British horror author James Herbert dies at 69

James Herbert had the rare distinction for writers of seeing his novels deemed classics of the horror genre during his lifetime.
James Herbert had the rare distinction for writers of seeing his novels deemed classics of the horror genre during his lifetime.
William Conran/A.P./file 2000

LONDON — He was a ‘‘Grand Master’’ of horror, and rats were just one of his specialties.

British horror writer James Herbert, whose best-selling spine-tinglers included ‘‘The Rats’’ and ‘‘The Fog,’’ has died at age 69.

Mr. Herbert’s publisher, Pan Macmillan, said he died Wednesday at his home in Sussex, southern England. The cause of death was not disclosed.

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The London-born Mr. Herbert studied graphic design, print, and photography before finding work at an advertising agency.

His first novel, ‘‘The Rats,’’ which depicted London being overrun by mutant flesh-eating rodents, took 10 months to complete and was published in 1974.

It sold 100,000 copies in three weeks and was later turned into a film.

He went on to write 23 novels, selling 54 million copies.

Most recent bestsellers included ‘‘Nobody True’’ and ‘‘The Secret of Crickley Hall,’’ which was turned into a three-part series for BBC television that aired in December.

Jeremy Trevathan, Mr. Herbert’s editor for 10 years at Macmillan, said Mr. Herbert had the rare distinction of seeing his novels deemed classics of the horror genre during his lifetime.

‘‘It’s a true testament to his writing and his enduring creativity that his books continued to be huge bestsellers right up until his death,’’ Trevathan said in a statement.

‘‘His death marks the passing of one of the giants of popular fiction in the 20th century.’’

Mr. Herbert was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2010, the same year he was named ‘‘Grand Master of Horror’’ by the World of Horror Convention.

He leaves his wife, Eileen, and three daughters.