Author Profile: Richard Matheson

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:

Richard Matheson’s Amazon Author Central page (at AmazonSmile)

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 Am Legend (at AmazonSmile)
4.2 out of 5 stars, 1024 customer reviews

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.

Hell House (at AmazonSmile)
3.9 stars, 309 reviews

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).

Somewhere In Time (at AmazonSmile)
4.1 stars, 136 reviews

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.



2 Responses to “Author Profile: Richard Matheson”

  1. Brian Says:

    Asimov, Doyle, then Matheson. The order you choose to feature these authors speaks volumes!

    Take heed ILMKers!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Brian!

      Well, if I’ve written those volumes, I’m afraid I haven’t read them myself. 🙂

      I don’t quite see the progression in the choices, so I’m very curious as to what you think it means…and why it should inspire caution. 🙂

      The order, let’s see:

      Asimov: probably best known as a science fiction writer in the 1950s. Seen as, perhaps, somewhat optimistic. Seen as science oriented, although the author wrote on wide-ranging topics including the Bible. I’m looking for trends here, and trying to guess what you think. 😉

      Doyle: probably best known as a mystery writer in the 1890s and early 1900s. Holmes and Challenger are…cynical people. I don’t think people would generally peg Doyle’s writing as optimistic. Also wrote on paranormal stuff: big promoter of spiritualism.

      Matheson: probably best known as a dark science fiction writer in the 1950s. Writing tone would not be seen as optimistic. Wrote some things with spiritual angles.

      I don’t see a progression in terms of chronology. Philosophical? Not clear to me, although arguably, the writers have gotten darker. Amount of science versus non-science? Perhaps…I’m bringing that one up because I know some people think that anyone who has written about “paranormal” material is sneakily trying to evangelize people (away from science or away from religion…which has always seemed oddly contradictory to me). I am an advocate of mental flexibility, but not an advocate of the reality of one thing or falseness of another.

      Nope, not seeing the progression yet.

      Geography, maybe? Let’s see, in order: born in Russia, Scotland, New Jersey…moving West? Perhaps ILMKers should fear I’ll do a profile of Mark Twain next? 😉

      I didn’t have a conscious order in mind, by the way. When I wrote my first one, I didn’t know who I would choose next (or even if I would do another one). The choice has come, in part, by what has been featured at Amazon (on a sale, for example). That tends to get me checking to see what is available on the Kindle (which impacts the choice).

      I’ll admit, I deliberately thought about doing an author that was more clearly outside the arguable genre sphere of these three this time (like a romance or Western author, although there are crossovers here…the romance part was what in part led me to Matheson, because of Somewhere in Time), but I needed to do something I could do relatively quickly last night, and I’m pretty familiar with Matheson…I also knew that the Kindle store had quite a few titles. I’d actually checked Arthur Byron Cover and Charles G. Finney, but there wasn’t enough to justify for a post.

      So, back to my curiosity…what do you see as the trend? Is there someone you think I should write about for the next one?

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