Thursday, March 21, 2013

you spotty little herbert

I see that James Herbert has died, though of course we shouldn't rule out the possibility that he may yet return as a hideously decomposed zombie shade from beyond Hell to tear our very souls apart, so watch out for that.

I own five of his books (The Rats, The Survivor, Fluke, Shrine and Moon), and I've read a few others as well (The Fog and The Magic Cottage, certainly, plus possibly one or two others) - they were big favourites with teenage schoolboys back in the 1980s (when I was a teenage schoolboy) because in addition to the bracingly graphic violence there was always at least one similarly graphic sex scene tossed in somewhere. He was inevitably dubbed "the British Stephen King", but actually he was nowhere near being in King's class either in terms of writing style or being able to construct plots that, when you got to the end of the book, actually held together or made much sense. I strongly suspect that Herbert was the real-life inspiration for Garth Marenghi's mode of dress, all black shirts and leather jackets and slightly self-important spookiness.

It was all good unclean fun for all that, though, and I've always been rather surprised that more of his books weren't filmed, the Rats trilogy in particular. I guess that before the days of CGI the rat effects (particularly the giant mutant two-headed ones) would have been tricky to realise. The one film I have seen based on a Herbert book was the rather ropey 1981 supernatural plane-crash drama The Survivor, which I don't remember a huge amount about other than that the lovely Jenny Agutter was in it, though as far as I recall she kept her clothes on. I gather the atypically whimsical dog-reincarnation story Fluke was also filmed in 1995 (warning: trailer contains dangerous levels of Voice-Over Guy and general schmaltz). Note that the reasonably entertaining 1980 John Carpenter film The Fog has no connection to the Herbert book of the same name.

I should add (warning: plot spoilers ahead) that The Survivor falls into the Oh Right He Was Dead All Along category of (in this case fairly predictable) plot twists. The Rats is probably the one, if you want one. The sex scene starts on page 68, in my copy anyway.

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