I’ve always been a big reader but I didn’t really become the horror fan I am until a little over a decade ago. While the first author for me to really become a fan of in that genre is Stephen King, reading King quickly leads to other authors. One of those authors was Richard Matheson, who passed away Sunday at the age of 87. I was very saddened to hear this news, even though Matheson seems to have led a very full life. I think it’s alway sad when someone that writes the stories that keep you company throughout your life is suddenly silenced. I felt the same way last year when Ray Bradbury, another author I discovered through Stephen King, passed away. Even though I never had the opportunity to meet either of these gentlemen, their stories are still part of my life. Below are just a couple of my favorite Richard Matheson novels :
I Am Legend– Most people my age are familiar with this story due to the Will Smith movie of the same name. While not a terrible adaptation, it joins the other two films based on this story in, somehow, not getting the story quite right. I made my boyfriend also watch The Omega Man and Last Man on Earth last summer. Neither of those films are great but Last Man on Earth comes closest to getting the end right. Do yourself a favor and read this novella about a man who is the last standing as humanity has been swallowed up and spit out as vampires. If the ending doesn’t punch you in the gut, you may be a vampire.
What Dreams May Come– This novel, like many others that Matheson wrote, also was adapted for the big screen starring Robin Williams. The movie does a decent job of portraying the story of a man trying to find and reconnect with his wife in the afterlife after a tragic accident tears apart their relationship. Personally, I love the movie. The book just goes deeper into Matheson’s thoughts on death and what comes after. It is truly beautifully written and one of those books that, when I finished it, I had to sit quietly for a few minutes to let it digest. I also spent years tracking down another copy after my old roommate poured juice all over another copy I had discovered at a used book store.
Stir of Echoes- I refer to this book as Desparate Housewives with more paranormal elements. Tom Wallace is an ordinary guy until he’s hypnotized at a party and starts being able to hear things he shouldn’t and learn the neighbors’ secrets. I loved how these secrets got darker and darker. This book is a really fast read as well, I think I finished it within a couple of days.
Hell House- This is Matheson’s haunted house story. The plot of the story, about a group of people going to investigate a haunted house, is very similar to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Shirley Jackson has been one of the few horror authors I’ve liked since high school so I had to read this to see how similar the two stories were. I believe I also read this for a group discussion on Goodreads. This book does amp up the sex and violence and is not shy about it. It is also one of the few haunted house stories I’ve read where it was hard to sleep after.
These are just four of the many stories written by Matheson that you can get lost in. I am happy, since I cannot say I have read all of Richard Matheson’s works, that I get to maintain that author/reader relationship with Matheson just a little bit longer. Rest in peace.