Collected Stories, Volume 3

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Overview

Some time ago, reviewing a reprint collection of old stories by an elderly, well respected and multi-awarded master of horror (whom I won't mention here), I commented that "some legends don't last forever." The stories, twenty years or so later, appeared dated, obsolete, disappointing. Afraid of re-living the same experience I've started reading this book, assembling Richard Matheson's short fiction written between 1959 and 1971, holding my breath. I shouldn't have worried at all, knowing that the author of so ...
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Overview

Some time ago, reviewing a reprint collection of old stories by an elderly, well respected and multi-awarded master of horror (whom I won't mention here), I commented that "some legends don't last forever." The stories, twenty years or so later, appeared dated, obsolete, disappointing. Afraid of re-living the same experience I've started reading this book, assembling Richard Matheson's short fiction written between 1959 and 1971, holding my breath. I shouldn't have worried at all, knowing that the author of so much great fiction and so many great scripts for the legendary The Twilight Zone and other countless successful TV series has produced material meant to last. Originally part of a huge volume of collected stories published in a limited hardcover edition by Dream/Press in 1989, the present book includes some ageless classics as 'Duel' and ' Nightmare at 20,000 Feet' -- too widely known to require any further comment -- as well as a number of less famous stories so fresh and entertaining that they give the impression of having been written only yesterday. The themes and the atmospheres are extremely varied, ranging from the macabre vignette ('Big Surprise') to the powerful tale of black magic ('From Shadowed Places'), from the unorthodox vampire story ('No Such Thing As a Vampire') to the humourous SF piece ('The Creeping Horror'), from the typical weird tale ('Deadline') to the pure Twilight Zone story ('Mute'). Much to your satisfaction you'll read about a church organ acting weird ( 'Shockwave') , discover how a family secret is finally revealed to a distraught wife-to-be ( 'Interest') , realize how being thirsty can become a nightmare ('A Drink of Water') and what kind of tricks aliens can use to be loved by men ('First Anniversary'). Sometimes Matheson uses light tones apt to simply surprise and amuse, sometimes he deeply digs in the reality of human condition, creating little masterpieces that, in his clear and unassuming narrative style, go beyond the limits of the weird story to probe the mysteries of life. Fine examples of the latter type are 'Mantage' where life becomes a sequence of scenes like it happens in a movie, 'Fingerprints' depicting an odd love encounter on a bus riding in the night and 'Girl of My Dreams' where a sensitive able to predict deadly accidents greatly disappoints her greedy husband. Many of the tales included in this collection have been subsequently adapted as TV episodes, which is not surprising not only because they are good stories but because they possess a vivid visual character. Especially popular were the three segments of Trilogy of Terror starring Karen Black and directed by Dan Curtis, first broadcasted in 1975: 'The likeness of Julie' about a plain-looking but dangerous girl managing to lure men into her arms, 'Therese,' a cruel example of how Voodoo can work (and fail) and 'Prey' where a girl's quiet evening is turned into an ordeal by an aggressive, exotic doll. In Matheson's own words the common leitmotif of his work is "the individual isolated in a threatening world, attempting to survive" and the reason for writing those stories was to exorcise his paranoia. Unfortunately for us, he stopped writing short fiction in 1971, just after completing 'Duel.' Another good reason to go back and rediscover those perfect literary gems.
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Editorial Reviews

Midwest Review of Books
I have been a long time fan of this author and this collection is a fine example of why. Wiater has chosen some of the best short stories by Matheson. I also like the commentaries at the end of each story. Matheson tells such things as if it was used on any of the incarnations of the shows "The Twilight Zone,' Outer Limits," and other TV shows. as well as what prompted him to write whichever tale. Ones to look for are "Button Button" in which a woman is given the choice of killing someone in the world she does not know by pressing a button on a box, "The Near Departed" where a man makes a strange contract with a funeral home. "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" while flying on an airplane a man sees something bizarre on the wing that he can't get anyone else to believe, and of course "Duel" that is a simple story of a business man on the road who encounters a mysterious truck driver who wants to play a deadly game. If there is anything bad about this collection it is that the author says he gave up writing the short story many years ago. I understand his thoughts that he has written as many short stories as he feels he can because he gives the impression that he is burned out on the form of writing, but I must say we are lucky that Matheson has written so many fantastic works of this type that we can still marvel and enjoy.
—(Gary Roen)
Movie Poop Shoot
Richard Matheson is one of the last living links to the old school of storytelling. He's truly a national treasure. Ask most any working genre writer today, and without skipping a beat, they'll refer to Richard Matheson as "Mr. Matheson." The man behind many of THE TWILIGHT ZONE's most original scripts, along with such timeless works as DUEL, I AM LEGEND, and STIR OF ECHOES, is a boundless talent that any up-and-coming writer/artist needs to be familiar with. Fortunately, Edge Books, an imprint of Gauntlet Press (the lead publisher of Richard Matheson books, who take great pride in the products they package), has just released the third and final collection of Matheson's shorter works, titled RICHARD MATHESON: COLLECTED STORIES VOLUME THREE.

