This is the 164th in my series of Forgotten Books.
All of you should know the work of Richard Matheson, particularly at this time of year. His work for The Twilight Zone alone is enough to make him a demi-god. Then there were his wonderful movies, adapting Edgar Allan Poe and others like Fritz Leiber, which he and Charles Beaumont, another demi-god, adapted in Burn, Witch, Burn. I reviewed that film several years ago. If you have not seen it, you should.
But, beyond those wonderful cinematic things, there is the literary Richard Matheson. First it was the short stories. The collections Born of Man and Woman, Shock!, Shock II, Shock III, Shock Waves, Shock 4 and The Shores of Space are treasures beyond measure. The signed Collected Stories by Richard Matheson is one of the core books of my library. It was expensive but worth every penny I spent.
Then there are the novels. You must have read some of them – I Am Legend, The Shrinking Man, his war novel The Beardless Warriors, the amazing Hell House, Bid Time Return and What Dreams May Come, among many others. If you have not read these books, put down this column and go find them. Get any copy you can. It won’t matter. You will fall in love with the stories, with the printed word and with the mind of the Master.
I met RM only one time, at a World Fantasy Convention in Arizona. We didn’t talk long. It would have been embarrassing because I would have blithered like an idiot. We talked about a mutual friend Chad Oliver and RM spoke fondly of Chad’s days in California. Then he was gone, and I was still alive after being in his presence.
Not many writers affect me like that. But Matheson was a personal hero and I went all fanboy.
To this book now.
Earthbound is an overlooked Matheson title. It was originally published by Playboy Press under the pseudonym Logan Swanson in an uninspired looking paperback edition. Very few people saw it. In 1989, a small press in the UK, Robinson Publishing, presented the work in a hardcover edition bearing Matheson’s name and a creepy cover that was not given an artist credit.
I had this book for a long time and decided that since this was Halloween week, I might as well read the master. What a quick, wild read. David and Ellen are a California couple whose marriage is in serious trouble. David has had an affair and been caught. He loves Ellen, in his way, but they have been married more than 20 years. Their kids are grown and gone. They are about to be grandparents and David is feeling mortality.
They decide to go on a second honeymoon back to the small town where they originally honeymooned. But their original cottage is gone to a fire, so they take another one nearby. They visit some of the same places, order the same meals but something is just not right.
Then David meets Marianna, a free spirit who wants nothing more than wild sex and depravity. When David succumbs to her temptations he feels excitement, guilt, lust, enervation and more. David immediately resents the liaison and vows to be faithful to Ellen. But Marianna is persuasive.
The novel moves between erotic thriller into erotic horror with astounding ease and makes twists and turns you don’t see coming (or at least I didn’t), leading to violent confrontation and resolution.
It’s short, vicious and packs a mean punch. Just like a Richard Matheson novel should.
Again, Halloween is a couple of days away. Enjoy your favorite horrors and candy and films. Scare yourself.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.