James Herbert, the best selling author of popular horror novels including The Fog, The Rats and The Secret of Crickley Hall, has died aged 69.
Herbert passed away peacefully at his Sussex home, according to his publisher Pan Macmillan.
A contemporary of writers such as Stephen King and Dean R Koontz, Herbert was the author of 23 novels published in 34 languages, and had sold over 50 million copies worldwide.
Several of his books were made into films, including his first work The Rats – about hordes of flesh-eating rodents overrunning London – as well as The Survivor, Haunted and Fluke. 2006 ghost story the Secret of Crickley Hall was dramatised in a BBC1 production starring Suranne Jones, which aired last December.
London-born Herbert began his career as a novelist relatively late but was a success from the start. His first book The Rats, written in his spare time while he was an art director at an advertising agency, was published in 1974 when Herbert was 31 but sold its entire first run of 100,000 copies in just three weeks, with over a million copies bought in total in the UK alone.
Herbert had similar success with The Dark, The Magic Cottage, Haunted and Creed. The paperback of his final novel, Ash, was published last week.
In a recent interview, Herbert said of his work "I hate violence and I didn’t plan to write horror; it just poured out of me. The great thing is that you can write humour, romance or political thrillers under that genre. You can write about a mundane situation and take a mental leap to something outrageous."
Fantasy novelist and Doctor Who writer Neil Gaiman, a friend of Herbert's, reacted to the news of his death on Twitter: "I just heard that James Herbert is dead. Gutted. Friends with Jim since 1984. A good man, & a better writer than they gave him credit for." Gaiman was later interviewed about Herbert on Radio 5 Live.
Herbert grew up in the East End of London, the son of two market traders. He is survived by his wife Eileen O'Donnell and three daughters.