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When I am asked how I got the idea for any particular novel, I can (usually) provide an answer.
For I Am Legend, it came while I was viewing Bela Lugosi's Dracula. It occurred to me that if one vampire is scary, what if the whole world was full of vampires?

For The Shrinking Man, the idea came during another movie I was viewing. Many of my ideas came from movies - ...

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When I am asked how I got the idea for any particular novel, I can (usually) provide an answer.
For I Am Legend, it came while I was viewing Bela Lugosi's Dracula. It occurred to me that if one vampire is scary, what if the whole world was full of vampires?

For The Shrinking Man, the idea came during another movie I was viewing. Many of my ideas came from movies - most likely not very good movies. A good movie does not create ideas since I am totally involved in it. A poor movie, on the other hand, might have some small element which brings on my imagination. So it was with this film. In a brief moment, which had nothing to do with the overall story Ray Milland unwittingly dons Aldo Ray's hat. His head being smaller than Ray's, the hat comes down over his ears. What, it came to me, would Ray Milland think if it was his own hat which now was too big for his head? Thus the genesis of a story about a man who discovers that he is shrinking.

For Hell House the notion arose as a result of many years of reading about haunted houses topped by a reading of Shirley Jackson's novel about Hill House. She never (in my memory) indicated the presence of an actual ghost. At least she never described one. The ghosts she had in mind were more than likely created by the psyche of one of the two women who came to the house. They were psychological ghosts brought on-or released-by the dark atmosphere of the house.

I didn't choose to go that route. I wanted my house to contain tangible ghosts. While the atmosphere of Hell House certainly has an effect on the minds of its quartet of invaders, visible, audible ghosts exist as well.

And for A Stir of Echoes recollections of a tract house my wife and I-and our two (then) children lived in-plus a desire (motivated by a beginning dislike of the "genre" concept) to combine a ghost story with a murder mystery brought on that novel.

For Woman . . . nothing. No memory whatsoever of its creative birth.
It seems most peculiar to me that such a (I hope) provocative concept came to me and left no trace of its genesis.

My wife has suggested that a three-year period during which I was writing a six-hour television adaptation of Philip Wylie's The Disappearance brought on the notion.

In Wylie's story, half of the disappearance results in a world populated exclusively by women, with the logical results of that condition. As I recall, the world, struggling back from technological limitations, does become a workable, more humane society-while the other half of the world, exclusively men, goes (rather rapidly) all to hell. As it probably would.

It certainly seems a reasonable idea that this adaptation (never filmed, I add regretfully; another unrealized dream) engendered the germ of an idea which ultimately became Woman, first a play (as yet unstaged), then the novel which you just (I assume) read.

I don't remember it happening that way, however. Even more strangely, I don't
recall research reading on the subject although, obviously, I did, quoting a number of sources in the novel.
 So, how did it happen? Did I channel some otherworldly manuscript? Did I contact Philip Wylie while I was sleeping?
 I doubt any of that. It's my concept, my story. Still, that a concept so specific, a concept rather unique (I think) should not be clearly deposited in my memory bank remains perplexing to me.
 However, I imagine that any number of story and novel ideas I've come up with in the past 60-plus years have no source remembrance in my mind.
 With regard to Woman, though, I have for many years certainly subscribed to its concept.
 That the so-termed female revolution (feminism) has resulted in many major alternations in society-alterations positive to the world--goes (I hope) without saying. Women in business, women in politics, women in education, women in religion, women in all areas of society itself.
 But is it enough? Has Nature (Mother Nature I feel compelled to add) come to the ultimate, albeit reluctant conclusion that revolution is not enough? That evolution must now perforce be activated in order to conclude Man's unending destruction of the world and all living things on its surface?
What more is there to say? Could be.

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Editorial Reviews

GF Willmetts
"...'Woman' concerns a disturbed Ganine Woodbury as she gate-crashes a TV talk show psychologist David Harper's pre-Emmy Awards celebration party and odd things happen. Migraines vanish. Sprained ankles restored to normal. Heart attacks happen later. The usual kind of things. At least, I suppose these things are normal. Who goes to dinner parties anyway? Not me. Doesn't matter. Matheson brings this story to life and that's all that matters."
J. L. Comeceau
"This is more than a book, my friends; this is an event! Please feast your eyes upon this priceless object: A brand new novel from the legendary Richard Matheson! Did my eyes nearly leap from their sockets? Yes! Did I devour this novel like a starving cur? Yes! Did I love it? YES! YES! YES! And you will love it, too. Mr. Matheson returns to his suspense-terror roots with Woman, a heart-clenching and very adult story about the war between the sexes. When an odd young woman named Ganine Woodbury slips into a television producer's pre-Emmy award party, she effectively pits the men against the women in a deadly war of attrition that culminates in a shocking climax that will leave you slack-jawed and gasping. Written with a brilliance and verisimilitude that places the reader directly into the action, this book is yet another triumph of stylish storytelling and richly imagined plot by my favorite writer, Richard Matheson. Enough said."
The TombKeeper
Mark Justice
"New fiction from Richard Matheson is always a call for celebration, even if it's a brief and minor effort. Matheson's a pro, and his level of craftsmanship always keeps the story moving, as it does here in another tale of contemporary horror....Matheson's ground breaking work in novels such as I AM LEGEND and STIR OF ECHOES, as well as his career as a TV and movie scribe, has earned him a fine reputation. WOMAN is a fast read and largely enjoyable which should provide the reader with an hour or two of pleasant entertainment."
William P. Simmons
"...A writer who brought believability and conscience to speculative fiction, Matheson has evolved no less rapidly as his tragic, multi-faceted characters, men and women whose battle includes each other as well as a malignance invited by ill informed impressions and struggling perceptions of Self. Woman is simply further evidence that despite his oft said aversion to horror fiction, his best work is found in his exploration of the monsters within."
Dark Discoveries, June 2005
"Richard Matheson obviously spent a lot of time researching his material for this novel. The main character is a psychologist who has quit his practice but keeps active with a radio talk show. His wife is a rising executive in the entertainment industry who is about to receive a number of Emmy Awards for her latest television creation. As we meet each of the characters we witness a debate over the death of feminism and the continuing rise of male chauvinism. This novel may offend some, but it will terrify many because Matheson's style makes this book appear more a work of fact rather than fiction."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781887368759
  • Publisher: Gauntlet, Incorporated CO
  • Publication date: 4/1/2005
  • Pages: 125
  • Sales rank: 1,515,587
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.28 (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 July 12, 2005

    Newest Novel by Richard Matheson is a Winner

    Richard Matheson's new novel WOMAN both harkens back to I AM LEGEND and HELL HOUSE and introduces the theme of the failure of the women's movement with a terrifying conclusion. Without giving away the plot, Matheson introduces Ganine a woman who feels she 'no longer herself.' She also claims she's pregnant, though she hasn't had sex in several years. She's obviously mad, which is why she seeks out a radio psychologist for help. Ganine has had certain destructive powers since she was young, but she can no longer control them. Is something controlling Ganine? That's for the reader to find out. The second half of the novel, in particular, is a page-turner with one surprise after another. The final surprise some might say comes out of the blue. But, just the title and cover blurb 'Men and woman can no longer co-exist' actually foreshadows the end. WOMAN will have men quaking in their boots. Some women will love Matheson's solution to the gender problem, though others will feel deeply threatened. At $12.95 the book is well worth the asking price. Richard Matheson, now nearing 80, hasn't lost a step.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2008

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