Credit: Shutterstock/James Herbert

There’s a fine line between paralysing dread and galvanising fright

Horror story fans will need no introduction to James Herbert, the author of spine-chilling bestsellers including The Rats, The Fog and The Jonah.

The writer grew up in the East End of London, the youngest of three boys in a Catholic household.

“Both my parents were market traders and worked seven days a week,” said the author, who was proud to never lose his cockney accent.

Herbert was not always a favourite with some of the snootier critics: “I've always suffered from being labelled a horror writer,” he said.

“Just because I didn't go to university, just because I still talk in my natural voice, just because I'm not as articulate as Martin Amis.”

But he was always popular where it mattered most – with his loyal and devoted following of readers. Always eager to be brought to the verge of terror by his gift for constructing a spine-chilling but ultimately satisfying storyline, he never let them down.

Paying James tribute, writer Stephen King said that Herbert's books were bestellers “because many readers – including me – were too horrified to put them down.”