The stories, long out of print since last seeing the light of day in Dream/Press's 1989 limited edition release RICHARD MATHESON: COLLECTED STORIES, is priced at an insanely reasonable $16.95 and comes with the highest recommendation of almost any book reviewed in this column's history. This volume includes a new introduction by Matheson (dated 2003), along with the original Dream/Press introduction from 1989. This book includes such classics as "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "Duel," and others far too numerous to mention. Edited by Stanley Wiater, besides tributes served up by some of literature's finest authors, including Stephen King and Harlan Ellison, each story includes insight from the icon himself, Mr. Matheson. If you want to see for yourself the stories that would eventually serve as templates for many of today's takes on horror and sci-fi, this book is a must-own. It is to literature what KING KONG is to film, what Will Eisner is to comics, and what Miles Davis and Elvis Presley are to music. Lofty praise indeed, but the truth nonetheless.
—(Joshua Jabcuga)

SFCrows nest.com
From one of the post-scripts from the 28 short stories in this volume, author Richard Matheson declares that all of his works develop out of paranoia. As these stories clearly illustrate, this paranoia isn't unfounded cos people or something out there is determined to get you as well. There are also testimonials included from the likes of Stephen King, Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury as to effect Matheson's work has influenced their own writing, making this all the more an important book. If you've been picking up on the original 'Twilight Zone' TV series DVD releases, then no doubt you'll have seen Matheson's name cropping up a lot. Many of his scripts for TZ and 'Dead Of Night' started off as short stories and are in this book. Unlike other TZ luminaries Rod Serling and Chuck Beaumont, many of Matheson's stories came before screenplays.

Picking out titles is going to either have some of you wondering what I'm referring to or me choosing titles that everyone has some familiarity with. 'Nightmare At 20,000' feet was used both in the original series and as part of the later 1983 film. A man on a late night aeroplane flight is convinced there is a gremlin tearing apart one of the wing engines and has no one believing him. There is also 'Duel' that the Spielberg TV movie evolved from where a driver on the road finds himself versus a mad homicidal lorry driver determined to take him off the road. One of my favourites here is 'The Girl Of My Dreams' where a scheming husband takes advantage of his wife's ability to make more of her ability to predict people's deaths from taking place. A beautifully twisted tale in more ways than one.

Matheson's strength lies in setting a scene and briskly moving you into what is going on. Even if the characters are not always wholesome, it is a delight to see what fate he has in store for them. If you're going to learn off a master writer then Richard Matheson should really be high on your list. This book is a must read.
—(GF Willmetts)

Thunder Child
What horror, science fiction or fantasy buff does not know of the name or the works of Richard Matheson? His tales have provided the basis for hours and hours of chills and thrills, from the movies The Incredible Shrinking Man to the teleplays for The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler to The Twilight Zone classics such as "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," Matheson well deserves his title as science fiction grand master.

Richard Matheson, Collected Stories, is an expanded tradepaperback version of the 1989 Dream/Press hardcover limited edition. Gauntlet Press, under their Edge Imprint, has published Matheson's 86 short stories in three volumes. Volume 1 came out in 2003, Volumes 2 and 3 came out in 2005. Accompanying each story now are brief comments by Matheson himself.Matheson's first short story published was "Born of Man and Woman" in 1950. After the publication of "Duel" in 1971 he'd decided he'd exhausted the form. So he 86-ed his short story work. (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun.) Matheson's Introduction, which prefaces each book, is a must read for everyone who wants to know a writer's process: "A twenty-year period of creativity reduced to the psychological background of my output of fantasy and science-fiction stories. If this were a thesis, that would be my premise". Matheson actually come across much like Hitchcock - whose theme in his movies was always 'the wrong man under suspicion.' For Matheson, it was paranoia.The stories were arranged by Matheson himself "roughly" in chronological order of original publication. At the end of each story Matheson comments, briefly, on the behind-the-scenes details, from how he got the idea for each story to where it was published...or not published.For example, for "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" [first published in anthology Alone By Night, 1962], he revealed:

