Author Profile: Richard Matheson
This is one in a series of posts where I focus on a particular author.
If you were a fan of a certain type of dark science fiction in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s (one which brought an often intellectual horror to a contemporary world; that used the rational to create an irrational fear), you were a fan of Richard Matheson’s…whether you knew it or not.
That would be true for readers, but also for television viewers. Matheson wrote 14 episodes of the original The Twilight Zone, and also wrote the two TV movies which were the basis for Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
In terms of books, you can find both novels and short story collections by Matheson in the Kindle store:
Several of the works have been adapted for movies or TV (sometimes being adapted more than once). It’s interesting, because I wouldn’t say that The Shrinking Man, for example, is particularly cinematic when you read it. Matheson (sort of like Michael Crichton, who came later, of course) is definitely writing a book when you read them…getting into inner monologues, crafting metaphysical journeys. Yet, even though the movies (even when adapted by Matheson) are not “faithful” to the written word, they still have such intriguing ideas that they work.
Here are a few suggestions for Matheson Kindle books:
I would probably start here. This was Matheson’s first big successful novel (in 1954), and has had four definite movie adaptations (and George Romero cited it as an inspiration).
The basic idea, which may now seem familiar, but was pioneering at the time, is a lone human survivor holding out against…well, what are sort of vampires. There is a routine to this existence: humans adapt. I definitely also see echoes of this in AMC’s The Walking Dead…the characters are frightened and in danger, but killing zombies is all in a day’s work.
My favorite adaptation of this is actually the low-budget Vincent Price version, but you might be familiar with The Omega Man with Charlton Heston, or the Will Smith version.
Stephen King has called this the “…scariest haunted house novel ever written.” Even though it is a “haunted house” book, it is still grounded in reality (with a physicist as one of the main characters).
Do those two sound too dark for you? This time travel tale was the basis of a romantic movie with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.
I’m going to just list some more, although that doesn’t mean that I recommend them any less:
- What Dreams May Come (made into a movie with Robin Williams)
- Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (remember the Twilight Zone episode with William Shatner and the “thing on the wing”? That was based on one of the short stories collected here…it also includes “Prey”, the basis of the classic killer African doll segment of the TV movie Trilogy of Terror with Karen Black)
- The Shrinking Man
- Duel: Terror Stories (the first one was made into Steven Spielberg’s first movie)
- Steel: and Other Stories (the basis for Real Steel with Hugh Jackman…and of a Twilight Zone episode with Lee Marvin)
- The Box: Uncanny Stories (the title story here was a movie with Cameron Diaz)
- Shadow on the Sun (a supernatural Western)
- The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickock
From Star Trek to an episode of The Family Guy…to the inside of your head…Matheson will take you on a voyage you might wish you could forget, but that you hope you never will.
* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.