It has been years since I picked up the novella, I am Legend, at the bookstore. At the time, I was unaware of who Richard Matheson even was. I was into reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz at the time and Matheson’s books seemed up my alley.
I fell in love with the story and the ending, particularly the last three words of the novella, left me breathless. In fact, if I may be so bold, I would say I am Legend is the best title given to any book. I went on to read several other novels and short story collections by Matheson, even reading the unfinished novel, Come Fygures, Come Shadowes. His novel, The Shrinking Man, made it into the Library of America’s Science Fiction Novels of the Fifties (one of nine chosen, which I still have to read). His writing affected others so greatly that a tribute anthology called, He is Legend, was put together.
For me, his influence was that of enjoyment. Of fascination. He taught me to love fiction. To think. To experience the strangeness and horrors of life and to recognize that sometimes unhappy endings are still the perfect endings. He did not confine himself to a certain sector of the bookshelf. He did not try to be literary, but instead wrote to communicate the story. After more than a half of a century, his works still hold up.
Matheson’s writing is not easy to categorize. He blends horror, science fiction, fantasy, and general weirdness into his tales. What I always liked is that his novels were typically short and to make a complete book, four or five short stories were added to the end.
It is sad to hear of his passing, but his memory will live on through the thousands of people who have read his works.
RIP Richard Matheson