Herbert did was bring a particular working class form of horror to the table and there was a theme of criticism of a government who were not doing enough for the poorer elements of society.  It’s written in a very visceral style and totally enjoyable but it’s so much more than it appears on the surface. And of course the true measure of its success is in the amount of imitations it spawned.

Herbert was very much in the right place and at the right time and almost simultaneously with The Rats, an American writer named Stephen King was getting his first taste of success with Carrie – all of a sudden the horror genre was big business. And of course The Rats was riding on this wave of  popularity – there were a slew of imitators – Maggots, Snakes, Cats, Worms, Bats, alligators, frogs and even absurdly Slugs all turned feral and went for the human population.

Guy N. Smith’s Crab series was one of the first to cash in on the success of  Herbert’s rodents with Night of the Crabs and in all he wrote six Crabs books but unlike many of the Herbert imitators these books were actually quite good in their own right. Indeed the series still has a cult following and in 2009 the first book was reissued in a deluxe hardcover edition. Guy runs his own book business, Black Hill Books and many of his titles can be bought there and it also carries an extensive range of classic paperbacks in all genres.

Smith would go on to write many more creature thrillers featuring Bats, snaked, alligators and even a variety of creatures in the vastly entertaining, The Abomination but by far his most popular series was and remains, The Crabs.

Another entertaining creature thriller was Spiders by Richard Lewis which actually spawned a sequel, The Web. I read both of these books many years ago and remember enjoying them both immensely and whilst I don’t know what I’d think of them these days I do have fond memories of them.

The reason for these animals going feral was usually some ecological disaster or scientific experiment, although there were one or two examples where the reason was supernatural but for the most part it was bizarre scientific experiments that provoked the horror. In fact, off the top of my head, I can’t really remember any of the books where the reason for the crazed creature outbreak was supernatural.

Eventually the creature thrillers fell out of favour and horror readers went for more sophisticated novels but the genre was reinvented briefly in the 90’s when Shaun Hutson wrote perhaps the most stomach churning series of all, Slugs.This time there was no holds barred and there is even a scene where a guy is sitting on the toilet and one of the killer slugs goes up his arse.

But back to the originator of this little horror sub-genre, James Herbert – there were three follow ups to The Rats. Lair was a great second story and the third book, Domain took up the story of the mutated rodents in the aftermath of a nuclear war and although this is a good premise the book was not as successful in terms of story as the previous two.  It sold by the truck-load, though.

These books made up a trilogy but there was another story with the graphic novel, The City which is again set in London after a nuclear war. Though when people talk about the Rats trilogy they mean the three novels proper with the graphic novel considered something of a companion piece.

This article gives just a taster of all the creature thrillers out there – go on give one a try but beware one thing they all share in common is their extremely graphic scenes.

A strong stomach is advised.

A steaming cesspit of murder and perversion

Posted in a policeman's lot, gary dobbs, james herbert, slasher, the rhondda ripper on 05/29/2012 by vincentstark


Jack the Ripper’s rein of terror lasted for a ten week period in 1888 – London was then the world’s largest city –  the hub of an ever expanding empire. The city was in effect the financial capital of the world and it had enjoyed a long period of financial growth. Things were however starting to change and London was facing competition from America and Germany and a trade slump saw unemployment take a dramatic leap, which resulted in London’s already packed slum areas swelling to bursting point.

It was into this mixing pot that was London’s Whitechapel, that the killer known to history as Jack the Ripper practiced his or her deadly trade, and by proving that he/she could evade capture from the police and authorities only consolidated the general image of the East End as a hotbed of murder and perversion. One report, published in 1888, estimated that out of a population of 456,877 souls more than 60,000 were living on the brink of starvation. Whitechapel at the time was ready to explode – there were racial problems with the high influx of Jewish immigrants coming to the city after escaping persecution in Germany, Russia and Poland – Whitechapel’s Jewish population at this time was estimated as being around 50,000, and as the spectra of mass unemployment threatened the Jews found themselves vilified for stealing British jobs. Indeed when the Ripper killings started the press hinted that an Englishman could not do such a thing and the person responsible had to have come from the vast immigrant population.