"When I first wrote that I think the story was twenty pages longer at the beginning. I followed him going from his office, to taking a cab, to going to the airport-he was analyzing his marriage, his life-the whole thing. I don't recall if I decided or it was one of the editors who asked me if I could get into the story sooner, so I just-bang!-put him into the airplane and started from there. It was one of my first Twilight Zone scripts that I adapted from one of my stories instead of being an original script. I've always been glad that I kept writing prose, because if I had just gone into writing scripts entirely, by now I would have died from a broken heart."

This set also includes tributes to Richard Matheson from such admirers as Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, and William F. Nolan.

Most of the stories collected in this volume are not science fiction, but rather horror or fantasy tinged with horror, plus the occasional crime story.There are only three science fiction stories here: "Mantage" (published in 1959 - The Truman Show might owe something to it), "The Creeping Terror" - a very funny spoof, and "Deus Es Machina" - a man cuts himself with his razor...and bleeds oil.

Many of the other tales in this volume will be known to watchers of television, from the classic Twilight Zone to the 1980s remake, to the Trilogy of Terror movies, to the 1990s The Outer Limits. And what movie fan will not know that "Duel" was made into a TV movie by Steven Spielberg and pretty much launched his career?Matheson displays a mastery of the form, and if you love psychological horror you will love these stories. But what makes this set so special is those personal notes that he includes at the end of each story. By acquiring all three books in this set, the reader will literally see inside the mind of the author and the creative process at work.

Highly recommended.
—(Edogawa Ranpo)

Zacherley's Book Review
In 1989, a mere 1250 fans were treated to a wonderful collection of short stories. If you were one of the fortunate ones to acquire the set you had access to worlds far beyond imagining because Richard Matheson is undoubtedly one of the greatest writing legends of our time. This three volume set contained his entire published resume of short fiction from 1950 when he first began writing short stories to 1970 when he simply stopped to move onto other projects. Now more fans have the chance to enjoy these magnificent works thanks to the good people at Edge Books and Gauntlet Press.

The final volume of this three volume set has just recently been published in an affordable paperback edition featuring a collection of 29 stories. These are the last 29 stories that Richard Matheson wrote, and they are reprinted in chronological order.

Even if you have never read a Richard Matheson story you may remember one or two of them from having seen them on television. Do you remember the Twilight Zone classic Nightmare at 20,000 Feet starring William Shatner? That story is in this volume. Do you remember the episode of Dead of Night featuring Avengers star Patrick MacNee entitled No Such Thing as a Vampire? That story is in this collection as well. What about the made for television movie Duel starring Gunsmoke's Dennis Weaver and directed by Steven Spielberg? That story is in this collection also. Other stories that have been adapted for The Twilight Zone revival, the new Outer Limits, Journey to the Unknown, Trilogy of Terror, and Trilogy of Terror II, as well as some mystery and comic tales are included in this volume. It is fully loaded!

This book is expertly edited by Stanley Wiater and contains lots of additional surprises, something that is common in Gauntlet Press titles. The book contains a new introduction by Richard Matheson. It is liberally spiced with commentary by Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, and Dennis Etchison along with words by Richard Christian Matheson. Richard even adds comments at the end of his stories so that the reader can get a sense of where the writer was coming from at the time the story was written.

Fans of horror, the macabre, and simply wonderful stories, this three volume set is a must for your collection. And if you can only choose one volume pick this, the third, one. I don't want to say that Mr. Wiater has saved the best for last but the progression from wonderful (being the first volume) to excellent (the third volume) is easy to see. Volume 3 is one of the greatest short story collections ever published. Find it at your local bookstore or contact the good folks at Gauntlet Press and see what other wonders they have in store for you.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781887368810
  • Publisher: Gauntlet, Incorporated CO
  • Publication date: 11/28/2005
  • Pages: 125
  • Sales rank: 712,276
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Mr. Paranoia

You know his work, if not his name. At 79, with a new novel out and his early work back in print, Richard Matheson is seeing his legend blossom.

