Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, July 3, 2020


James Herbert's Dark Places by James Herbert (1993)

A coffee tale book with a lot of photographs and what might appear to be padding from a number of Herbert's novels, this might be considered a bit of fluff suitable to Herbert's fans only. 

Herbert (1943-2013) was one of England's most popular horror writers, selling over 54 million copies worldwide.  His books are compulsive reads from his first book, the animal disaster novel Rats, to his final novel Ash, Herbert produced 23 novels -- all best-sellers.  Rats, a gore-fest of sex and violence, elevated itself above others of its type, such as Guy N. Smith's Crabs and Shaun Hutson's Slugs, by its "raw urgency."  Rats spawned a trilogy and a graphic novel, launching a career that soon went beyond the standard horror tropes and included such varied titles as The Fog, Fluke, The Magic Cottage, The Ghosts of Sleath, and  The Secret of Crickley Hall.

In Dark Places, Herbert reviews the locations that helped spawn his novels and how he used those locations.  Lengthy excepts from his novels are given to show how he translated his impressions of these places into scenes from his books.  Dark Places is heavily illustrated by photographs by Paul Barkshire.  Not only did Barkshire photograph those locations, but he photographed other places with a similar atmosphere -- all of which have their own legends of ghosts, murder, and horror.  These last photographs are captioned by Roderick Brown. who researched those real places and the legends surrounding them.  All in all, this gives us not much original material by Herbert.

Given this, is the book worth your time?  Yes, if you are a Herbert fan.  And yes, if you are interested in how one man's imagination can translate real places into effective narration.  Otherwise, probably, not so much.

For the record, Herbert divides his Dark Places into seven basic groups (straining himself while doing so):

  • Burial Places, old graveyards that are found everywhere in England
  • Holy Places, usually old or abandoned churches
  • Dwelling Places, old homes, estates, and castles
  • Abandoned Places, this category merges with the other six and includes bombed-out ruins, abandoned houses, lonely forests. and old village customs
  • Lonely Places, again, why is this a separate category?
  • Watery Places, the ocean, scum-covered ponds and bogs
  • Capital Places, giving the City of London its own category

Sadly, the sum is less than its parts.  Efforts to pad and expand the book tend to fall flat.  The main value of James Herbert's Dark Places is to show how the atmosphere of a place can add to a brooding description in a novel.


  1. I think I saw Crickley Hall on tv. Other than that, don't think I know his work.

  2. Yes, THE SECRET OF CRICKLEY HALL aired as a 3-part BBC series in 2012 and is now available on one of the streaming services. Despite a good cast -- including Suranne Jones, Tom Ellis, Douglas Henshall, David Warner, Ian De Caestecker, and Maisie Williams -- this interesting film did not comp[are to Herbert's novel.