Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
A Touch of the Creature
Charles Beaumont
Subterranean Press, 175 pages

Art: Phil Parks
A Touch of the Creature
Charles Beaumont
Charles Leroy Nutt was born in 1929 in Chicago, IL. Like H.P. Lovecraft, Beaumont was brought up by some somewhat eccentric aunts, and like Lovecraft, Beaumont was the centre of and collaborator in a circle of fiction writers, that in his case included Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, Chad Oliver, Ray Russell, Jerry Sohl, and John Tomerlin. Besides his many contributions to Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, Beaumont is best remembered for his superb science fiction and horror short stories that appeared in 5 collections during his lifetime: The Hunger and Other Stories, The Magic Man, Night Ride and Other Journeys, Yonder, and the anthology The Fiend in You which he edited.

His career began with the sale, in September 1954, of the novella Black Country to Playboy, where he published another dozen short stories and essays. However, Beaumont did not restrict his writing to one genre. He wrote: (i) on cars and car racing, including 2 books with Nolan (Omnibus of Speed, When Engines Roar); (ii) Walt Disney and other comic books (e.g., Mickey Mouse: The Mystery of Whaler's Cove) with Nolan; (iii) 13 screenplays and more then 75 teleplays, including the film adaptation of Charles G. Finney's The Circus of Dr. Lao as The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao; (iv) movie reviews for Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; and (v) a controversial book on southern school integration, The Intruder, later filmed by Roger Corman and starring William Shatner. Beaumont died from the early onset of Alzheimer's, aged 38, on February 21, 1967. The posthumous collection of his best short stories, introduced by many of his friends, Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories (a.k.a. The Howling Man), won the 1989 Bram Stoker Award for "Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection." The current title collects stories written in the late 40s and early 50s which have not been published before.

ISFDB Bibliography
Charles Beaumont Tribute Site
Charles Beaumont Tribute Site
Charles Beaumont Tribute Site
Subterranean Press
VHS tape of The Intruder starring William Shatner

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

The stories in A Touch of the Creature were gleaned from boxes of manuscripts that Beaumont left behind upon his untimely death in 1967. These include what for another author one might term "second string" works, but these are the "second string" works of one of the masters of modern horror and science-fiction. Reading these stories, from humorous farces to cynical indictments of the film industry, one can easily sense why Beaumont was so popular and so influential. What is Beaumont's writing like? It is difficult to pin Beaumont down. His writing and themes are like the best of the original Twilight Zone, of which he wrote close to 20 episodes. His stories comment on the human condition, often with a twist ending that both surprises and bears a message. Beaumont's characters are complex and when not endearing, at least memorable.

Personally, while I would recommend reading Beaumont to any aspiring authors, and respect him for the quality of his writing and for his importance in bridging the gap between pre-WWII and recent SF/horror literature, I dislike the setting of most of his stories to the point that I never really enjoy his stories very much. While, admittedly, a great many of Beaumont's stories deal with the hypocrisy and tears in the social fabric of his time, most are set in 50s America, where smug cigarette-smoking men drop by the bar for cocktails after work, have pretty and dutiful wives at home, and all the other trappings of Father Knows Best. Having grown up in the late 60s and early 70s, I have a particularly deep-seeded if perhaps unjustified prejudice against my parents' era.

Also, Beaumont and Richard Matheson were amongst the first modern writers to begin a significant shift from the older, atmospheric (my personal favourite) to the new event-based style of horror. However, here it would be unfair to suggest that Beaumont's stories were weak on atmosphere. Perhaps the reason, why, notwithstanding my prejudices, I have read all his short story collections, is that Beaumont had a knack of creating an atmosphere so very well that even when that atmosphere is irking, it's wonderfully irking.

The stories in A Touch of the Creature certainly have the Beaumont touch. Many of the stories can't really be categorized as horror or science-fiction, much as many Twilight Zone episodes merely used the trappings of these genres to shield their message from network censors. All the stories are about people. "Moon in Gemini" is an excellent piece about a young pregnant woman whose hormones take her on a harrowing trip of paranoia and despair. "Adam's Off Ox" and "The Junemoon Spoon" are both tales of rural humour. "Lachrymosa" is a tale of a widow and widower meeting in the cemetery, touching but not maudlin or saccharine -- a people story. Some equally good stories are more conventional supernatural horror: "The Indian Piper" a story of a down-and-out tycoon in a flea-bag hotel and the strange pipe player in the room next door, and "Time and Again" about parallel deaths in ancient Egypt and modern times.

"Resurrection Island" is a very cynical story about the film industry, where the director goes for the ultimate in realism in ancient Roman war scenes. While the stories may not have the impact of Beaumont classics like "Miss Gentibelle" and "Perchance to Dream," they are certainly very good.

If you fancy yourself any sort of serious fan of modern imaginative fiction you'll want to pick up A Touch of the Creature. The book also includes a Preface by Beaumont's son Christopher, where he discusses his misgivings and joy about bringing forth some of his father's early works. Also included is an introduction by Charles Beaumont's close friend Richard Matheson, where he points out his surprise and pleasure at the diversity and quality of the work in A Touch of the Creature. As Matheson puts it, "It's a journey worth taking." I concur.

Copyright © 2000 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide