Written by Richard Lamb
On the night of 2nd March 2019, Hugh Lamb passed away. He died peacefully, in his sleep, after a long illness that had left him frail and weak. At the end he chose to move on, rather than suffer long months of treatment with no guarantees. We, his family, chose to honour his wishes and were with him at the end.
Hugh Lamb was, to many, one of the country’s foremost authorities on Victorian supernatural literature and a respected anthologist of those stories. To me, however, he was just dad. Certainly, I inherited a great love of ghost stories, as well as the cinema of the macabre, from my father. We would recommend movies to each other and enjoy critiquing them. As a child I used to thrill at tales of the supernatural, both real and fictional, all because of my father’s influence. When I wrote a series of screenplays, two of which were optioned by producers, they were all either ghost stories or stories with a supernatural flavour. And when one of my screenplays won the 2008 Rocliffe/BAFTA New Writers award, it was my father who positively glowed with pride. The screenplay was a father and son story, and he recognised himself in the pages with a mischievous delight.
This was not the only influence that my father had on me. He taught me many of the values that I hold dear, values that are woven into the very fabric of my being. He was liberal in his political beliefs, stressed the importance of knowledge over ignorance, and demonstrated right up until the end that there is nothing so disarming as the ability to laugh at oneself. Most importantly, my father taught me decency. Not the shallow, morally superior decency that defines so many people, but an actual belief that kindness, fair-mindedness, and respect for all is vital to considering yourself a worthwhile human being. Read a list of dedications to my father and you will see the same words repeated over and over; kind, gentleman, generous, a lovely man. He earned these accolades because he was true to himself and he never compromised his principles. You do the right thing, even to your own detriment.
So when I saw how well-regarded he was by his peers in the fantasy field, when I saw the queues of people lining up to get his autograph, and the smiles that he left them with after their encounter, I understood it. He exuded warmth, intelligence, and affability. It was a pleasure to engage with him.
Naturally, as his son, I could tell a thousand tales of stubbornness, ill-tempers, and conflicts. We were father and son, and that can be a relationship fraught with complex antagonisms. Those moments were not the ones that defined us, though. Not at all. In my adult years, we enjoyed nothing but a strong bond of love, mutual respect, and the kind of infantile sense of humour that could mystify some.
He made me laugh, he imparted entire worlds of knowledge to me, and he will be the moral compass in my heart and soul for the rest of my days. Fiction writers love a flawed hero, and Hugh Lamb was, is, mine.