Tribute to My Father

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.

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15 comments on “Tribute to My Father

  1. Christopher Driver on

    Bless you. A moving tribute to a kind and scholarly gentleman, and as your words make so manifestly apparent, a wonderful Father.

    Reply
  2. Barbara Mutnick on

    Such an interesting man, Richard! Your tribute is beautiful, and the love and admiration you shared is all yours to guide you on. Deepest condolences from Mark and me.

    Reply
  3. Jay Slater on

    I will miss you, Hugh, and many thanks for your kindness and support over the years. A true and humble gent.

    Your tribute to your father and his work is inspiring and genuinely moving, Richard.

    With very best wishes,

    Jay

    Reply
  4. Lila Gardner on

    I’m so sorry to hear you’ve lost your father, Richard. But your tribute to him is eloquent and very beautiful. I see that you will have some very lovely long-lasting memories. That’s what helps those of us who’ve lost parents.

    Warm wishes from Lila

    Reply
  5. Susan Mackenzie on

    Although I never met your Dad I spoke to him at least every month regarding his invoices that he sent to HarperCollins Publishers. He always asked how the weather was in Scotland and in recent years we had discussions over the Scottish Referendum and Brexit. He was a lovely and caring man and always asked after everyone in the Glasgow office and asked after my own family. With the lovely picture above, I can now put a face to the kind voice that spoke to me over the years in HarperCollins Publishers.
    My thoughts are with you and your family.
    Best Wishes
    Susan

    Reply
  6. Kevin Gates on

    A great tribute, Richard – your dad would be proud. Hugh was such a lovely guy, a real gentleman. When I first attended a film club in London in a dingy pub basement where the beer was flowing and the opinions strong, it was Hugh who was the most warm and welcoming figure. In later years it was always a pleasure meeting up with him in Sutton – he’d exchanged the pub for the cafe but the conversations about extreme horror cinema were the same. I will treasure his books, a number of which he had signed and sent to me. A genuinely good guy who will be sorely missed.

    Reply
  7. Mario R. Knopf on

    Thanks for sharing this, Richard.

    Without knowing about your dad’s passing I bought a used copy of his German 1974 anthology “16 Grusel Stories” a few hours ago… which I stumbled upon about a week before or so, with my thoughts circling around it quite a few times. Out of further interest, I just came across this site today and now I feel sad…

    Judging from the bibliography’s content, your dad obviously had great knowledge of / taste in the literature of the weird. And he seems to have been a very kind human being.

    I was only born when he published his very first book in 1972.
    Yet I share with him a very similar taste in literature.

    Best wishes to you and your family.

    Greetings from Germany,
    Mario.

    Reply
  8. David A. Sutton on

    A very moving tribute, Richard. Hugh was one of our great genre anthologists and he was one of the first editors to accept one of my short stories, in “The Taste of Fear”, published by W. H. Allen in 1976. I last met up with him for lunch in London a few years ago with Steve Jones and Randy Broecker… and before that we were on a panel together at one of the fantasy conventions. Hugh will be greatly missed by all fans of traditional ghost and horror stories.

    Reply
  9. Charlie Panayiotou on

    I just heard about this, so sorry about your loss. I worked with Hugh for a number of years as he did so much freelance work for us and have many fond memories of phone conversations with him, he was a wonderful person to work with. He will be much missed.

    Reply
  10. Marusha Taylor on

    Deepest condolences to Hugh’s loved ones. Hugh’s cousin Antonia and I had the great pleasure of spending an afternoon with him during a visit to England last summer — for me, one of the high points of that trip as I’d been a great admirer of his work for many years. Hugh arrived at our lunch date with an unexpected gift: his last three anthologies, not yet released on the market, and all bearing lovely inscriptions. We’ll always remember that visit with Hugh. His genuine kindness, humour without malice, wide-ranging intelligence and real humility made a lasting impression on us. His books enjoy pride of place on our shelves, and will continue to be revisited often.

    Reply

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