• Jonathan Wheatley Writer

James Herbert’s, The Rats 

I came across James Herbert late after finishing a Stephen King novel on my kindle and selecting the ‘May also like’ option, and boy am I glad that I did. I was then lucky enough to find 5 paperbacks at Sainsbury's which were well worth all the change in my pocket.

I started with Creed, which was a story about a deadbeat journalist who sees a demon. It’s told in first-person which influenced my choice in the narration on my debut novel ‘The Priory.’

Then I moved onto his most well-known novel, The Rats, which is part one of the Rats trilogy.

Long story short, a new breed of rat enters London in the 70s, only this rat is clever, larger and more vicious than the usual city rats. Soon, the whole city is on red alert as the rats conquer the city, killing people in more and more grisly ways as the novel goes on.

The story follows a teacher as he ends up dragged into the death my coincidence, as is what happens in most great novels. It is an every-man tale set against the dirty, industrial backdrop of London when policemen were still called ‘Bobbies’ and Mini Clubman and Vauxhall Vivas ruled the roads.

Back when it was released, it caused quite the stir because of the graphic depictions of death and mutilation; something a young writer from Stamford, Lincolnshire would later be inspired by in 2019.

James Herbert has inspired my writing and storytelling more than any other writer. Whether it is the ‘the Fog’ invading a small English Village, a demon haunting a deadbeat journalist or rats taking over London, Herbert kept his love for all things British at the forefront of all his novels, with likeable characters in detailed settings, that British horror lovers can relate to.

Although a success, after the paperback selling out after just three weeks, the critics weren’t as impressed, “The first paperback edition sold out after three weeks. The Rats received harsh criticism upon its publication. It was deemed to be far too graphic in its portrayals of death and mutilation, and the social commentary regarding the neglect of London’s suburbs was said to be too extreme.

“For some reviewers, the novel was not literature, and not a good example of good writing. However, many consider the novel to be social commentary influenced by Herbert’s harsh upbringing in immediate post-war London.” Wikipedia.

The Rats has influenced me in my second novel, which is at 25k words at first draft stage. My debut novel, The Priory, will be released on the 21st April 2020 by Corvus Quill Press.

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