(John) Ramsey Campbell (born 4 January 1946 in Liverpool, Lancashire) is an English horror fiction author, editor and critic who has been writing for well over fifty years. Two of his novels have been filmed (for non-English-speaking markets).
Since he first came to prominence in the mid-1960s, critics have cited Campbell as one of the leading writers in his field: T.E.D. Klein has written that "Campbell reigns supreme in the field today", and Robert Hadji has described him as "perhaps the finest living exponent of the British weird fiction tradition", while S.T. Joshi stated, "future generations will regard him as the leading horror writer of our generation, every bit the equal of Lovecraft or Blackwood."
Campbell first encountered H.P. Lovecraft at age eight (1954), via the story The Colour Out of Space (fiction) which he found in the Groff Conklin anthology Strange Travels in Science Fiction, and within the next few years read The Rats in the Walls (fiction) and The Dunwich Horror (fiction), encountered in the Wise and Fraser anthology Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. At the age of twelve, Campbell attempted to write a novel titled Broken Moon influenced by Arthur Machen but it petered out after fifty pages. By the age of 14, he discovered Lovecraft's Cry Horror!, a British edition of the collection entitled The Lurking Fear (anthology), and read it in one day, finding the fiction's sense of awesomeness as well as horror extraordinarily appealing. He had also read Arthur Machen's major horror stories by this age, and some works by John Dickson Carr which led him to write a 100-page Carr pastiche (unfinished) titled Murder By Moonlight.
On leaving school at age sixteen, Campbell went to work in the Inland Revenue as a tax officer (1962–66). Campbell sold various of his early stories to editors including August Derleth and Robert A.W. Lowndes. His concept of what was possible in the weird genre became highly imbued with the influence of Lovecraft for the next few years. In December 1961 Campbell completed the story "The Church in High Street" (previously titled "The Tomb-Herd") which he sent to August Derleth at Arkham House. Derleth accepted the story in February 1962 and it became Campbell's first professionally published tale, appearing in the Derleth-edited anthology Dark Mind, Dark Heart. Campbell wrote various other tales of the Cthulhu Mythos between 1961 and 1963. Derleth gave the young writer invaluable advice on improving his writing style.
Forming his literary apprenticeship with stories modelled after Lovecraft's themes, Campbell's first collection, The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants (Arkham House,1964), published when he was but eighteen years old, collects his Lovecraftian pastiches to that date. At the suggestion of August Derleth, he rewrote many of his earliest stories, which he had originally set in the Massachusetts locales of Arkham, Dunwich and Innsmouth, and moved them to English settings in and around the fictional Gloucestershire city of Brichester, near the River Severn, creating his own Severn Valley milieu for Lovecraftian horrors. The invented locale of Brichester was deeply influenced by Campbell's native Liverpool, and much of his later work is set in the real locales of Liverpool and the Merseyside area. Campbell has written "In 1964 I was several kinds of lucky to find a publisher, and one kind depended on my having written a Lovecraftian book for Arkham House, the only publisher likely even to have considered it and one of the very few then to be publishing horror." The title story of the collection introduces Campbell's invention of a tome of occult lore similar to Lovecraft's forbidden Necronomicon, The Revelations of Glaaki.
His later work continues the focus on Liverpool; in particular, his 2005 novel Secret Stories (published in the U.S. in an abridged edition as Secret Story (2006)) both exemplifies and satirizes Liverpudlian speech, characters, humour and culture.
The ground-breaking story "Cold Print" (1969) marked an end to Campbell's literary apprenticeship, taking the essence of Lovecraft out of the New England backwoods into a modern urban setting. Subsequently Campbell briefly disavowed Lovecraft, while working on the radically experimental tales which would be published as the collection Demons by Daylight; but he later acknowledged Lovecraft's lasting influence, and his subsequent Cthulhu Mythos tales, collected in Cold Print (1985; expanded ed 1993), confirm the transition from pastiche to hommage, most notably in such tales as "The Faces at Pine Dunes" and the eerily surreal "The Voice on the Beach" (1982).
Ramsey Campbell married Jenny Chandler (a teacher), daughter of A. Bertram Chandler, on 1 January 1971; has two children, Tamsin (born 1978) and Matthew (born 1981); and still lives on Merseyside.
He is the Lifetime President of the British Fantasy Society.