I was already a horror fan by the time I got round to reading James Herbert's seminal work, Sepulchre.
My dad was a member of one of those monthly book clubs, which produced such lovely compact hardcovers of the books they provided. At the age of twelve or so, as an unabashed bookworm, I moved away from my Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, and my well thumbed copies of Dracula and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and began my assault on my dad's bookshelf. That was where I got my first taste of such horror luminaries (though I didn't know it at the time) as Stephen King, Richard Laymon, Shaun Hutson, Graham Masterton and...yes...James Herbert...........
It was the perfect timing. I had always been a voracious reader but, having worked my way through the kids’ section of Moreton Library like a one-man plague of locusts, I was ready for more adult fare. All those names I mentioned previously supplied me with some great chills as I made the rocky journey into my teens. Herbert himself was behind some of those – Haunted in particular, had forced me to leave my light on, when I’d finished reading it.
Then I read Sepulchre.
It is, without question, one of the finest books I have ever read, regardless of genre. Indeed, it blended thriller with science fiction and horror so seamlessly, that I wasn’t sure what I was reading (give me a break, I was about 14 – crossgenre novels hadn’t been a big part of my literary repertoire). And then, by stages, the horror creeps in, infesting all other aspects of the narrative, subsuming it all in a choking, cloying terror.
The thing is, the story itself, broken down into bullet points is ridiculous, and shouldn’t raise so much as a hair on the back of one’s head, but I was hooked, I was trembling. Every character was believable, yet slightly grotesque. Every event was ludicrous, yet wholly relatable, because Herbert hand grounded it with these wonderful characters. The threat itself – the horror at the heart of the story – was epic, but the novel as a whole felt so intimate.
It was, and is, a remarkable piece of work, and I urge any horror fan who has not read it, to stop reading this piece of old shit, and buy a copy.
It changed my life – I had always wanted to be a writer, ever since I penned adventure tales in my primary school that shamelessly ripped off things like Swiss Family Robinson and Treasure Island. I wrote letters, essays, and little stories, just for my own amusement, topping up my craving for the written word with as many books as I could get my hands on. Those other great authors – King, Laymon, Masterton and the rest – were awesome, and I always felt that, yeah, with a bit of practice, I might be able to knock out something like this.
My reaction on finishing Sepulchre was rather more subdued. This was the book that made me determined to become a writer. It scared me as a reader, but it intimidated me as a would-be writer. Even now, with a few books and a few dozen stories under my belt, the shadow of James Herbert’s Sepulchre still haunts me, mocking my aspirations, and goading me on. It’s my white whale, the thing that keeps me going on those dark nights when the words just won’t come right.
One day, I think, I’ll write a book that will affect some other poor sod the way you affected me.
Sepulchre just laughs. “Sure,” it says, “one day…”
Kevin G. Bufton is a thirty-something father, husband and horror writer (in that approximate order) from Birkenhead, on the Wirral.
He has dreamed of being a full-time, professional, published writer since he was in primary school and, in January 2009, he took his first faltering steps towards making his dream a reality, when he submitted his first story, ‘In the Darkness’ for publication. It was accepted and published that same month, in the now-defunct e-zine, Micro 100 and Kevin has not looked back since.
His stories have appeared in numerous websites, magazines and anthologies, many of which are available at his Amazon Author’s Page.
Kevin also edits horror anthologies for Cruentus Libri Press.
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