Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson (1926-2013) was a prolific speculative fiction author and screenwriter who wrote novels, short stories, movie screenplays, and scripts for television. He is perhaps best known for I Am Legend, a novel that was translated to the silver screen twice-once starring Charlton Heston, and once starring Will Smith. His screenplay The Incredible Shrinking Man, based on a prior novel, won the Hugo Award in 1958. Several other novels of Matheson's have been adapted to film, including What Dreams May Come, A Stir of Echoes, Duel, and Hell House. The movie version of Duel, based on a Matheson short story of the same name, was directed by Steven Spielberg. He is also known for writing dozens of episodes for The Twilight Zone, including the iconic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," and several popular Star Trek episodes, including "The Enemy Within."

In addition to the Hugo Award, Richard Matheson was the recipient of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement (1984) and an Edgar Award for a teleplay written for The Night Stalker. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010.

Featured Books By Author

Camp Pleasant

This short novel that is told with almost fable-like simplicity: Matt Harper is a first-time counselor at a boy’s summer camp when he witnesses a casual brutality that leads to murder. The bullying, gluttonous headman Ed Nolan (who has "reduced Camp Pleasant to a microcosm of the Third Reich") is portrayed as one stereotype that the reader is not sorry to see killed off. Instead, all of our sympathy is reserved for the possible suspects: Merv Loomis, the homosexual counselor Nolan humiliates into quitting; the troubled ten-year-old Tony Rocca; Nolan’s meek wife, Ellen; and several others. The setting and tone have the distinct feel of the early 1950s, but a casual reference to actress Catherine Deneuve places the action in the mid-60s or later.

In other hands, perhaps this minimalist plot would be inadequate, but Matheson, author of Somewhere in Time and Hell House as well as classic Twilight Zone teleplays, has such a command of his craft that reading this book is pure pleasure. The simple writing style brings to mind Hemingway. "It was a Wednesday night and there were movies down in the lodge so I sent my boys there and stayed in the cabin, packing my trunk." Occasionally, Matheson waxes poetic: "I lay there staring at the wall, feeling my heart thud slowly in my chest like the fist of a dying man on the wall of his prison." Readers will find in Matheson’s book a deeply engaging story with a clear writing style that is a pleasure to read.

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Backteria and Other Improbable Tales

Available only in e-book format, Backteria and Other Improbable Tales is a brand new collection of short tales of terror and the unknown from master storyteller Richard Matheson. In the title story, published here for the first time, a researcher encounters an exotic new strain of virus that causes the infected person to disappear. Curiosity leads the doctor on a path of discovery which takes him deep into his own personal history and suggests the age-old warning: Be careful what you wish for.

In "Getting Together", a case of mistaken identity leads to a darkly farcical story of marriage, murder, and a love that knows no bounds. The quietly threatening "Haircut" shows how a routine trim becomes a dark and terrifying experience when a barber is confronted with a sick customer who seems to him otherworldly.

In this collection of stories Matheson clearly demonstrates once again why Ray Bradbury called him "one of the most important writers of the twentieth century" and Stephen King named him as "the author who influenced me most as a writer."

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Earthbound

In 1982, before Matheson had fully achieved the cult-and-grandmaster status that he enjoys today, Playboy Press published a version of his erotic ghost story that was so severely edited that Matheson took his name off the book and instead published it under the name Logan Swanson.

In this restored version of the original manuscript, David and Ellen Cooper’s 21-year-old marriage is nearing the rocks, so they decide to leave Los Angeles for a honeymoon and go to Long Island. Soon after they arrive at their beach cottage, a strange woman, Marianna, appears to David, and he is immediately entranced.

Matheson adeptly explores David’s growing fear and guilt, which becomes intensified after he and Marianna make love in a secret room in the house. Although Marianna is portrayed as an "earthbound spirit" (a ghost who rejects the afterlife, appears real to all senses, believes she is alive, and through psychic attack, sucks life from the living) she’s really more or less a succubus, gussied up in Casper the friendly ghost clothing. With each graphically detailed sexual rendezvous, Marianna pushes David to deeper levels of obsession, loss of will and irrationality. The story reaches an even higher pitch as the evil ghost begins to threaten Ellen, injecting some excellent suspense into unabashed pathos and outright titillation.

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Books By
Richard Matheson