Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shadow on the Sun- Richard Matheson’s Lost Weird Western

You might not recognize the name Richard Matheson, but odds are you are familiar with his work.  Most famous for the vampire novel I Am Legend (which was later made into several movies including The Omega Man), his work has also been made into the films What Dreams May Come, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Somewhere in Time, and Hell House.  He also scripted some of William Shatner’s best work, including the Twilight Zone Episode “Terror at 20,000 Feet” and the Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within”.  For all the horror and science fiction, though, it appears that Matheson’s also writes on heck of a Western.

Originally written as a film script, Shadow on the Sun is a short novel, but in the hands of most other writers this would have been a short story.  The writing is so crisp, so alive, that Matheson can take a simple action or description and spin it into page after page that keep you in rapt attention.  The story takes place at a lightning pace over just three days, starting with a new truce between an Apache band and the United States, and quickly spinning into murder, madness, and the brink of war.  As the book continues, supernatural elements start to slowly filter into the narrative, until ultimately it becomes a flat out weird western.  Nothing about the cover, title, or synopsis suggested a horror story, much less a weird western, adding a pleasant surprise to an already great story.

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