Collected Stories, Volume 3by Richard Matheson
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,/p>… See more details below
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Read an Excerpt
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
What People are saying about this
Edge Books, an imprint of our friends at Gauntlet Press, have done old-timers like me the favor of taking the huge volume of Richard Matheson's epic Collected Stories and, with the help of editor Stanley Wiater, turned it into four handsome, affordable ($16.95) volumes.
The book I'm looking at is volume three and it's the best so far containing, as it does, some genuine masterpieces that will outlast us all. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, The Likeness of Julie, Mute, Girl of My Dreams, Shock Wave, Prey and Duel are just a few other stories here, along with remarks by such folks as Harlan Ellison, Stephen King. Dennis Etchison and Richard Christian Matheson.
This is a book you'll keep for life.
Thrills and Chills with the Grandmaster of Horror and Science Fiction
Television viewers during the latter half of 2005 may have seen a TV program called The Night Stalker. It starred actor Stuart Townsend and was little more than a copy of The X-Files, for all that it took its name from a classic series from the 1970s which starred Darren McGavin.
The series did not fare well, which made fans of the original quite happy, as they were outraged at what had been done to their favorite paranormal investigator. (Ironically, the original Night Stalker is now more popular than ever, with frequent showings on the Sci-Fi channel, and graphic novels and a recent anthology of prose stories brought out by Moonstone Books.
What has all this got to do with a review of Richard Matheson: Collected Stories, Volume 3? Well, it was Matheson who took an unpublished story of an author named Jeff Rice and brought it to the screen as The Night Stalker in 1972. He also scripted its sequel The Night Strangler, produced in 1973.
In fact, most people who grew up watching televison science fiction and horror over the past several decades have quite probably seen episodes either written by Richard Matheson himself or inspired by one of his stories....as for example many of the classic stories contained within this volume.
The classic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," of course - starred William Shatner in the television Twilight Zone version and John Lithgow in the movie version (and who can forget their scene together in Third Rock From The Sun in which their characters comment on having a similar experience).
"Big Surprise" was adapted for an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery and starred John Carradine as an old man who keeps trying to persuade boys to dig ten feet under an old apple tree for a big surprise. (I suppose Matheson made it ten feet instead of six feet so as not to give the surprise ending away too quickly)
"No Such Thing as a Vampire" became a segment of Dead of Night, and starred Patrick Macnee. "First Anniversary" was made as a segment of the 1990s The Outer Limits, and starred Matt Frewer. Karen Black starred in the "Julie" segment of A Trilogy of Terror as well as the "Therese" segment (which interestingly enough is remarkable similar to a much earlier Agatha Christie short story. In her short fiction, Christie frequently touched on supernatural and mild horror themes.)
"Mute" was one of the hour-long episodes of The Twilight Zone, and "Girl of My Dreams" was adapted by the anthology series Journey to the Unknown.
Matheson's "Prey" found television life in two forms. The Twilight Zone rejected it originally so he rewrote it to turn it into "The Invaders", in which Agnes Moorehead plays a woman under attack by two tiny creatures...who turn out to be Earthlings. When the audience's sensabilities were judged to be ready, this tale of a Zuni fetish doll attacking a woman was made into a segment of Trilogy of Terror II (1996).
"Button, Button," similar to "The Monkey's Paw" but with a rather more chilling ending, was adapted for the 1980s revival of The Twilight Zone.
And "Duel" of course was made into a movie by Steven Spielberg and starred Dennis Weaver.
Gauntlet Press has collected together all 86 of Richard Matheson's short stories into three volumes. (He abandoned the form in 1971). This is the third volume in the set, but really, if you're a Matheson fan you'll want to acquire all three of them. (And if you're not a Matheson fan, you should be.
What makes this collection so special is that Matheson himself writes postscripts for each story, in which he gives information on his inspiration for the story, or how he wrote it, or something else of interest. So in addition to these great stories, you're also getting insight into the mind of the creator.
The last 29 of Matheson's short stories are contained within this volume. There are also 4 'appreciations' - one written by Harlan Ellison, one by Steven King, one by Dennis Etchidon, and one by his son, Richard Christian Matheson.
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