Showing posts with label Richard Matheson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Richard Matheson. Show all posts

Monday, May 29, 2023

Beardless Warriors, The

Richard Burton Matheson (1926-2013) was a multi-genre author best known for his horror and science-fiction works. In 1944, Matheson was 18 years-old when he joined an American combat division during WW2. He drew upon this harrowing experience to write his 1960 war novel, The Beardless Warriors.

The entire book takes place in December 1944 after Everett Hackermeyer from Brooklyn joins the ten-man platoon of C Company, a true fighting outfit just inside the German borders. Four of the ten soldiers are only 18 years old, including our young hero. The novel wastes no time thrusting Hackermeyer into his first combat experience nose-to-nose with German soldiers.

Instead of fearless killing machines, the soldiers of C Company are mostly portrayed as scared teens just trying to stay alive in a confusing and chaotic place far from home. When they get their first taste of combat, Matheson underscores the terrifying muddle that combat seems to an unseasoned soldier. There are moments of bravery, but very little of the heroism we often read in fictional depictions of front-line fighters.

This is a powerful novel, but not a pulpy adventure in the manner of Len Levinson’s The Sergeant or Rat Bastards books. There’s tension and excitement to be sure, but Matheson is clearly trying to give the reader a reality check rather than a swashbuckling yarn. Rather than tracking a single mission, the book reads like a ride-along over a month of an American infantry soldier behind Germany’s front lines.

Ultimately, The Beardless Warriors is a coming-of-age tale where a scared boy matures into manhood and leadership in the most harrowing circumstances. As long as you understand what you’re getting, you’re bound to appreciate the novel as a vivid account of what it was like for the young men prepared to sacrifice it all when the stakes were unimaginably high.

Buy a copy of this book HERE. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 31

Saddle up for a wild ride as Paperback Warrior presents an All-Review Western Roundup. We discuss and review our favorite westerns including authors like Richard Matheson, Larry McMurtry, Louis L'Amour, Ralph Hayes and more! The hosts also discuss their favorites of the adult western genre including an epic crossover event featuring adult western heroes. Stream the episode below or your favorite streaming platform. Direct downloads are HERE.

Listen to "Episode 31: All-Review Western Roundup" on Spreaker.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 07

On this episode we are examining the noir work of successful author Richard Matheson, who's predominantly known for his horror and science-fiction work. We have two new reviews for you, 1955's "A Bullet for Cinderella" by John D. MacDonald and William W. Johnstone's 1984 western "The Last Mountain Man". Stream the episode below or wherever podcasts are streaming. Direct downloads are HERE.

Listen to "Episode 07: Richard Matheson" on Spreaker.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Fury on Sunday

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.

A feature on Richard Matheson aired on the seventh episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast: Link

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, April 27, 2018

Ride the Nightmare

A murderous home invader with a score to settle descends on the home of suburban parents, Chris and Helen Martin. Is it a case of mistaken identity or has Chris been dishonest with his wife about his own checkered past? That’s the premise of the 1959 Richard Matheson novel, “Ride the Nightmare.” The short paperback was adapted into an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and later as the 1970 film “Cold Sweat” starring Charles Bronson. 

By telling the story largely from Helen’s perspective, Matheson plays with wives’ fears that they really don’t know their husbands all that well. As the suspense unfolds, Helen experiences the dawning realization that she may, in fact, be married to a Man of Violence and not just an upstanding member of the local Chamber of Commerce. Helen’s decisions among the tension provide the human element to this outstanding, hard-boiled novel. 

I can’t help but wonder if Donald Hamilton read this 1959 Matheson novel before writing his own masterpiece, 1960’s “Death of a Citizen” (Matt Helm #1). Both paperbacks have similar stories about family men needing to draw upon their violent talents to protect their loved ones when adversaries aren’t ready to allow them to make a new start. 

A good way to sample Matheson’s early crime work - including “Ride the Nightmare - is the three-book compilation “Noir” released in 2005. The original paperback remains pretty rare, but it’s been made available on Kindle for those who like their paperbacks without paper. 

By 1959, Matheson had found his voice and the quality of this exciting paperback is head-and-shoulders above Matheson’s other early-career forays into noir fiction. It’s not especially ground-breaking, but an extremely well-executed genre novel by an author at the top of his game. Recommended.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Someone Is Bleeding

You know that feeling when a friend starts dating a totally hot but totally crazy girl? You can see the crazy right away, but all he sees is the hot? You know it’s gonna go sideways, and you want to scream at him to be careful, but you know it’ll fall on deaf ears. 

That’s what it was like reading Richard Matheson’s first published novel, “Someone Is Bleeding”. 

During his life, Matheson mastered several genres from science fiction (“The Shrinking Man”), horror (“I Am Legend”, “Hell House”) and westerns (“Journal of the Gun Years”). “Someone Is Bleeding” was published in 1953 by Lion Books, but it has the story structure of a Fawcett Gold Medal crime paperback where an Everyman is plunged into a world of violence by falling for a femme fatale. 

In this case our hero-narrator is Los Angeles novelist Dave Newton. On a quiet day at the beach, Dave sees the irresistible Peggy sunbathing and decides he has to meet her.  The reader quickly realizes that Peggy is a hot mess filled with neurosis and sexual hang-ups.  It seems that every relationship in her life has been filled with dysfunction and sexual abuse -  her ex, her lawyer, her father, her landlord – no one knows how to function around Peggy in a proper manner, but Nice Guy Dave is sure going to try. 

The first quarter of the novel is mostly a tepid relationship drama as Dave learns to navigate the cyclone of man-drama that follows Peggy everywhere. It’s not until a character winds up murdered with an ice-pick in the eye that the action and intrigue begins. Dave knows that Peggy is damaged goods and even finds himself asking if a woman can be “rape prone” in the same way that some men are accident prone (these were less compassionate times regarding such matters, it seems).

As the bodies pile up within Peggy’s orbit, a compelling murder mystery evolves for Dave to solve. Could Peggy be murdering these people? Or is a bigger conspiracy afoot? The novel’s violence escalates with vivid villains and some great action sequences making the reader grateful for not bailing during the first quarter’s tale of tormented romance. 

Matheson was a remarkable talent, and it’s fun to visit his humble beginnings in this short crime story. Finding the original paperback is a pricey proposition, but the book has been reprinted as an eBook and in a compilation titled Noir. This one is definitely worth your time.

A feature on Richard Matheson aired on the seventh episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast: Link 

Buy a copy of this book HERE