Getting into the seasonal spirit, we kick off our Yuletide literary splash l I with a generous helping ofhatred ' and horror. Sue Wilson talks to the , editor of a new compilation of contumely, while Alan Morrison (below) meets the surprisingly
charming James Herbert.
‘Nature seems (the more we look into it) made up of antipathies: without something to hate, we should lose the very spring of thought and action. Life would turn to a stagnant pool. were it not rufﬂed by the jarring interests. the unruly passions of men.’ So opined William Hazlitt. and while positive thinkers may object to his emphasis, few could deny the pleasure to be had from a real no-holds-barred humdinger of a feud. Ample evidence of our affection for enmity is provided by the existence. as well as the contents, of The . Penguin Book ofFights, Feuds and Heartfelt ! Hatreds: An Anthology ofAntipathy, a sturdy tome stuffed and seething with malice and i invective from Caesar’s time to the present day. ‘Antipathy can be really entertaining. especially , when it’s between two public figures,‘ argues editor Philip Kerr, whose previous trawlings through the less edifying side of human nature
Philip Kerr. You have to admire the stamina with which some feuds are waged.’
resulted in the excellent Penguin Book ofLies. ‘A life which eschewed antipathy altogether would be rather dull; it’s the touchstone of our opinions, in a way — even Christ lost his rag with the moneylenders in the temple. And you have to admire the stamina with which some feuds are
' waged — Mary Whitehouse and Dennis Potter have been sniping at each other for almost twenty years
‘ now. Like any human relationship, a good feud is based on care and attention.’
Like that between Joan Crawford and Bette
Davis. played out on the set of Whatever
' Happened to Baby Jane? As the rest of the cast and crew tiptoed around the sidelines. the two screen legends bitched and schemed, upstaging and
sabotaging, feeding poisonously barbed quotes to the press and getting dangerously carried away during a ﬁght sequence. with Crawford stealing one of the last scenes, in which Davis had to carry her from a bedroom, by wearing a lead-lined belt beneath her costume.
‘I do think women are much better at feuding than men,’ Kerr says. ‘Men are rather clumsy about these affairs, but women go at it with real subtlety and imagination. For instance, the French National Front leader, Jean Marie Le Pen, who got divorced to marry his secretary, suggested that his wife might have lasted longer if she’d done more housework. So she had herself photographed by a girlie magazine. hoovering I stark naked, thus causing him acute and | well-deserved embarrassment.’
"Like any human relationship, a good feud
is based on care and attention.’
: Hatred has its more serious side, of course,
f reﬂected in the book by (among others) an extract from Mein Kampf, a report on the Shankhill
: Butchers, a description of English football
violence, Jimmy Boyle on Glasgow gang-fights
, and Vitali Vitaliev on Russian anti-semitism
7 today. Did Kerr not find it, ultimately, a
' depressing experience, unearthing such abundant
! proof of how little humanity has progressed in two
T thousand years?
‘It’s certainly a salutary lesson,’ he says. ‘A
couple of years ago we were smueg congratulating
ourselves over the ‘new Europe‘, and here we are
today with war in the Balkans and outbreaks of
racist violence in Germany. History is the best way
of reminding yourself that nothing really new ever
happens. So yes, it’s depressing, but only to the extent of having been falsely idealistic in the past.’ The Penguin Book of Fights, Feuds and Heartfelt Hatreds ispublished at£16. 99.
_ Vital signs
James Herbert's first novel The Rats, published in 1974, was no tentative
nibble at the literary cherry, but an
angry, graphically gruesome chomp at the book world’s genitals. Sixteen novels on, Herbert has tackled almost everything under the horror umbrella, from the sex‘n‘gore of The Dark, through the gentle ghost story of The Magic Cottage to the wicked black humour of Creed. Now, with Portent, he
. uses a succession oi global
environmental disasters to create something more terrifying yet.
‘I started researching the idea seven years ago, because I was bored with all the conservationists who ram things down your throat day after day until it doesn‘t mean anything any more,‘ Herbert explains. ‘I thought maybe there was a way of getting that
“The List 4— 17 December 1992
. End slums-bull guess thisisthe strongestyet.’
A crescendo of tidal waves, '
. .,..‘-' 9M. ,1 ‘
i.‘ -- s..‘ ‘q
important message across in an entertaining way. There's always been social comment in my books — even The 3 Hats was about pollution in the East
At the core oi Portent is an extension of the Gaia theory, which regards the Earth as a sell-sustaining organism, its balance threatened by the human race.
earthquakes and hurricanes develops throughout the novel, building the impression that the end of the world is
indeed nigh. Herbert's strength lies in
the devastating realism with which he lleshes out abstract ecological fears —
* at one point the City of London comes
literally crashing down around the protagonist’s ears. Portent signals Herbert’s progress
from the episodic, set-piece structure . of his best-known early novels, but as
the UK's best-selling horror writer, outselling even Stephen King, he’s not
overly concerned when critics continue
to plgeonhole him. ‘Those first books
were raw, but they were full of energy. I
explored that territory, broke down boundaries and moved on. But i
wouldn't want the critics to forgive me ; my past, because I’m proud of every book We written.’
Also just published is By Horror Haunted, a collection of articles on and interviews with the man himself. ‘One reason for doing that book was to
redress the balance, to say that Jim
, Herbert is notjustaboutslash’n'gore,’ ; he explains. And sure enough, he
proves to be an affable, sharply witty l
; interviewee - even if his local vicar has 5 1 banned all his books from the village
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: STEPHEN FRY O BOOKS OF THE YEAR
‘There's always been that conflict between my being a Catholic and some of the things i write about,’ he admits. ‘I hate the Church’s dogma, pomp and ceremony but I’m like the guy who won’t obey the rules of the club but refuses to leave. Every book I’ve done has a strong moral tone it you care to look for it, because I’m saying good will out even if the system, the evil, goes on and on. So I'm doing my work, it you like, in a more subtle way than the Church.’ (Alan Morrison)
Portent is published by Hodder and Stoughton at £14.99; 8y Horror Haunted, edited by Stephen Jones, is published by New English Library at £17.99.