Five people with complex and intertwined sexual histories find themselves forced together in a New York apartment for several hours before a Sunday sunrise. The catch: one of them just escaped from an insane asylum and is bent on murderous revenge.
That’s the setup for Richard Matheson’s second novel, “Fury on Sunday” (1953). This was released long before Hollywood made Matheson famous by adapting novels such as “The Incredible Shrinking Man” and “I Am Legend” for the screen. At the time, Matheson was cranking out noir crime stories and honing his craft as a novelist. “Fury on Sunday” began its life as a Lion Books release, but has been reprinted and compiled in various formats over the past 65 years. You should have no trouble finding an affordable copy.
In the novel’s opening we meet former classical piano prodigy Vincent Radin as he’s locked up in an insane asylum following a murderous rampage. He is plotting his escape because he has a score to settle on the outside. The escape sequence is well-told and bodes well for an exciting ride.
Vincent’s obsession involves a happily married couple named Bob and Ruth, who are expecting their first child. We quickly learn that Ruth and Vincent used to be an item, and Vincent isn’t thrilled with the fact that she’s now with Bob. As such, Bob is a marked man if Vincent ever sees the light of day - or dark of night - again as a free man.
The other two pieces of this love pentagon are Stan and Jane, who are close friends with Bob and Ruth. They also knew Vincent before he went into the loony bin. Conveniently, Jane is a nymphomaniac, a disorder that apparently was rather common in 1950s men’s fiction and has been eradicated like polio over the past half-century. Were there telethons? I’m too young to remember.
Despite the fact that there are murders, suspense, and a lovesick lunatic with a gun, “Fury on Sunday” is essentially a relationship drama involving five characters that unfolds over a four hour period. The backgrounds and histories of this group of current and ex-lovers are told through flashbacks as the third-person perspectives change with each chapter.
“Fury on Sunday” has some decent violence, and the short novel never failed to hold my attention. However, it’s not Matheson’s best work, and there are certainly better ways for you to kill a few hours with a paperback. You can safely skip this one unless you are trying to be a Richard Matheson completist or planning an escape from an asylum.