By Dick Lochte

"I don't like horror pictures."

This shouldn't be unexpected from a kindly looking septuagenarian living peacefully in a hilltop home in a gated Southern California community. But this septuagenarian is Richard Matheson, the writer responsible for such seminal shockers as "I Am Legend" (the last human struggles to survive in a world otherwise populated by biological war-spawned vampires), "The Shrinking Man" (a hapless male suffers a size reduction to the point where he becomes potential fodder for cats and spiders) and "Duel" (the ultimate battle between man and monstrous machine that, in its televised version, transformed novice director Steven Spielberg into a name above the title).

Those works provided, by adaptation or inspiration, an endless gallery of horrific films. And Matheson has contributed directly to the genre by turning his short stories into several classic "Twilight Zone" episodes, from William Shatner's fear-of-flying meltdown while sharing a plane ride with a wing-ripping gremlin to Agnes Moorehead's inarticulate backwoods woman being attacked by tiny spacemen.

He helped turn Edgar Allan Poe's "The House of Usher" into what Leonard Maltin describes as "a first-rate horror film." What's more, his adaptation of a then-unpublished novel by Jeff Rice resulted in "The Night Stalker," a TV movie about a reporter's search for a bloodthirsty vampire in Las Vegas that was watched by a record number of viewers and prompted a sequel, "The Night Strangler," as well as a series.

"That's not what I mean by horror," Matheson says. "I'm talking about visceral horror. Like the film they keep showing on television, 'Species.' You're watching this beautiful woman, and suddenly there are fins popping out of her back. Even in 'Alien,' which is practically a masterpiece, there's a scene where this thing pops out of John Hurt's stomach. Absolute horror. Blood. Uggg."

He smiles. "Effective, of course."

For him, the ideal terror film is "Rosemary's Baby." "Nothing physical happens, and yet the film gets more and more frightening as it goes on. I always think less is better."

This approach lost him one screenwriting plum. Impressed by his work, Alfred Hitchcock summoned Matheson to his office in the early '60s to discuss a new project, a film to be based on a Daphne du Maurier story. Had he any ideas? "Well, Mr. Hitchcock," Matheson remembers saying, "I don't think you should show too much of the birds."

It was a temporary setback in a career that, now that he has successfully survived a heart valve replacement, shows no sign of stopping. A new novel, "Woman," a mixture of sexual politics and metaphysics taken to terrifying extremes, was published in early June by Gauntlet Press, precisely 55 years after his first fiction, a short story called "Born of Man and Woman," appeared in the summer 1950 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Back then, Matheson was living in Brooklyn, a graduate of World War II and the Missouri School of Journalism, the offspring of Norwegian immigrants who separated when he was 8 years old. He was raised by his mother, "who was very distrustful of the outside world."

An inherited strain of this has stayed with him. He has proceeded through life with such excessive caution that his children have referred to him-in a spirit of "tolerant amusement," he says-as Mr. Paranoia. And distrust has given his creative output a certain unity. That initial short story, told from the point of view of a mutant child who is kept chained in the basement by his human parents, contains two elements common to almost all of his writing, including "Woman"-a deceptively ordinary setting and an alienated protagonist trapped in a life-threatening and probably hopeless situation.

In 1951, Matheson traveled to Southern California, ostensibly in search of a climate warmer than Brooklyn. But really, "I wanted to write movies."

He met his wife, Ruth Ann, on the beach at Santa Monica. "I picked her up. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have dared, but I was 3,000 miles away from my judgmental family." Ruth Ann had a daughter by a previous marriage, and by 1952 she and Matheson had begun a family of their own. He sold fiction to magazines and worked the night shift at Douglas Aircraft, cutting airplane templates.

In 1955, he sold his novel "The Shrinking Man" to Universal Studios with the proviso that he be allowed to write the script. The success of that film led to other assignments, episodes of small-screen series such as "Lawman" and "Star Trek" and "The Twilight Zone," where he and his best friend, Charles Beaumont, would become, after host-creator Rod Serling, the show's most frequent contributors. But it was the success of "Duel" that raised his status as a screenwriter.

Though Matheson is considered an exemplar of suspense and science fiction, his oeuvre includes a World War II novel ("The Beardless Warriors," filmed as "The Young Warriors"), a fantasy-romance ("Bid Time Return," transformed into the cult film "Somewhere in Time"), several westerns and works of metaphysical fiction ("A Stir of Echoes" and "What Dreams May Come," filmed recently under those titles) and some nonfiction ("A Primer of Reality" and "The Path").

