Dim the lights on Cimarron Street

Richard Matheson (1926-2013)

Richard Matheson (1926-2013)

Richard Matheson is dead at the age of 87. I don’t care how old he was. This still sucks.

The movies never got his stories right. (When do they ever?) But he was one of the biggest contributors to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, Stephen King before Stephen King, and the father of the zombie apocalypse.

I love me some TWILIGHT ZONE, and if you’re at all a fan of the series, you’ve seen most or all of his classics:

  • “And When the Sky Was Opened”
  • “Third from the Sun”
  • “The Purple Testament”
  • “The Last Flight”
  • “A World of Difference”
  • “A World of His Own”
  • “Nick of Time”
  • “The Invaders”
  • “Once Upon a Time”
  • “Little Girl Lost”
  • “Young Man’s Fancy”
  • “Mute”
  • “Death Ship”
  • “Steel”
  • “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”
  • “Night Call”
  • “Spur of the Moment”
"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" starring William Shatner.

“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” starring William Shatner.

His short story, “Duel”, about terrified motorist stalked on a remote and lonely road by the unseen driver of a mysterious tanker truck was later adapted into the feature length movie DUAL by a young director named Steven Spielberg. It was Spielberg’s second feature-length film as director.

REAL STEEL (2011), starring Hugh Jackman.

REAL STEEL (2011), starring Hugh Jackman.

He also wrote novels or short stories that would be filmed as THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957), THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973), SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1980), WHAT DREAMS MAY COME (1998), A STIR OF ECHOES (1999), THE BOX (2009), and REAL STEEL (2011), but he was best known for a novel he wrote that was filmed (more or less) four times, and none of them got it right.

I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson. Read it. Don't see it.

I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson. Read it. Don’t see it.

As William F. Nolan explained it at this year’s World Horror Convention, Matheson thought if DRACULA was a scary story with one vampire, how much scarier would a world full of vampires be? He added a rational, scientific explanation to their origin and behavior, and I AM LEGEND was written in 1954.

It was later filmed as THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) starring Vincent Price, THE OMEGA MAN (1971) starring Charleton Heston, I AM OMEGA (2007) starring nobody in particular, and I AM LEGEND (2007) starring Will Smith, but all of the movies altered significant plot points, and as a result, lost most of the punch that Matheson’s original novel delivered.

Your best bet is to read the book. If you haven’t, be prepared to be blown away. It’s that simple. He was the master of the genre, even if you haven’t heard of him.

When people ask me what genre my novel, LOSING TOUCH, is–I usually say horror or sci-fi, but if I’m being really honest, it’s really Richard Matheson. I owe him tons. Rest in peace.

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One Response to “Dim the lights on Cimarron Street”

  1. richardlarsen@comcast.net Says:

    The literary world mourns.

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