CAMPBELL,   (John) Ramsey  [b. 1946]

Ramsey Campbell and I have a few things in common. Both Liverpool-born not long after the end of the war, grammar school educated and both joining the civil service in the 1960’s. It also seems that we both had dreams of earning our living in a more creative sphere than was offered by the life of a bureaucrat. That’s where the similarity ends. Whilst I carried on dreaming until 37 years of government employment had passed by, Ramsey relentlessly honed his skills, made writing his day-job and became one of the most prolific and widely acclaimed authors in the modern era of horror and fantasy.

I often find that Wikipedia entries are very patchy source of biographical detail but I should say at the outset that the entry for Ramsey Campbell seems exceptionally thorough in its detailed account of his life and work and I recommend it.

John Ramsey Campbell was born on 4th January 1946 to parents Alexander and Nora (née Walker), the family home being in Wavertree Garden Suburb at 40 Nook Rise L15.  Educated at St Edward’s College he joined the civil service on leaving school, working in the Inland Revenue in Church Street. From 1966 to 1973 he worked for Liverpool Public Libraries.

 He had, however, from an early age been attracted to literature and he recalls that his interest in horror began when he was 7-years-old, seeing an issue of Weird Tales in the window of a Southport newsagent. Reading widely in the genre and seeking to establish his own style he had his first story published when he was just sixteen and continuing success with his stories led him to take up the gauntlet of full-time writing in 1973. His first novel, The Doll Who Ate His Mother was published in 1976 and has since been followed by over 30 others, plus a host of short stories, novellas and critical studies.

His work has been acclaimed across the globe, reflected in an impressive array of awards both for individual works and in recognition of his lifetime achievement. The Oxford Companion to English Literature succinctly refers to him as “Britain’s most respected living horror writer”. Nearer to home, in 2016 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of John Moore’s University, Liverpool for “outstanding services to literature.”

My own discovery of Ramsey’s work has only just begun (The Parasite, Thieving Fear) and my embarrassment at not having come across his works before is counterbalanced by the gleeful anticipation I now have for the unread works still to devour. The setting of many of his tales in the familiar streets and spaces of Merseyside adds to the experience and don’t be put off if ‘horror’ isn’t your usual choice, this is simply good writing - too good to miss.

To conclude the biographical details Ramsey Campbell married Jenny Campbell in 1971. Before moving to live on the Wirral they lived at Flat 6, 25 Princes Avenue L8 (1970-73) and 54 Buckingham Road L13 (1973-1981). They have two children, Tamsin and Matthew.

40 Nook Rise L15

Ramsey's home from 1946-70

25 Princes Avenue L8

The Campbell home 1970-73

54 Buckingham Road L13

The Campbell home 1973-81


The aforementioned Wikipedia entry is well worth exploring, as is Ramsey’s own website  I heartily recommend the YouTube video of Ramsey in conversation with Andrew McMillan produced by JM University. The introduction given by Roger Phillips gives a delightful pen-picture.