Richard Matheson is no longer Earthbound

Matheson-I-Am-Legend-hbWe bid farewell to Richard Matheson, one of Fedora’s first and greatest literary loves. Born in 1926, he was the author of such powerful and influential novels as I am Legend and The Shrinking Man as well as dozens of terrific short stories and screenplays, including most of the 1960s Poe adaptations directed by Roger Corman starring Vincent Price, some of the greatest episodes of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone in the 50s and 60s, Kolchack the Night Stalker as well as Spielberg’s unforgettable Duel. His wonderful time travel fantasy Bid Time Return later became the magical movie Somewhere in Time, which he also scripted and briefly appeared in. He died on Sunday at the age of 87 leaving a rich and lasting legacy (some reviewed by me, here) – as we mourn his passing we will continue to celebrate his work in all media.

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25 Responses to Richard Matheson is no longer Earthbound

  1. Colin says:

    Really, really sad news, isn’t it? One of the last of that generation of phenomenally talented and highly prolific writers.

    • Absoloutely Colin, it really feels like a blow, especially because he had remained so busy. I think the earliest episodes of Twilight Zone that I remember, like Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, were the ones he wrote rather than Serling’s in fact and his Shock anthologies were some of the earliest weird fiction I ever read. I think Button, Button may even be the first of his stories for me. It was adapted into the weird but interesting movie The Box not too long ago …

  2. le0pard13 says:

    The man will be sorely missed. Fine tribute.

  3. My first thought when hearing this news, was the stale “he’ll never die as long as we have his books”, but that’s not good enough. The loss felt when a truly original voice leaves us is hardly transient, but eternal. We have tasted of his unique talents and will always be possessed of a bitter hunger for those works left unwritten- an impossibility with the fragile reality of mortality -but perhaps a most heartfelt monument to one whose stilled voice has illuminated out lives but in whose absence will leave an indelible chasm.

  4. davekheath says:

    The world is a sadder and less scary place.

  5. PS – Anyone interested especially in the author’s work on film and TV should consult Matheson authority Matthew R. Bradley, who blogs at bradleyonfilm.

  6. TracyK says:

    He certainly had a very productive life and excelled in many areas. Back in April, when you reviewed Someone is Bleeding, I said I would be adding some of his books to my list, and I still plan to do that. I enjoyed reading through your older posts about his books. And I checked out the Bradley on Film blog. I see that there is book (Noir) that has three of his books but I will probably seek older copies first. I like the old paperbacks.

    • The original paperback editions of his early suspense novels are a bit hard to come by apart from that anthology but they are much prettier, no question about that! They are definitely apprentice works however and I think even Matthew Bradley would agree to that. Bid Time Return may be my favourite of his later novels though there are several I have yet to read including his westerns. He was just as good a screenwriter though, especially his scripts for the original The Twilight Zone.

  7. Marco says:

    R.I.P. He was my favourite horror writer. “I Am Legend” (I hate the movie with W. Smith, it has nothing in common with the spirit of the book),”A Stir of Echoes” and “The Shrinkng Man” are absolute classics, but the short novels are amazing too. I will never forget the first time I read “Disappearing Act” (in Italy “Scomparsa graduale”). It was love at first sight.
    Thank you for the joy you gave me Richard.


    • Grazie per i tuoi commenti Marco. My first Matheson was @Button, button@ and like you, I never looked back. I didn’t like all his work as much as that but he produced just so much great stuff that it is impossible for me not feel a bit indulgent. He made a great name for himself and now we have some great creations to remember – a great testament.

  8. Sergio, I have never read Richard Matheson before and he joins a long line of authors whom I have read only after their passage from this world. I have only got a whiff of his immense popularity in the blog world.

  9. John says:

    One of a kind, along with Bradbury a real pioneer in genre fiction. I’ve read only HELL HOUSE (phenomenal!) and that one about the magicians that seemed very derivative of SLEUTH and DEATHTRAP and similar stage plays. I think it was a stage play that never got produced. NOW YOU SEE HIM, NOW YOU DON’T — was that the title? Something like that. I have enjoyed so many of his TV adaptations over the years I’m surprised I’ve never sought out the orignal short stories. Still looking for his two crime novels you reviewed here a while back. RIP, Mr. M.

    • Thanks John – the short stories from the 50s and 60s are really worth getting hold of. The play that was turned into a novel was You’re thinking of Now You See It (which I previously reviewed here) – you are right to point to Sleuth, which it clearly emulates, in much the same way that Hell House is his version of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting. For all that, a distinctive voice and like Bradbury, a great loss – shame.

  10. Skywatcher says:

    It seems especially sad as, whenever he was interviewed, he always seemed strangely youthful in his attitudes and manner. Although he will rightly be remembered for his horror/sf stuff, he was quite outspoken about his dislike for ‘genres’ and said that they should be broken down. I’ve always wanted to see more of his non-sf work. Some years back I chanced to see an episode of HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL that he wrote and was very impressed. It was essentially light comedy and quite different from what might have been expected. Much as I Ioved some of Bradbury’s work, I always liked Matheson’s stuff a little bit more, as it had a slightly more cynical bite to it.

    • Thanks Skywatcher – certainly there was something very ‘down to earth’ about Matheson when compared with Bradbury, as absurd as that phrase might seem, with characters that were always very accessible and so often clearly ersatz Matheson everymen. I can’t really compare the two but their contribution is remains unquestionable.

  11. neer says:

    I have been going through some of your reviews, Sergio, and he does seem like a remarkable writer. Adding him to my wishlist.

  12. robert says:

    the shrinking man (a simple idea, but a very efficient one) and I am legend (the original movie with C. Heston) were really impressive for the child I was when I saw them several decades ago. But I must admit I had never read the books.

    • Thanks Robert – the Shrinking Man movie is very faithful to the book (well, Matheson wrote the screenplay too) whereas the Heston version of I Am Legend changes the book a lot. The earlier adaptation, The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price (which Matheson co-wrote but using his ‘Logan Swanson’ pseudonym when he got re-written) is more faithful. You can view it here:

      • robert says:

        thanks for the link. I was not aware of this earlier version, so I will look at it. I had always associated V. Price mostly with the horror films I enjoyed so much as a child.

        • Well, I think you’re right in this regard as the film, short incidentally in Rome mainly in the modernist EUR district, is handled as a horror / vampire movie, so well in keeping with his box office persona of the day.

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