In 1974, James Herbert (1943 - 2013) was working as an art director at an ad agency. His copywriter colleagues were all frustrated would-be novelists. They were no doubt a little envious when one day, Herbert walked in with a copy of a novel he had quietly written and got published. They must have felt worse still when The Rats went on to become a huge success, selling tens of millions of copies. It was obvious that Herbert wouldn’t be an ad man for long.
Herbert went on to become one of the most important writers of British horror fiction, producing 23 novels before he died in 2013. Almost all of his books are standalones; The Rats is the only book of his to receive sequels, which reflects its popularity and enduring power. Herbert was insecure about his status, memorably stating “I don’t understand why I am so successful.” Looking back at The Rats, it’s not difficult to see why it cut through in 1974 and set the stage for his career.
I write about classic science fiction and occasionally fantasy; I sometimes make maps for Doom II; and I'm a contributor to the videogames site Entertainium, where I regularly review new games.