Odds and Dead Ends: James Herbert’s ‘The Fog’, is it time for an adaptation?

I’m a massive Stephen King fan. He’s my literary guru, and in terms of down-to-earth writing advice, he’s second to none. For honest, heartfelt dialogue, he’s unrivaled. He’s created some of the most iconic moments in horror, and we have much to thank him for. And it seems as if adaptations of his stories are planned before he’s even finished the first draft, even excluding his famous dollar babies.

Other writers are not as lucky as the King. Even Dean Koontz, King’s contemporary and somewhat rival, has had only a handful of adaptations, despite selling about the same amount of print copies. Clive Barker, mostly known for the numerous Hellraiser sequels and a dashing of others, has mainly adaptations of various stories in his Books of Blood, nowhere near King’s volume, even percentage-wise in relation to the amount written. Peter Straub has only had a few adaptations. Graham Masterton, for his entire volume of work, has (to my knowledge) had only two or three adaptations. And I don’t believe that Ramsey Campbell, one of the absolute giants of modern horror literature, has had more than a few either.

It seems that some authors, despite how influential their stories are, get missed, for one reason or another. One of these monsters is James Herbert. Don’t get me wrong, Herbert has had some adaptations in the past, so it’s not as if he’s been forgotten altogether (although I’m still waiting for someone to redo Haunted as part of a full David Ash film trilogy. Maybe Hammer can do them as a British answer to the Conjuring franchise). But all this aside, Herbert has written one of the biggest novels of 20th Century horror which, somehow, has yet to be translated to the screen; The Fog.

For those that have somehow missed this classic, it’s about a small town in England that’s hit by an earthquake, and from the fissure created by this quake is released a mysterious fog. Anyone who comes into contact with this fog goes violently insane. The fog spreads throughout the country and the chaos, bloodshed, and all things dark come to life. It’s not an incredibly complex idea, but it’s the form and structure which I think would make it a great translation to a television series, along with the content itself.

The Fog, along with his first novel, The Rats, uses a fairly distinct storytelling structure. His main character (John Holman), is the focus of alternating chapters. The other chapters focus on a variety of outside characters, who all eventually combine into the main storyline as the novel proceeds. To demonstrate, here’s a rough sequence with letters to stand for the character focus of each chapter. Holman is represented by the letter A. The novel proceeds something like A – B – A – C – A – D – A – B – A – D+C – A – E – A… and so on (I haven’t done that scientifically, so people who have gone through three copies, I apologise for getting minor characters in the wrong order). Now, to my eyes, that kind of structure is exactly how a series-long story arc plays out, cutting from scene to scene. Think of something like Castle Rock; that’s pretty much a carbon copy of the formula used.

Then there’s the content itself. There’s plenty of blood and guts to keep the horror fans happy. There are military sci-fi elements, similar to something like The Midwich Cuckoos or Quatermass, to keep the more casual viewer interested. It contains some magnificent set pieces to build episodes around. The characters themselves don’t have the greatest life off the page, and to be honest, are fairly stock in their presentation for the most part; however, this is where screenwriters can really dig deep and bring up some interesting nuggets to expand upon for great sub-plots. Added to the fact that there’s going to be a ready-made audience for it, because of the revered nature of the novel and Herbert in general, and you’ve got the groundwork for a solid product.

Then consider the television climate. Horror series are on the rise at the moment to boot. In short order, we’ve been given American Horror Story, Hannibal, Stranger Things, The Exorcist (tragically overlooked and canceled before its time; Ben Daniels was incredible), Ash vs. Evil Dead, The Haunting of Hill House, Castle Rock, Dracula, The Outsider, even Scream (which wasn’t incredible but had damn good moments), plus plenty of others. With Lovecraft Country on the horror horizon, plus new seasons of many of the shows aforementioned, it doesn’t look like the horror TV train going to stop any time soon. Now is the perfect time to bring The Fog to the masses.

There are, of course, a couple of issues to be overcome. It’s not the greatest for presenting female characters, I have to admit; that was never Herbert’s strong point. There are passages that could be instantly posted as a meme for ‘how men write female characters in novels’. Some sections of the novel, especially the whole school section, would definitely need to be changed, as they do raise some eyebrows on how far thrilling violence goes towards bad taste. Not up to the standards of Laymon’s The Cellar, I’ll grant, but they’re pretty on the edge. That is part of Herbert’s style, admittedly, always pushing the boundaries of what can be published, but there’d still need to be some selective editing there.

And let’s not forget that we’ll have trouble distinguishing it from John Carpenter’s The Fog, both films, and both adaptations of King’s The Mist as well. Maybe specifically naming it James Herbert’s The Fog would work in terms of differentiating it from the aforementioned titles?

