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Remembering Jim by Charles Johnston

Writing.ie | Guest Bloggers | From the Front Row

From The Front Row

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During the early ‘1970’s’, I joined Charles Barker, a large advertising agency at 20 Cannon Street in the City of London.

I worked with a team of Art Directors under the watchful eye of an Irish Creative Director named Denis McDonnell who commanded his post with strict authority quite unlike the personality that I would have expected from a fellow Irishman.

One of the Art Directors I worked along side with was a humorous London cockney called Jim. I gathered that he had an interesting past as he hailed from the East End of London where his father had a stall in Brick Lane Market.

He had the uncanny ability to project his humour right through the art department, the court-jester of the agency. Jim produced great creative advertising campaigns together with ability to not just to design and create ideas but to write copy too.

It was when we attended the drinking establishments at lunchtime, sometimes chewing on a ploughman’s, washed down with a pint or two of ‘ale’, that it came to our attention that Jim never joined our company.

I asked him one day why he hadn’t joined us and he replied that he preferred to relax in the quietness of St. Paul’s Churchyard. It seemed not to be a reflection to his character but I assumed that this was his way of ‘taking time out’.

Time passed until one day he returned from a meeting in Mc Donnell’s office. He walked up to me and said, “We’ll that’s it then, I’ve just handed in my notice.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“I’ve been waiting haven’t I? I sold the UK rights to my book.”

“What book?”

“It’s a book about rats invading London, I wrote it recently and parts of it as well in St. Paul’s Churchyard.”

His name? James Herbert OBE. The manuscript for the ‘The Rats’ was written in longhand in 10 months when he was 28. The publisher’s advance was £150!

Jim sadly passed on, on the 20th March 2013.

An opportunity of knowing and to be entertained by such a great writer left a legacy of encouragement to me and to many others.


James Herbert’s novels include:

The Rats, The Fog, The Survivor, Fluke, The Spear, Lair, The Dark, The Jonah, Shrine, Domain, Moon, The Magic Cottage, Sepulchre, Haunted, Creed, Portent, The City, The Ghosts of Sleath, ’48, Others, Once…, Nobody True, Secret of Crickley Hall, Ash


C.Johnston(c) Charles Johnston

Educated in England and spending over ten years in major advertising agencies and consultancies in London before returning to Ireland, Charles joined Saatchi and Saatchi agency, and Bates Ireland as Art Director and Creative Director prior to forming his own consultancy, Creative Options presenting advertising and copywriting concepts.

He aims to complete his first novel to present to publishers in early 2014.

Charles is a Member of the Writers Centre.


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