The short stories and early novels-the ones that Stephen King says showed him the way and moved Ray Bradbury to label Matheson "one of the most important writers of the 20th century"-are back in print; so are later novels such as "Now You See It . . ." and "Hunted Past Reason," as well as collections of his "Twilight Zone," "Duel" and "Night Stalker" scripts. Even his fantasy for children, "Abu and the 7 Marvels," which occupied trunk space for 40 years, is available in a hardcover edition, beautifully illustrated by William Stout.

New film versions of "The Shrinking Man" and "I Am Legend" are in the works, along with "The Box," based on his short story "Button, Button." His post-op health is improving daily. His wife and four children and seven grandchildren are all well and flourishing. Life would seem to be rosy.

But as he stands outside his home, the sky a perfect blue, the sweet smell of freshly mown grass in the air, a mildly anxious frown appears on his face. Asks Mr. Paranoia: "Did we talk enough about the new book?"

© Dick Lochte L.A. Times

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2007

    The best dark fantasy stories ever written!

    An astounding event occurred in September 1989¿A signed and slipcased edition of Richard Matheson¿s collected stories was offered by Scream Press (called Dream Press for this limited edition of 1250 at Mr. Matheson¿s request). If you weren¿t lucky enough to snatch up a copy of that landmark volume (I¿m the proud owner of #373, which will never see the resale market), Gauntlet Press is giving you a second chance to own and read these marvels of short fiction. This third collection in the Gauntlet series boasts some of Mr. Matheson¿s most famous stories: ¿Nightmare at 20,000 Feet¿ (remember hot young William Shatner freaking out on the classic Twilight Zone episode of the same name?) and ¿Prey¿ (Karen Black pursued by a vicious killer Zuni fetish doll in her apartment in Trilogy of Terror). Three of my personal favorites are also included: the hilarious ¿Tis the Season to be Jelly¿ (opening line: Pa¿s nose fell off at breakfast--and it just gets weirder and funnier from there), a truly mind-blowing take on date rape, ¿The Likeness of Julie¿, and the story I¿m reminded of every summer¿s evening, ¿Crickets¿. These are daring and original stories that crack the roof off contemporary American mores, stories that stay with the reader for a lifetime. In addition to these splendid tales, you¿ll find a preface by Stanley Wiater, the original Dream Press introduction and the 2003 introduction by Gauntlet Press. Also included are heartfelt and insightful appreciations by such luminaries as Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Dennis Etchison and Richard Christian Matheson. I know you¿ll want to turn to the last page of this volume and read ¿Duel¿ the moment it arrives in your mailbox. So, go ahead! Why not? As long as you click on the cover and order this piece of literary history, you can read it anyway you¿d like. As long as you read it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2006

    More Of My Favorite Stories

    An astounding event occurred in September 1989¿A signed and slipcased edition of Richard Matheson¿s collected stories was offered by Scream Press (called Dream Press for this limited edition of 1250 at Mr. Matheson¿s request). If you weren¿t lucky enough to snatch up a copy of that landmark volume, Gauntlet Press is giving us a second chance to own and read these marvels of short fiction. This third collection in the Gauntlet series boasts some of Mr. Matheson¿s most famous stories: ¿Nightmare at 20,000 Feet¿ (remember hot young William Shatner freaking out on the classic Twilight Zone episode of the same name?) and ¿Prey¿ (Karen Black pursued by a vicious killer Zuni fetish doll in her apartment in Trilogy of Terror). Three of my personal favorites are also included: the hilarious ¿Tis the Season to be Jelly¿ (opening line: Pa¿s nose fell off at breakfast--and it just gets weirder and funnier from there), a truly mind-blowing take on date rape, ¿The Likeness of Julie¿, and the story I¿m reminded of every summer¿s evening, ¿Crickets¿. These are daring and original stories that crack the roof off contemporary American mores, stories that stay with the reader for a lifetime. In addition to these splendid tales, you¿ll find a preface by Stanley Wiater, the original Dream Press introduction and the 2003 introduction by Gauntlet Press. Also included are heartfelt and insightful appreciations by such luminaries as Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Dennis Etchison and Richard Christian Matheson.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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