He Is Legend & The Twilight and Other Zones (The Matheson Companion)

HE IS LEGEND
Edited By Christopher Conlon
Gauntlet Press
ISBN:978-1-887368-10-0
2009; $60.00

THE TWILIGHT AND OTHER ZONES:
THE DARK WORLDS OF RICHARD MATHESON
Edited by Stanley Wiater, Matthew R. Bradley and Paul Stuve
Citadel Press
ISBN: 978-0-8065-3113-7
2009; $19.95

First off, on a personal note, Richard Matheson has long been one of my favorite authors – one that I discovered (along with Ray Bradbury, William Nolan, and Harlan Ellison among others) as a kid. A tribute to the man and his work in fiction (I am Legend, Bid Time Return, Shock (1-4), Hell House, etc.), TV (The Twilight Zone, Thriller, Star Trek, Night Gallery, Lawman, Night Stalker, Dracula, Trilogy of Terror, etc.), and Movies (The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Fall Of the House of Usher, Pit and The Pendulum; Burn, Witch, Burn; etc.) as well as a companion to his vast catalogue – is long overdue. It has long been a crime that Matheson is not a “household name“ such as Stephen King, Dean Koontz or Bradbury. As both this limited edition tribute anthology, and a nonfiction companion for him have arrived around the same time, it seems fitting to combine the reviews as they both “bookend” each other nicely.

So onto the tribute to Matheson, He Is Legend , featuring work by contemporaries as well as writers strongly influenced by the man.

After a forward by Editor Christopher Conlon (a long-time devote to the California Writers Group Matheson was part of) and an Introduction by Ramsey Campbell, the collection leads off with a highly anticipated collaboration between Stephen King and his son Joe Hill, “Throttle”. A sequel to “Duel”, the Kings pit an aging biker gang against the faceless, demonic trucker. For the most part, a pretty good action filled tale, with great characterization, but a little disappointing as they reveal who the driver is and provide a motive for his actions that I think take the wind out of the sails a bit. The strength of the original tale is you never see who the trucker is, and in my opinion makes it scarier.

Continuing on with some of the stronger stories, F. Paul Wilson helms a sequel to “The Distributor” (a personal favorite of mine) called “Recalled”, which tells the fate of the protagonist from the original tale. Although Wilson’s short fiction is a bit up and down for me usually, this one works very well. In this case, seeing the human side of the main character adds to the tension rather than taking it away. William F. Nolan clocks in with a great sequel to “The Children of Noah” titled “Zachary Revisited” which takes us back to that small town that built itself on a very unseemly foundation. The ever-steady Gary Braunbeck offers the answer to Matheson’s “Button, Button” in his wonderfully poetically titled “Everything Of Beauty Is Taken From You In This Life Remains Forever”, and John Shirley rides in with a great western story in “Two Shots From Fly’s Gallery”, his time-travel riff on “Bid Time Return”. Joe Lansdale attacks with a strong sequel to “Prey” – “Quarry”. Whitley Streiber’s tale “Cloud Rider“ – while being purported as story influenced by the body of Matheson’s work – doesn’t seem to have much to do with Matheson in general, but is a wonderful, inventive story that definitely ranks amongst the best in the book and one of the best Strieber has written. Capping it off is a collabrative Screenplay between Matheson and Charles Beaumont – Burn, Witch, Burn – based on Fritz Leiber’s novel Conjure Wife.

A couple were a little bit weaker such as Michael Arnzen’s “Screech Like Me” (a sequel to “Born Of Man and Woman“) – which isn‘t badly written, but doesn‘t really add anything new to the tale, John Maclay’s “The Case of Peggy Ann Lister” – A sequel to the early crime/pulp novel Someone Is Bleeding, which is decently written story, but I felt the characterization was a bit weak. Nancy Holder‘s prequel to Hell House is also mostly good, but doesn‘t really add much to the story and has a major fault of historical research which distracts from the tale. So not really bad tales per say, but not as strong as the others.

So overall the collection holds up very well. Certainly one of the better anthologies of late for sure and highly recommended.

*

The Twilight and Other Zones is the mass-market release of The Richard Matheson Companion, which came out from Gauntlet Press a while back (in slightly different form).

It features wonderful personal tributes, insight and background on Matheson by writers Dean Koontz, William F. Nolan, Harlan Ellison, Joe Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, David Morrell, George Clayton Johnson, Brian Lumley, Dennis Etchison, Jack Ketchum and Gahan Wilson (some reprinted and some new for the collection); family members – wife Ruth, sons Richard Christian and Chris and daughters Bettina and Allison; as well as editors, screenwriters, publishers, artists, interviewers and experts that have worked with Matheson like Barry Hoffman, Greg Cox, Harry O. Morris, Gary Goldstein, Stanley Wiater, Paul Stuve and Matthew Bradley.

This is an exhaustive look at Matheson’s career that also features photos of the man, his family, and acquaintances and a huge bibliography that takes up a little over 1/3 of the book. This is everything you wanted to know about the legendary writer and more. The only thing that could have made this awesome book just a little bit better was more photos (especially of covers of books, magazines, movie posters, etc.). But a minor quibble and highly recommended nevertheless.

– Reviewed by James R. Beach

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~ by darkdiscoveries on June 24, 2009.

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