The Ripper killings took place over an area that was made up of little more than a square mile. The victims were all prostitutes and we can’t even be clear of how many killings the Ripper was responsible for. The so called canonical five victims come from a report made by Sir Melville Macnaghten who stated in a report in 1894 that he believed Jack the Ripper had killed five and only five women – these are Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly. There are many who dispute this and it is my own feeling that the same hand was not responsible for all of the woman in the so called canonical five.

A lady named Martha Tabran was murdered on 7th August 1888 and many believe, myself included, that she was the first Ripper victim. However in my opinion the double murder of 29th of September 1888 were carried out by two different hands, and not by the Ripper which popular wisdom suggests. I also don’t believe that Mary Kelly was a Ripper victim but I do believe the key to the murders rests with her. Indeed it is the mystery surrounding Mary Kelly that drives the central premise in my current novel, The Rhondda Ripper.

Was Mary Kelly a Ripper victim?

Was it Mary Kelly who was found dead, mutilated beyond identification, in her bed?

These questions can not be answered with any certainty, but logic would suggest that the chance of there being only  five victims is quite wrong, and that the double event of 29th September could not have been carried out by the same person. In order to stick with the canonical five we would have to believe that the killer was disturbed just after killing Elizabeth Stride and then in the middle of the biggest manhunt London, indeed the world, had ever known he runs less than a mile away and takes time to kill and mutilate Catherine Eddowes. Hardly seems likely and the known facts are,  like the legend, buried in myth and fancy. The fog lit image above of the man in the top hat and cape has become the popular image of Jack the Ripper, and at the time it was a person such as this whom the police were concentrating on – it is no wonder they never found him, since the likelihood is that he didn’t even exist.



Ironically some good did come out of the Whitechapel killings and that was in giving publicity to the campaigners who said something needed to change for the working classes in the East End. The killings generated so much publicity that The Lancet, the world famous medical journal, reported – modern society is more promptly awakened to a sense of duty by the knife of a killer than by many thousands of words from earnest writers.

Many social commentators claimed that Jack the Ripper was a product spawned by the dreadful conditions that men, women and children found themselves and was therefore the fault of society itself. None less a personage than George Bernard Shaw wrote to the Times Newspaper, stating the the fiend of Whitechapel had at least drawn attention to the dreadful conditions. He went onto theorize that the killings, although abhorrent, would do more for the areas affected than any of socialist movements could ever hope. And although Shaw was being ironic by congratulating the killer as a social reformer it was true that following the killings a massive program of redevelopment started in the East End.



At 2.55 am on 30th September P.C. Albert Long found the missing portion of Catherine Eddowes’, whose body had been found earlier,  apron in a doorway on Goulston Street. A further investigation found a message scrawled in chalk upon the wall – THE JUWES ARE THE MEN THAT WILL NOT BE BLAMED FOR NOTHING.

There was a large Jewish community and fearing race riots the police wiped the writing from the wall. This was done on the orders of Sir Charles Warren. It was a highly controversial decision but Warren always defended what he had done and claimed that far greater crimes would have been carried out against innocent Jews had it been left for further examination.

The facts are that After the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes , police searched the area near the crime scenes in an effort to locate a suspect, witnesses or evidence. As reported above it was Constable Alfred Long of the Metropolitan Police Service who discovered a dirty, bloodstained piece of an apron in the stairwell of a tenement, 108 to 119 Model dwellings, Goulston Street The cloth was later confirmed as being a part of the apron worn by Catherine Eddowes. Above it, there was writing in white chalk upon the wall.


Suspects were legion – many were considered suspects totally due to general speculation, others because of descriptions, locations or occupations. One popular theory named Queen Victoria’s grandson who was known as Eddy and was known to have consorted with prostitutes. It was alleged that the Royal physician William Gull performed the murders in order to hide the fact that the prince had fathered a child with one of the victims, supposedly Mary Kelly. Another theory was that the prince carried out the killings himself because of brain damage caused by contracting syphilis of the brain.

