Ever since learning of Richard Matheson’s passing, I’ve been reflecting on his life and work, while taking in the many heartfelt tributes that started springing up all over the internet almost as fast as the sad news spread. It’s been moving to see just how much Richard’s work has affected people—and lodged in our collective memories.
I had the privilege of being Richard’s editor at Tor, where Matheson has been a vital part of our list since 1993, when his twisty suspense thriller, Seven Steps to Midnight, was one of the very first books published under our then-new Forge imprint. In the two decades since, we’ve published three more original novels by Matheson: Now You See It..., Hunted Past Reason, and Other Kingdoms, while simultaneous reissuing practically all of his classic works, as well as multiple short-story collections featuring such unforgettable tales as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “Duel,” and “Steel.” That you can walk into pretty much any bookstore these days and find a whole shelf of Matheson’s book on display makes me feel very proud of the part Tor has played in bringing Richard’s work to readers new and old.
And then, of course, there were the movies. Hollywood has always loved Richard’s work, both as an author and a screenwriter, and over the years we’ve had the opportunity to put out special move tie-in editions of I Am Legend, What Dreams May Come, A Stir of Echoes, The Box, and Steel. Some of these reissues were extraordinarily successful, bringing Richard’s original books and stories to hundreds of thousands of new readers. As I recall, the movie tie-in edition of I Am Legend, with Will Smith on the cover, hit #2 on the New York Times Bestseller List, over fifty years after it was first published!
Richard was truly a pleasure to work with, always positive and busy with new projects and ideas. I remember that he was particularly pleased with the beautiful Michael Deas painting on the cover of Hell House. (Myself, I’m partial to the bloodthirsty ghouls on the cover of I Am Legend, which Richard personally found a little grisly for his tastes.) I was a bit star-struck when we first started working together. I mean, who was I to offer suggestions to the immortal author of I Am Legend and The Incredible Shrinking Man? But I soon discovered that, unlike many other lesser authors, he was not at all protective or defensive of his early drafts and more than willing to roll up his sleeves and rewrite and revise as much as necessary to get a book into the best possible shape. He was a real, old-school professional—who actually wrote his books by hand.
Sadly, Richard never visited the Flatiron Building, where Tor is located, and we met only once in the flesh. But his work has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember and it always will be. Tonight I think I’ll pop in a DVD and treat myself to Richard’s brilliant creations once more. The only hard part is figuring out which classic movie or TV episode to watch first. The Legend of Hell House? Somewhere in Time? The Night Strangler?
So many wonderful choices....