Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Richard Matheson

I used to think that nobody could write better than R. L. Stine. Then came Christopher Pike. Then Neil Gaimen. Then Stephen King. You see where I'm going with this, right?

I'm climbing up the ladder. And on each rung, I've learned lessons, took notes and have been amazed at some of the verbal gymnastics that writers accomplish in their stories. (Especially, Harlan Ellison. That guy is a history of words himself.)

But one writer I took a chance on.

A buddy of mine, Matt, introduced me to Matheson one day at a comic shop. There was a graphic novel by the name of I Am Legend, which said it was based on the novel. "It's crazy, man," he said. "It's about this guy whose holed up in his house, fending for himself as the last man alive against countless hordes of vampires." I was intrigued, but not enough to read the graphic novel. It sounded like an interesting concept but one which I thought would be very difficult to pull off and make believable.

Little did I know, when I walked into Borders and purchased my first Matheson book, I was carrying the words of a Master Storyteller.

Gradually I made my way through the book. Sometimes at night. Which wasn't a very wise thing to do. Nevertheless, I devoured page upon page. The book holds the novel plus 10 spine-tingling short stories. And brother, you won't know what hits you when you read those. It was almost like he walloped me with the novel, of it's premise, its fluidity, its science to explain why the vampires have survived for so long, but not only that, it had moxy. Matheson was not afraid to take such a big step and redefine the genre. Then his shorts were like quick jabs to the gut, taking you, the reader, by suprise, asking, "Hey! How'd he get away with that? I never saw that one coming?"

Don't know about Matheson? Sure you do. In some capacity.

He's written dozens of episodes of the Twilight Zone, adapted one of his short stories into a screenplay which later became Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg.

Almost each one of his novels have been adapted for the screen: What Dreams May Come, A Stir of Echoes, Somwhere in Time, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Hell House (WARNING: For those who think they know what true terror is and have not read this book, you are sorely mistaken and should test your mettle against this book. But don't read it in the dark, it only heightens the sensitivity of your fears.), Button, Button and many others.

I will say this, I've seen almost all of these movies and have read almost all of his books, except for one. The books are way better. Especially when you compare them for that sorry excuse for I Am Legend that stared Will Smith. I'm sorry, but any movie with the line: "" does not even deserve a mention next to Matheson.

However, he has dipped a little. His newest book, Other Kingdoms, left me wanting more and made me a little disappointed.

But, as with all authors, I don't flat out quit reading them if they have a dud. Stephen King and Dean Koontz have done that plenty of times and I still read them.

Heck, I was surprised to learn that a new movie coming out, Real Steel, was actually based on a Matheson story. Now that I know that, I might give this movie a watch. As for the horror titles, Matheson will always be at the top.

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