Over the years there have been many suspects ranging from the plausible, George Chapman to the ludicrous, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.




The Victorian police have been the subject of much criticism by the media over the years, and some of it is likely deserved. But it must be remembered the criminal science was in its infancy at the time of the Ripper killings. Fingerprinting was not even an established practice and the locations where the killings took place were connected by an intricate warren of alleys and passageways, all of them unlit.

The Ripper is widely considered the world’s first serial killer, and given that the area of operation was one of the most densely populated, not to mention transient, areas in the entire city then it is little wonder that he/she was able to evade the police.



Police Inspector Frank Parade carries out his daily duties in Pontypridd, duties complicated by the presence of 500 members of Buffalo Bill Cody’s touring Wild West Show, not to mention the thousands attending the show every day. A series of depraved murders quickly makes things even more complicated for the policeman.

Soon Frank Parade find himself on the trail which stretches backs to London’s Whitechapel killings and Jack the Ripper. Secrets are revealed and the answer to the greatest mystery in criminal history is answered by a British policeman and an American legend.

Click HERE


It’s difficult to say too much in this review without giving away some major points that would ruin this well crafted story. It’s set in South Wales in 1904 and features a visit by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Circus – apparantly this actually took place. And concerns itself with a series of killings that ultimately reveal Jack the Ripper in an original and plausible way. Amazon readers review

Gary Dobbs partners up Parade and Buffalo Bill making for an enjoyable detecting duo. He does a fine job of bringing the famous Wild West showman to life and his descriptions of Pontypridd, the era, and people sparkle. I’m hoping Mr. Dobbs doesn’t leave Frank Parade on the sidelines too long because I’m betting there are more adventures in him. Or, maybe Bill Cody — there’s an idea worth exploring — Buffalo Bill as a world-traveling crime-solver. The Education of a Pulp Writer

Gary Dobbs (AKA Jack Martin) continues his string of fast paced books with “The Rhondda Ripper” Not a western per se, as are his Jack Martin books, “The Rhondda Ripper” still has some of that western sensibility and it even features Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West show on a visit to England, Wales in particular.

The story takes place a number of years after the Whitechapel murders but ties back to those murders in a most interesting way. I won’t give more away because the twist at the end is original and took me well by surprise. Yet, it made perfect sense within the storyline of the book. Mack Captures Crime

One word: Wow. This is a good book.

The story begins slowly, a man’s morning routine as he gets ready for duty and faces the possibility of a busy day, but he has no idea how “busy” it’s going to get! Throw in Buffalo Bill, a Wild West show, murders that may or may not be connected to Jack The Ripper, and you have a really hot read. I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving something away, but it’s a well-written yarn and you will get hooked right away. It’s also, for me, a nice change of pace from the modern urban hard-boiled junk I’ve been digesting lately. Brian Drake 



James Herbert new novel – News

Posted in james herbert on 02/08/2012 by vincentstark

Following our recent article asking what’s happened to the new James Herbert novel, Ash, reader David Whitley has commented:


For those like me who a are eager fans of JH. Pleas see below email I received from Macmillan regarding the much awaited ‘Ash’ novel:

“Hello David,

Thanks for your enquiry.

I’m delighted to inform you that James’ book has not been abandoned and will be published in September of this year. So keep an eye out for it then.


Pan Macmillan Web Team (Joe)”

James Herbert: small screen terror

Posted in james herbert on 01/12/2012 by vincentstark

Horror author, James Herbert has never had much luck with TV adaptations of his work – his 1988 novel, Haunted started off as a TV special for the BBC but the project was later aborted. However Herbert may find things go a little more smoothly when Ultraviolet director,  Jo Ahearne  adapts his novel, The Secret of Crickley Hall for the BBC.


BBC Controller Of Drama Ben Stephenson made the announcement yesterday amid a bunch of new drama announcements at the Broadcasting Press Guild lunch yesterday. .

