For a week now, I’ve been trying to think of something to say about the passing of Richard Matheson, and all the words I’ve been able to muster have felt insufficient. Just a few weeks ago, we lost Ray Harryhausen, and the world became a slightly less wondrous place for his absence. Richard Matheson was another name of, at least in my opinion, equal stature, and the world is a worse place without him in it.
Matheson was a huge, if not always obvious, influence on me and my writing. I came to him early, starting with I Am Legend and Hell House, which were both extremely important novels, both to the genre, and to me, personally. Hell House especially had a big impact on me. It changed forever the way I would see ghost stories, haunted houses, and spiritualism, and is still my favorite haunted house story of all time. The movie is surprisingly good, too, and it’s amazing how true it stays to the book, while still somehow having a PG rating.
I never much got into Matheson’s short stories, but his novels and his screenplays were extremely influential to me. His screenplays are still some of the best around, and he’s responsible for many of my favorite movies. The Pit and the Pendulum and Comedy of Terrors alone are enough to make him a legend (no pun intended), and that’s not even mentioning The Devil Rides Out or his adaptations of his own work or his extensive writing for television and made-for-TV movies.
Matheson’s writing style was concise (but still poetic), dynamic, and cinematic in all the best ways. There are other writers who have had more influence on the content of my work, but few have had a bigger impact on my style. He was one of the greats, and he will be missed. I wish I had something more appropriate to say, but that’s all I got.