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Collected Stories, Vol.3
Richard Matheson
Edge Books/Gauntlet Press, 349 pages

Collected Stories, Vol.3
Richard Matheson
Richard Matheson was born in New Jersey in 1926 and has lived and worked in California since 1951. In addition to novels in the mystery, science fiction, horror, fantasy, and western field, he's also done many film and television scripts including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" from The Twilight Zone. He also wrote episodes of Have Gun, Will Travel, Night Gallery, and Star Trek. Several of his novels and stories have been made into movies including The Shrinking Man, I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come (the film starred Robin Williams). His awards include the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Bram Stoker Award for Life Achievement, the Hugo Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Golden Spur Award, and the Writer's Guild Award.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Earthbound
SF Site Review: The Shrinking Man
SF Site Review: Duel
SF Site Review: I Am Legend

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

Some time ago, reviewing a reprint collection of old stories by an elderly, well respected and multi-awarded master of horror (whom I won't mention here), I commented that "some legends don't last forever." The stories, twenty years or so later, appeared dated, obsolete, disappointing.

Afraid of re-living the same experience I've started reading this book, assembling Richard Matheson's short fiction written between 1959 and 1971, holding my breath. I shouldn't have worried at all, knowing that the author of so much great fiction and so many great scripts for the legendary The Twilight Zone and other countless successful TV series has produced material meant to last.

Originally part of a huge volume of collected stories published in a limited hardcover edition by Dream/Press in 1989, the present book includes some ageless classics as 'Duel' and ' Nightmare at 20,000 Feet' -- too widely known to require any further comment -- as well as a number of less famous stories so fresh and entertaining that they give the impression of having been written only yesterday.

The themes and the atmospheres are extremely varied, ranging from the macabre vignette ('Big Surprise') to the powerful tale of black magic ('From Shadowed Places'), from the unorthodox vampire story ('No Such Thing As a Vampire') to the humourous SF piece ('The Creeping Horror'), from the typical weird tale ('Deadline') to the pure Twilight Zone story ('Mute').

Much to your satisfaction you'll read about a church organ acting weird ( 'Shockwave') , discover how a family secret is finally revealed to a distraught wife-to-be ( 'Interest') , realize how being thirsty can become a nightmare ('A Drink of Water') and what kind of tricks aliens can use to be loved by men ('First Anniversary').

Sometimes Matheson uses light tones apt to simply surprise and amuse, sometimes he deeply digs in the reality of human condition, creating little masterpieces that, in his clear and unassuming narrative style, go beyond the limits of the weird story to probe the mysteries of life.

Fine examples of the latter type are 'Mantage' where life becomes a sequence of scenes like it happens in a movie, 'Fingerprints' depicting an odd love encounter on a bus riding in the night and 'Girl of My Dreams' where a sensitive able to predict deadly accidents greatly disappoints her greedy husband.

Many of the tales included in this collection have been subsequently adapted as TV episodes, which is not surprising not only because they are good stories but because they possess a vivid visual character. Especially popular were the three segments of Trilogy of Terror starring Karen Black and directed by Dan Curtis, first broadcasted in 1975: 'The likeness of Julie' about a plain-looking but dangerous girl managing to lure men into her arms, 'Therese,' a cruel example of how Voodoo can work (and fail) and 'Prey' where a girl's quiet evening is turned into an ordeal by an aggressive, exotic doll.

In Matheson's own words the common leitmotif of his work is "the individual isolated in a threatening world, attempting to survive" and the reason for writing those stories was to exorcise his paranoia. Unfortunately for us, he stopped writing short fiction in 1971, just after completing 'Duel.' Another good reason to go back and rediscover those perfect literary gems.

Copyright © 2006 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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