With some books, I’d prefer it if the meddling fingers of studios left damn well alone. This is especially true of the more ambiguous works of horror, such as Paul Tremblay’s recent run (though I believe adaptations of both A Head Full Of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World have been announced, damn them), because certain media translates certain ideas and atmospheres better than others. And as much as I’d love to see Del Toro finally get his adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness, there’s just something that’s so big and primal about that story that part of me doubts it would work. It’s up to him to eventually prove me wrong.

The Fog, however, seems so perfect to adapt to television because it’s practically written as a television series. Some of the dodgier sections can be rewritten to bring everything up to date, nearly half a century into the future. It’s sat on everyone’s shelves, calling to be updated, translated to prey on new fears, and rediscovered for our modern audiences. There’s potential for some of the most striking, disturbing images ever put to celluloid. It’s seeped into the horror consciousness, sat there, and bided its time. Now it’s time to unleash it on the world.

 

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Rick Hautala and James Herbert RIP

portraitIn the month of March we sadly lost two big names in the field of horror literature. James Herbert passed away on March 20th and Rick Hautala passed away on March 21st, leaving behind some great horror novels. Back in the 1980s horror was one of the biggest genres in book publishing and you could easily find horror novels on every newsstand. Rick Hautala and James Herbert were two of the authors that you would find in every book store. Since both of these men left quite an impact on the world of horror, I thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to them.

James Herbert was born on April 8th 1943 in London England. As a kid he enjoyed telling stories to other kids on the playground and also had a love for drawing and painting. At 16 he enrolled in the Hornsey College of Art, where he studied graphic design, print and photography. He graduated and started working in the field of advertising and design.

At the age of 28 in 1974 he wrote his first novel called The Rats which was eventually turned into a movie called Deadly Eyes in 1983.  He went on to write 22 more novels along with several short stories and two non fiction books. James Herbert has sold 54 million books worldwide and in 2010 He was presented with the World Horror Convention Grand Master award by Stephen King.

James Herbert’s books ranged from the supernatural to science fiction but they all had elements of horror to them. James’s best known books include: The Survivor, Haunted, The Fog and The Secret of Crickley Hall. His last novel was released in 2012. It was called Ash and is the third in a series about a paranormal detective named David Ash. To find out more about James Herbert’s books visit his website at jamesherbert.com.

rickRick Hautula was born on February 3rd 1949 in Rockport Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of Maine with a Master of Art in English Literature. His first book was called Moondeath and was released in 1980. His third book was called Nightstone. It was released in 1986 and became an international best seller. Since then Rick has written 29 more books and  had several short stories released in anthologies.

In 2011 Rick Hautala won the Horror Writer’s Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. He also served terms as Vice President and Trustee for the Horror Writers Association. Another honor he received was in 2000 when Barnes and Noble called his short story collection Bedbugs one of the most distinguished horror publications of the year.

In honor of Rick Hautala and to raise some proceeds to help support his family, several publishers are offering deals on his books with profits going to Rick’s family in their time of need . Some of those publishers include Cemetery Dance, Necon E books, Kings Way Press and Evil Jester Press. For more information on Rick Hautala, check out his website at: rickhautala.com.

Free Fiction Friday: Moon

coverFor this week’s Free Fiction Friday selection we have Moon by James Herbert. James Herbert is a horror author from England that has written 24 books and has sold over 2 million copies. Some of James Herbert’s other titles include The Rats, The Magic Cottage and Dark Places. On March 20th James Herbert passed away at the age of 69. In the near future I will have more to say on the blog about his career,  but for now if you want to read one of his works for free, here is your chance.

Moon was originally published in 1985. The story follows an insane psychic and computer science teacher who has unwillingly linked minds telepathically with a vicious killer; whose crimes have a strange connection with the cycles of the moon. From what I’ve read about this book,  people describe it as tense, chilling supernatural horror that is not for the squemish. Some also call Moon one of James Herbert’s best books.

If you would like a free used copy of Moon be the first person to leave a comment on this blog post. Good Luck!

Free Fiction Friday: Moon

For this week’s Free Fiction Friday selection we have Moon by James Herbert. James Herbert is a horror author from England tha has written 24 books and has sold over 2 million copies. Some of James Herbert’s other titles include The Rats, The Magic Cottage and Dark Places.

Moon was originally published in 1985. The story follows an insane psychic and computer science teacher who has unwillingly linked minds telepathically with a vicious killer whose crimes have a strange connection with the cycles of the moon. From what I’ve read about this book,  people describe it as tense, chilling supernatural horror that is not for the squemish. Some also call Moon one of James Herbert’s best books.

If you would like a free used copy of Moon be the first person to leave a comment on this blog post. Good Luck!