As a writer who has heavily impacted and changed the way of horror and thriller stories, both in print and in movies, there are some elusive facts about Richard Matheson worth sharing.
Initially drawn to sound, he had hoped to pursue a music career. His love for fantasy, however, got the better part of his attention. The books Richard Matheson read influenced his mind. The young boy soon started to create his own stories to shape the minds of his readers.
His First Work was Published When He was Eight Years Old
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, young Richard read voraciously and soon began to develop an interest in writing. This led to the publishing of his first work, a poem he sent to the Brooklyn Eagle magazine when he was eight. He was also an avid reader of the magazine.
He Fought in World War II
After graduating from high school, he joined the United States Army, where he got assigned to the 87th infantry division during the second world war. His experiences as a soldier in that war served as the basis for his book ‘The Beardless Warriors,’ a book written about a squad of teenage U.S. infantrymen fighting their way across Germany during the war. Facing difficult situations and struggling to survive, these young men must mature if they intend to return to their homes.
His Career as a Writer Began with Short Stories
A year after he graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Missouri, Richard Matheson’s first short story, ‘Born Of Man And Woman,’ was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The story is from the perspective of a monstrous child chained to the basement wall by equally horrible parents who routinely beat the child when it tries to escape. Matheson told the Mystery Scene magazine that the story was strange and unique enough to attract the attention of book agents and publishers to his works.
Many of His Works were Adapted into Film
Richard Matheson wrote screenplays for many movies based on his books, including ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man’ (1957), ‘Duel’ (1971), and ‘The Legend of Hell House’ (1973), an adaptation of his 1971 novel ‘Hell House.’ Adaptations made without his collaboration include ‘What Dreams May Come’ (1998) and ‘Stir of Echoes’ (1999). Richard Matheson believed the best movie adaptation and the screenplay was ‘Somewhere in Time.’ He also loved the adaptation of ‘What Dreams May Come.’
His Book ‘I Am Legend’ was Inspired by ‘Dracula’
As a teen, Matheson had seen ‘Dracula’ with Bela Lugosi and was fascinated. He reasoned that if a vampire were scary, a world filled with vampires would be worse. While accepting the Vampire Novel of the Century Award in 2012, he recalled that even when he had been intrigued by the ‘Dracula’ movie, it took more than eight years before he started to work on the inspiration to create ‘I Am Legend.’
‘I Am Legend’ has been Adapted to Screen Thrice
‘I Am Legend’ has been adapted for the big screen as ‘The Last Man on Earth,’ ‘The Omega Man,’ and ‘I Am Legend.’ The most recent adaptation, ‘I Am Legend,’ starred Will Smith as the last man on earth, who strives to survive the mob of vampires that inhabit the new world. ‘I Am Legend’ inspired the 1968 film titled ‘Night of the Living Dead.’
Matheson was not impressed with any ‘I Am Legend’ adaptations. He thought ‘Last Man On Earth’ came closer to the book but did not care much for it. In his opinion, the actor, Vincent Price, was bad for the role, and the movie did not capture the book well. He also said he ignored ‘The Omega Man,’ acted by Charleston Heston because it was far different from the book.
He Read ‘Dracula’ on the Toilet
When Richard Matheson got questioned about the forming stage of his youth, he recalled that during army training as a young boy, he had read Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ while on the toilet. ‘‘I was pretty tired, I should have gone to sleep,’’ he said, but the novel kept him spellbound.
His Book ‘The Shrinking Man’ was Inspired by a Comedy
Richard Matheson got the inspiration for ‘The Shrinking Man’ after he saw a scene from the 1953 comedy film, ‘Let’s Do It Again.’ In a scene, the actor wears the wrong hat, and it covers his entire face because it is too big for him. Richard Matheson’s brain went into creative thinking. After its publication, ‘The Shrinking Man’ has been adapted into a motion picture two times.
He Wrote for the Twilight Zone
Richard Matheson was one of the earliest writers of The Twilight Zone. Creating a total of 16 television episodes, he gained lots of screenplay credits. Some of its episodes, like ‘Button Button,’ ‘Steel,’ ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,’ ‘Little Girl Lost,’ and ‘Death Ship,’ were adapted from his short stories.
His Book ‘I Am Legend‘ is the Most Influential Modern Vampire Novel
Richard Matheson’s ‘I Am Legend’ is believed to be the first modern vampire novel. Asides from offering a new view on vampire fiction, it also publicized post-apocalypse by introducing the terrifying idea of a world conquered by disease. Eventually, the novel got adapted into three films.
He Wrote the Screenplay for Stephen Spielberg’s First Movie
Richard Matheson wrote the screenplay for Stephen Spielberg’s Emmy Award-winning debut feature film ‘Duel’ that got adapted from a short story of the same name written by Matheson.
His Works were Inspired by Shirley Jackson
One of Matheson’s earliest influences was Shirley Jackson, the writer of ‘Haunting Of Hill House.’ Also, his writing career was shaped by another writer named Stanley Weinbaum.
He was Raised by a Single Mother
When Richard Matheson was eight years old, his parents got divorced. He then moved to Brooklyn, New York, with his mother.
‘I Am Legend’ Inspired Modern Horror and Vampire Writers
Many modern-day vampire, horror, and post-apocalyptic writers cite Matheson as a singular influence on their work. Writers like Anne Rice, Stephen King, and filmmaker George Romero praised his writing prowess. Stephen King said Richard Matheson was the author who influenced him the most as a writer. When Matheson died, King said, “He fired my imagination by placing his horrors, not in European castles and Lovecraftian universes, but in American scenes, I knew and could relate to.”
Three of Richard’s Four Children Became Writers
Chris Matheson is famous for creating the ‘Bill and Ted’ movies with Ed Solomon. Ali Matheson wrote some episodes of ‘Rugrats’ and co-wrote ‘Halloweentown‘ in 1998. Richard Christian Matheson followed most closely in his father’s strides by writing horror fiction and screenplays, including ‘Amazing Stories.’ He combined creativity with his father to create ‘Loose Cannons.’They were writing a new adaptation of ‘The Shrinking Man’ before the elder Matheson died.
Matheson Hated the Name ‘Horror Writer’
During an interview, Richard Matheson revealed that he despised the word ‘horror.’ He preferred to think of himself as an off-beat writer. He stated that he had written about five western novels, a war novel, and a love story titled ‘Bid Time Return.’ ”I guess you could call me an off-beat fantasy writer. I do write scary stories, but I think of terror, not horror. I’m a neighborhood terrorizer,” he said.
Was Stephen King a fan of Richard Matheson?
Yes, he was. When Richard Matheson died in 2013, Stephen King paid tribute to him. After listing all his works of literature, he stated that Matheson was a gentleman who willingly gave young writers a helping hand. He also stated that Matheson gave the audience unforgettable novels, stories, and TV shows.
What was Richard Matheson famous for?
Richard Burton Matheson was a talented author and scriptwriter whose forte was horror, science fiction, and fantasy. He was famously known as the author of ‘I Am Legend,’ which has been adapted to screen three times. Before he died at 87, he received many awards for his relevant contributions to literature.
Which of Richard Matheson’s books was autobiographical?
A novel by Matheson that was autobiographical is ‘The Beardless Warriors.’ When World War II started, Matheson served in the army. His experiences created inspiration for his novel, published in 1960. This novel was about a squad of teenage American soldiers during World War II.
Was Richard Matheson initially interested in music?
Richard Matheson was initially interested in music. He wrote many songs in his teens. However, his love for reading took over his attraction to sound. Soon, he started to write his literary pieces. At eight years old, his first published work appeared in a magazine.