Eighty-eight years ago yesterday, on February 20th, 1926, Richard Matheson was born. In 1950, his story, Born of Man and Woman, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It garnered a great deal of attention and his literary career was launched. He died on June 23rd, 2013. Between those dates, he changed everything in the field of horror. (He also wrote sci-fi, fantasy, westerns and mysteries, but I think his greatest contribution was to my own beloved genre.) To read a simple but complete biography of his life, visit Bio.
If you are a casual horror / sci-fi fan, you may not realize just how influential this writer was in his lifetime. Stephen King is frequently quoted as saying “[Richard Matheson is the] author who influenced me most as a writer.” Just days after Matheson’s death, King posted a tribute, at StephenKing.com, which you can read HERE.
Right now, I want to celebrate this man’s life by getting some of his brilliance into your head. I’ve collected the most easily accessible works in the lists below. Please note that I’ve NOT seen or read everything here. Those pieces that I especially recommend are highlighted in green text. (Please also know that seeing any adaptation of I Am Legend is going to be frustrating. None of them do it justice. In the video interview at the bottom of this post, Matheson says so himself.)
It’s possible at hulu.com to stream all episodes of the original Twilight Zone series on your computer for free. This is what Matheson contributed to that series:
THE TWILIGHT ZONE:
NIGHT GALLERY (1971):
S1 E5 The Enemy Within (You must be a subscriber to watch Star Trek on hulu.)
Like so many authors of his generation, Matheson wrote for periodicals, and in his time there were many wonderful, inexpensive pulp-style magazines to host his creativity. At unz.org, you will find “A Free Website for Periodicals, Books, and Videos” where you can view PDFs of certain stories, just as they appeared when they were published.
Of course, Matheson was an author of books too … many of them horror. I believe you will (always and forever) find him on the shelves of any decent bookstore, but a lot of us have switched to e-books. Here’s what I found at Amazon:
The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok $6.64
The Gun Fight $5.98
Legends of the Gun Years $8.89
Other Kingdoms $7.59
The Path: A New Look At Reality $7.59
Shadow on the Sun $6.83
Duel: Terror Stories by Richard Matheson $8.89
The Beardless Warriors: A Novel of World War II $7.59
Hunted Past Reason $8.89
Steel: And Other Stories $6.95
A Stir of Echoes $8.89
What Dreams May Come: A Novel $8.89
Hell House $8.89
The Box: Uncanny Stories $6.83
Nightmare At 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories By Richard Matheson $8.89
Somewhere In Time $5.98
I Am Legend (RosettaBooks into Film) $6.09
… but as for that last one, if you are a horror fan, you should own the most beautiful copy of the bound book you can afford. It IS canon.
When it comes to the movie adaptations of Matheson’s work, I’ve gathered a few resources for you. I’ve provided the IMDb listing for all of them, and the Netflix listing where I could. Any movie that is available on streaming is generally available on disc too. If I did not provide a Netflix link, that means it’s not available NOW, but many are expected to become available eventually.
Burn, Witch, Burn (1962) IMDb
The Last Man on Earth (1964) IMDb
Die! Die! My Darling! (1965) IMDb
The Devil Rides Out (1968) IMDb
Cold Sweat (1970) IMDb
The Night Stalker aka The Kolchak Papers (1972) IMDb
The Night Strangler (1973) IMDb
Kolchak: The Night Stalker Series: Series on Netflix Streaming
Dying Room Only (1973) IMDb
Scream of the Wolf (1974) IMDb
The Incredible Shrinking Woman (comedy, 1981) IMDb