Friday, May 23, 2008

The Richard Matheson Companion

I Am Legend, The Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, The Beardless Warriors, Hell House, Bid Time Return, What Dreams May Come, Journal of The Gun Years--to name just a few of the novels. Four Poe films for Roger Corman, The Twilight Zone scripts, The Night Stalker, Duel, Somewhere in Time. To name just a few of the movie and television projects. And a list of exemplary short stories that fills three pages.

The man's names is Richard Matheson, of course, and I would argue that he has had a greater influence on popular culture than any other storyteller of our time. Not simply by the startling number of classics he's written but also by the how many writers and directors have been inspired by his work. I would also argue that he has written more enduring classics than anybody else in our time.

The Richard Matheson Companion is the centerpiece of Gauntlet's Press' Matheson publishing program. Edited by Stanley Wiater and Matthew R. Bradley this beautifully made massive companion offers "The most complete documentation of Matheson's work ever compiled, with comprehensive and annotated lists of his books, stories, nonfiction, films, television episodes, published and unproduced scripts, adaptations, awards, and much more."

The volume includes detailed discussions of Matheson's work by Harlan Ellison, Ed Gorman, Dean Koontz, and David Morrell.
Appreciations by those who have been influenced or inspired by Matheson over the years, such as Dennis Etchison, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Brian Lumley, producer Stephen Simon, F. Paul Wilson, and Gahan Wilson. And heartfelt tributes from Matheson's wife, Ruth, and their children Bettina, Richard Christian, Chris, and Alison, three of whom are also successful writers.

All this said the most stunning aspect of the Companion is the novella The Years Stood Still which Matheson wrote when he was fourten. Yes, fourteen. It has been republished here exactly as Matheson wrote it, infelicities and all. But infelicities don't matter. Years is better written, better plotted, better stage-managed than many novellas I've read by twenty-five year olds. No exaggeration. Many of his famous gifts--creating and sustaining supense especially--are here in early form. It allows you to understand why he was ready to shock the science fiction community with "Born of Man and Woman" when he was still a young man. He had already been honing his genius for many years.

There is no one quite like Richard Matheson, man and writer. And no book quite like The Richard Matheson Companion.

1 comment:

Randy Johnson said...

I've been a fan of his works for years. I haven't seen I Am Legend yet. But what I've read on the internet, they still haven't got it right.
When I read about Eddie Murphy connected with The Incredible Shrinking Man, I wanted to cry. I never was a fan of Lily Tomlin's version of the book. It's been a long time, but, as best I can remember, the Fifties film was pretty good. But I am speaking from a memory of a younger age and you know how that goes. I've seen too many films that I enjoyed years ago which didn't hold up to a more adult perspective.