I hope people are reading my work in the future. I hope I have done more than frightened a couple of generations. I hope I’ve inspired a few people one way or another. –Richard Matheson
I have a confession. Until very recently I had never in my life sat down and read a Richard Matheson novel.
That’s not to say I was unfamiliar with his work. Matheson’s 1954 vampire novel I Am Legend inspired the films Night of the Living Dead, Omega Man, and, of course, 2007’s I Am Legend. His novel Bid Time Return became the cult classic film Somewhere In Time. Hell House naturally became The Legend of Hell House. He also penned the teleplays for many of my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone. Therefore, I was familiar with Matheson’s work for the screen, but not especially with his prose. For that, I am deeply regretful.
I am now a Richard Matheson fan.
Stephen King, of whom I’m also a fan, has stated that Matheson’s work was influential on his own. Upon reading I Am Legend, I can see that. King’s narrative style is quite similar to Matheson’s, particularly in the early works of King’s career (The Shining, Salem’s Lot, The Dead Zone).
For me, dusting off and finally cracking that copy of I Am Legend was like finding an early unread King story crammed behind the volumes of his other works on my bookshelf, or like traveling back in time to when I first discovered King’s work. I Am Legend stirred the same page-turning excitement in me that I experienced from King back then, an effect that has not been reproduced in me by King’s post-1980s work (although Bag of Bones is an exception).
If you’re a fan of early King and have never read any of Matheson’s work, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of I Am Legend or download the recently released eBook. As for me, I’m ready to step back in time again, to experience those old familiar creepy sensations of horror that only works like these can produce. I’ll be adding more Matheson to my library.