Ash by James Herbert

Posted on Jun 3, 2013


When I found out that James Herbert died on March 20th 2013, my heart sank.
One, because he was to me the greatest horror writer of modern times and two, because I had a chance to meet him in Brighton a few days before he died where he was to give a talk and a reading of his career and new book, Ash featuring his recurring hero of two previous books; eminent parapsychologist, David Ash.

Haunted by James Herbert. Picture courtesy of

Haunted by James Herbert. Picture courtesy of

Ash’s first foray into the world of fiction began with the brilliant Haunted about the home of the Marriel family called Edbrook.
Without giving too much away, the lead character, David Ash, a sceptic parapsychologist, investigates an alleged haunting of an old manor house where two brothers and their sister live along with their housekeeper.
Ash is a damaged man due to the death of his sister when they were children and it’s this that helped drive him into parapsychology and his disbelief in the supernatural/otherworld.
What follows is a tour-de-force story of the supernatural and psychological breakdown.

This was followed by the Ghosts of Sleath which yet again, was set in the fictional village of Sleath in the Chiltern Hills of England and hauntings are of a much larger scale than his previous investigation which will change his life forever.
Still traumatized by what happened at Edbrook, he goes in less certain of things now but still ready to dismiss the supernatural as merely things of the imagination and the trickery of charlatans.
But once again he is tested to the very brink of sanity.

The Ghosts of Sleath. Picture courtesy of

The Ghosts of Sleath. Picture courtesy of

And then came Ash, the third and sadly final part in the trilogy. Do not read Ash unless you have read the two previous books for it reveals the endings and storyline of both in this 693 page door-stopper.
I highly recommend reading them in order just to understand the character more and of course the back-story of his life but many I guess have started with the third in the trilogy, little realising that he was in other books.
I have just finished it today and was blown away by the power of James Herbert’s writing as always. It took him years to write because of the research needed and I can now see why it took him so long. I’m guessing he had his days when he thought is was just taking too long and wanted to give up like many writers do but I for one am glad that he persevered with it and left on a high note.

So what of the book itself?

Well, it starts off at a cracking pace and the chapters are pretty much all short and leave you wanting to turn over for the next chapter which is a sign of a very good writer.
Each is structured carefully and full of detail and information but not enough to bore you as there’s always something in every one to keep you on tenterhooks.
The blood and the gore are there but never too much for it to be a complete bloodbath but some may feel it is. That’s just my opinion though.
The love interest in Ash’s complex life is a very strong character but has her moments as anyone would under such pressure, especially at the end when all hell breaks loose. I won’t give too much away but spiders, bats and rats play a part here.

James Herbert's latest and last novel, Ash, courtesy of www.panmacmillan

James Herbert’s latest and last novel, Ash, courtesy of http://www.panmacmillan

There’s a deranged assassin, a secret organisation that controls world politics, a slimy politician and some very famous; or should I say infamous guests at Comraich Castle where David Ash is sent to.

Mystery and intrigue abound throughout and the pace never lets up. I had put off reading this book simply because it’s his last and the thought of that made me sad, wanting to savour it for a perfect day; but once I picked it up I devoured it within two weeks.
One of the characters who made a couple of brief appearances made me smile when he turned up. He’s a very infamous person in history and has gone down in myth and legend. Read it and see for yourself.

The supernatural element is always there but at the end of the story I wanted more in the way of revelations in the spirits themselves but they were left to their own devices and imagination of the reader.
The only other problems I had with it were that one of my favourite characters in the book was killed off and the fact that it ended for now James Herbert is dead, there shall be no more.
I will have to start his books all over again I suppose; something I rarely do.

Thank you James Herbert for going out with a bang. You’ve left me a very sad but extremely happy man whom I can only aspire to within my writing.

Posted in: Books