The adaptation will be turned into three 60-minute episodes, set for broadcast  around Halloween 2012. The story is about a family who relocate to a rain-swept house in a Devonshire town called Devil’s Cleave – which sounds like a bad move already. It turns out that during World War II, the village was decimated by a flood. Crickley Hall was home to a group of poor orphans evacuated from London to live in spooksville under the care of the sadistic Augustus Cribben, who terrorised, starved and beat them. The orphans were seemingly washed away by the flood and now their lost spirits haunt the hall, pursued by the monstrous figure of Cribben.

One to look forward to then.

Ashes to ashes: James Herbert health concerns

Posted in ash, james herbert on 11/28/2011 by vincentstark

“What’s happening with horror author, James Herbert’s long awaited new novel, Ash? First it was listed for 2010, then 2011 and finally a publication date of Sept 2012 was set.” we asked in a previous post HERE, and whilst nothing has been confirmed one way or the other we have heard third hand that the official stance from the author’s publisher is that James Herbert is hard at work on his new novel.

However rumours that Mr Herbert is too ill to complete the book persist. James Herbert is a particular favourite of mine and is a true gentleman who personally answered each and every item of fan mail I’ve sent him over the years. Questions are being asked on Internet forums with 2000AD having a particularly active thread wondering what has happened to the new novel. One fan asked – Just been in Waterstones to ask when Ash will be in and they tell me the release date has been put back to Sept 2012!!!  What is going on and why all the delays, does anyone have a proper answer?  I bought the Ash sampler last year and the story sounds like it could be his best yet, government conspiracy theory, death of princess Diana etc, haunted mansion/secret government location.  Or has he had to re-write the whole book and what I have will be no reflection of the released novel?  Why haven’t the publishers put out a press release to advise what is going on?!  ???

Whatever the reason for this it is troubling. Herbert’s publisher are unable to offer any explanation and all I have to go on are the words of a writer friend who saw Herbert in London some time back – this writer, who once shared a publisher with Herbert, told me that Herbert looked terrible and needed help to walk. I do hope this turns out to be a case of writer’s block and nothing more serious.

Ashes to ashes: James Herbert’s new novel may never happen

Posted in ash, james herbert on 10/15/2011 by vincentstark

What’s happening with horror author, James Herbert’s long awaited new novel, Ash? First it was listed for 2010, then 2011 and finally a publication date of Sept 2012 was set.

The novel was said to continue the story of David Ash, one of Herbert’s best loved characters who has appeared in two previous novels, and for some time now fans have been eagerly talking about the new novel on Internet forums and at conventions.

However publisher, Macmillan are now listing the book as – publication abandoned, leading to speculation on the author’s health.  Amazon are still listing the book for pre-order but the book’s cover has been pulled.

This was the press release issued by Macmillian last year – Macmillan is proud to announce a major publishing event. James Herbert is Britain’s bestselling horror writer – a position he has held ever since publication of his first novel, “The Rats”, in 1975, which now widely accepted as a classic of popular fiction. He is one of the world’s top two writers of horror or chiller fiction, along with Stephen King. He is undoubtedly one of our greatest popular novelists. In March 2011, Pan Macmillan will be publishing a new novel, entitled “Ash”, which features one of Herbert’s best-loved characters, David Ash, the sceptical paranormal detective, first encountered in “The Ghosts of Sleath” and “Haunted” both Number 1 bestsellers. Ash is investigating a mysterious and secluded stately home, deep in the countryside. There have been reports from locals about strange goings on, they think it might be haunted …What Ash eventually discovers is truly shocking. Prepare to be chilled to the marrow…


The writer who still enjoys the position of the UK’s bestselling horror author, has not released a book since 2006 which seems strange given that he still has a large and loyal fan base. And given the on/off status of the new novel there are many rumours spreading  through the fan base – some are saying the author has given up writing, whilst others speculate that he may be suffering from ill health. There have also been unconfirmed reports that Herbert has had a bust up with Macmillan over the electronic rights to both the new book and his backlist.

Whatever the reasons for the continued delay of the new novel it is strange that no official announcement as been made, given that Herbert is such a high profile name within the horror genre.



We here at Scary Motherfucker are long term fans of Herbert and still hope to see Ash published but with the continued delays this is looking more and more unlikely.