Today is the first anniversary of the day one of my five favorite writers of all time passed away.
My first exposure to Richard Matheson was undoubtedly the Twilight Zone, where he delivered such classic episodes as the Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, Steel, Death Ship, and for me, the unforgettable Little Girl Lost, about a girl who tumbles through a spot in her bedroom wall into a pocket dimension.
Matheson famously split Captain Kirk into two halves via the transporter in The Enemy Within on the original Star Trek.
The first novel of his I can remember is I Am Legend. My high school English teacher had an old paperback copy of it sitting on the shelf. The cover art was of a man reaching up to heaven howling with a stake and a mallet in his hands as dozens of grasping hands clutched at him from the shadows. The cover copy read “The Last Man Alive On A Planet Of Vampires.”
It would be years before I read it, but it always stuck with me. It’s a seminal work, singularly most responsible for the zombie craze.
The next, I think, was The Memoirs Of Wild Bill Hickock, a ‘found’ journal of the famous gunfighter debunking the myths of his life. I relished that book, one of the first westerns I ever read, and was astounded to make the connection at the end between this and ‘the guy who wrote for The Twilight Zone.’
Then I read What Dreams May Come.
It’s probably one of the finest, most life affirming novels I’ve ever read about the possibility of the continuance of the human soul unfettered by denominational dogma. A book I cherish, constantly recommend, and hope to pass on to my own children.
Matheson constantly surprised me. When I found out he’d written a World War II memoir, The Beardless Warriors, I rushed out and got it. It’s a powerful first person account, deftly bringing a modicum of comprehension to the total insanity of war.
Another book that holds an honored place in my library is his collection of western short stories, some weird, many rivaling even early Elmore Leonard, By The Gun.
And prose wasn’t enough. Matheson was an accomplished screenwriter, penning such great flicks as The Devil Rides Out, and Somewhere In Time (based on his own novel, Bid Time Return).
Last year the world lost a very great talent.
Nothing further to add, except if you haven’t read Matheson, do so.