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
UPDATED FOR THE 2014 SEASON
At Halloween-time, there are few activities more satisfying than falling whole-heartedly into a scary book. Reading opportunities abound:
- read during the last couple of trips to the cabin, because the lake turns chilly as soon as the earlier dusk sets in
- take your lunch hour at a park when the leaves are turning, the sun is warm, and the breeze is cool
- curl up with a mug of your favorite hot beverage and a blanket during one of the season’s last thundery evenings
- steal a chapter or two while waiting for the kid’s band / dance / karate lessons to end
- stay up too late so you can get through just one more chapter
I don’t read enough.
I used to. From the time I could pick up a book until my first child started walking, I was voracious. I’m well-versed in at least one era of horrorbooks. (See my favorite titles, from my favorite old-school writers, at the end of this post.)
Once my adulthood began in earnest, though, my time became scarce. I read as much as I could but I had to spend some time on more instructional things – books on parenting, budgeting, cooking, raising chickens, staying sane, etc. I lost track of most of the developments in my preferred genre. When I had time for fiction, the great temptation was to re-read old favorites, and seek out titles I may have missed from my stable of tried and true authors.
(Yes, that’s how out of touch I was — I didn’t KNOW Joe Hill was Stephen King’s son until after I bought Heart-Shaped Box. I was pleased, however, that I figured it out myself. I clearly remember getting really excited about this new writer within the space of the first chapter. I thought, Wow … this is like a modern King. I turned to the book jacket to read about the author and thought, Wow. He even looks a little like Constant Writer. Actually, he looks A LOT like him … and he’s from ‘New England’. Beat. Beat. OMG!!!)
It’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve made an effort to come up to speed on what’s going on in the horror world. What I’m seeing in the genre looks promising.
I think it’s harder to find new authors than it once was though. It doesn’t help that many bookstores have done away with the horror section. (Damn you, Barnes & Noble.) It doesn’t help that some of the horror imprints I used to count on have disappeared. (Right now I’m relying heavily on Samhain Horror.) In truth, I find Amazon overwhelming, and I’m not a big fan of the self-publishing craze. (I know there’s good stuff out there, it’s just hard to separate from the chaff … and I’ve found some awful chaff in the wilds of Amazon.) For all these reasons, I thought it might be helpful to tell you what I have found that I like.
Full disclosure: I “know” the new authors I’m about to list. There are no reviews of specific novels below. I can’t publicly critique the work of people I’ve come to think of as friends. Rest assured, If they are here, I like their work. This is simply a round up of resources for readers who are ready to try someone new. I’m comfortable telling you these guys are worth checking into. I’ll let you know which books I’ve read and show you where you can get a free sample or two of the author’s work – whether that be an ebook, a published short, an audio clip, or an outstanding blog post.
Hunter is the first author I connected with here in the blogosphere, and I did it before I read any of his work. I wrote a whole post about stalking him. (I’m more subtle about that kind of behavior now. But, if you think I’m trailing you, I probably am.) He was amazing to me, and I’m grateful for his support and encouragement. I was terribly relieved when it turned out he can really write too.
Sample his work here: The Graveyard Speaks is avaiable as a free ebook download. (This is a short story that bridges time between Forest of Shadows & Sinister Entity, but it’s a fine stand-alone.)
UPDATE: I told you a year ago to keep an eye on this guy. Not only is he prolific, he’s getting better with every book. The Montauk Monster, for example, was named one of the best reads of the summer by Publisher’s Weekly:
“This wholly enthralling hulk of a summer beach read is redolent of sunscreen and nostalgia, recalling mass market horror tales of yore by John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley.” — Publishers Weekly — Voted one of the best reads of summer!
His latest release is Hell Hole.
I’ve had the opportunity to interview Hunter about, well about all sorts of stuff, this year. Have a listen:
- Conversing with author Hunter Shea: on publishing horror.
- Interview with Hunter Shea: on THE WAITING and the true-life ghost-story that inspired the novella.
I’ve read: Darling
Sample his work here: Read the first chapter of Darling at his blog.
And/or, listen to one of Brad’s short stories – Breathe – read by John Shirley, on the podcast Tales to Terrify. (I’ll be getting back to that little gem in another post.) In the player available on the linked page, Breathe starts at approx 10:20 and continues to approx 17:45.
Extra fun: I think the book trailer counts.
Sample his work here: Night Terrors ( Part one of the five-part serial novel, Savage Species), available as a free ebook download.
UPDATE: Next up for me is Dust Devils:
Beware when the vampires come to town.
When traveling actors recruited his wife for a plum role, Cody Wilson had no idea they would murder her. Twelve-year-old Willet Black was just as devastated the night the fiends slaughtered everyone he loved. Now Cody and Willet are bent on revenge, but neither of them suspects what they’re really up against.
For the actors are vampires. Their thirst for human blood is insatiable. Even if word of their atrocities were to spread, it would take an army to oppose them. But it is 1885 in the wilds of New Mexico, and there is no help for Cody and Willet. The two must battle the vampires—alone—or die trying.
Extra fun: The finest Halloween blog post I’ve read yet: Born in Halloween. If you click on no other link in this post, click this one. This post is how I knew I needed to find and read his novels.
As far as I know, Mitch has confined himself to short stories so far, but I think he’s a comer.
Sample his work here: Mitch makes many of his short stories available at his blog. One of my favorites is A Kiss of Thorns
This Halloween, give a thought to these new authors and give them a chance. I suspect you’re going to be glad you did … now and in a few years.
That said, there’s nothing wrong in turning to one of the established masters. I will be re-reading some of these this fall … because I have to. The following list of great horror is nowhere near all-inclusive. I’m forcing myself to choose ONE book from my favorite 13 authors. For me, this is canon:
- Stephen King – IT
- Robert McCammon – Swan Song
- Dan Simmons – Summer of Night
- John Saul – Suffer the Children
- Poppy Z. Brite – Lost Souls
- Dean Koontz – Odd Thomas
- Peter Straub – Ghost Story
- Robert Bloch – Psycho
- Clive Barker – Cabal
- Richard Matheson – Hell House
- Anne Rice – The Witching Hour
- Shirley Jackson – The Haunting Of Hill House
- Joe Hill – Heart-Shaped Box
Anything above should satisfy your taste for horror this fall, but if you want something truly evocative of the Halloween season, I’d suggest:
HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN QUICK LINKS: