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Nightmare At 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories By Richard Matheson Paperback – Jan 5 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (Jan. 5 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312878273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312878276
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.3 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #226,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

This classic horror collection showcases the early career of one of the field's most influential and innovative writers. Much of Richard Matheson's work has found its way into pop culture: the title story became a memorable episode of television's The Twilight Zone, and horror aficionados reading "Prey" will immediately visualize Trilogy of Terror's Karen Black hunkered down with a butcher knife. But this collection's power lies in its wide-ranging exploration of style and subject and the literary skill that Matheson demonstrated right from the start of his career. Many of his stories were decidedly unconventional when published (most in the 1950s and early 1960s), and still have the power to shock or to satisfy with their graceful inevitability. Matheson is not primarily a monster writer: rather, he examines how we create monsters from our own fears and frailties, and sometimes become the monsters ourselves. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet is a must-have collection for Matheson fans and readers who like their horror spare, precise, and chilling. --Roz Genessee

From Publishers Weekly

Although Matheson (I Am Legend; Hell House; etc.) needs no introduction to most horror fans, Stephen King provides one for this collection of classic weird tales in which he appreciatively remembers his mentor's "gut-bucket short stories that were like shots of white lightning." Spanning almost half a century, the influential contents are as much a roadmap to the direction horror fiction has taken since the 1950s as to Matheson's own legacy of spare, scary chillers. In lieu of pedantic priers into the Unknown, he offers sympathetic everymen, like the husband in "First Anniversary," who finds hints of the unearthly suddenly seeping through his comfortably complacent marriage. Matheson strips away horror's traditional gothic clutter to expose ordinary landscapes that perfectly take the imprint of his characters' paranoid fixations: that life's petty annoyances are part of a universal conspiracy to drive a person mad in "Legion of Plotters," and that dangerously malfunctioning household items are channels for a man's self-destructive anger in "Mad House." The agents of horror in these stories are less often the usual supernatural bogies than malignantly endowed everyday objects, like telephones, television sets and home appliances that are all the more frightening for their ubiquity. The well-known title tale about a nervous air traveler is a showcase for the author's trademark less-is-more prose style, which suspensefully delineates a psychological tug-of-war between man and a monster that may be purely imagined. Timeless in their simplicity, these stories are also relentless in their approach to basic fears. (Feb. 9)Lifetime Achievement, Matheson has also won Edgar and Hugo awards.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
In the introduction to this collection of classic Richard Matheson short stories, no less of a figure than Stephen King delivers oodles of praise to this author. According to King, Matheson emerged in a time (the 1950s and early 1960s) when the horror genre desperately needed a kick in the pants. King attributes his very existence as a horror writer to Matheson's influence. With that type of praise, the stories here need to live up to a tremendous standard, which they do easily. It should go without saying that Richard Matheson is the grandfather of modern horror; his stories created indelible impressions on millions of people when Hollywood translated "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" and "Prey" into memorable television moments. But nothing beats going to the source to see how the original stacks up to the adaptation. You will not be disappointed with this collection, I assure you.
This compilation starts off with the slam-bang "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," a story made into an episode of "The Twilight Zone" with William Shatner staring as the nervous wreck of a lead character. An unbalanced traveler on a flight through a rainstorm sees something terrible on the wing of the plane, something no one else sees and which paints him as a potential troublemaker to the flight crew. This man immediately associates the thing he sees with a gremlin, or creatures that WWII pilots claimed they saw in the skies over Europe while on their bombing runs. Whatever this thing is, time is running out because this humanoid is tearing up exterior parts of the plane. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be), our neurotic hero has a gun on the plane. When he takes action everyone thinks he is nuts, but is he? And will people think him crazy when they eventually see the outside of the plane?
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Format: Paperback
His name might not be as big as Stephen King's or Dean Koontz's, but Richard Matheson is nonetheless a master of horror fiction. Even if the name is not familiar, his works are: the title story has been shown in both Twilight Zone the TV show and movie and even been spoofed on the Simpsons. Another story in the collection, Prey, has also become a TV horror classic as part of the 70's movie, Trilogy of Terror. Matheson is also the author of the Incredible Shrinking Man, What Dreams May Come, Somewhere in Time, Stir of Echoes and I Am Legend.
In this set of short stories, Matheson shows he is worth all the praise he is given. The weakest of these stories are merely good and the best are not only great, but classics. Besides his talent to create fantastic horror scenarios and true suspense, he also can leave you thinking at the end of the story. In many of these tales, you are never quite certain if there is something supernatural going on or if it is all imagined by the main character. This intentional ambiguity, done incorrectly can frustrate the reader but in Matheson's hands, it adds an extra level of depth.
If you enjoy horror fiction, this collection is a must. It gives you an opportunity to read one of the most important and underrated persons in the genre.
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Format: Paperback
After having quite a Richard Matheson drought for many years, there are finally 4 of his short story/novella collections in print, and this is good news. With the horror shelves packed full of splatterpunk and vampirephile garbage, it's time to get back to the subtle horror writers; the ones who didn't need to incorporate buckets of blood, piles of entrails, sex, sex, and more sex in order to tell a story. Matheson is one of those subtle writers - not the best, but definitely up there. He writes like a darker Ray Bradbury, using a very straightforward style, a sense of innocence and mystery, and just a hint of evil, requiring you to fill in the details. Think of Bradbury's early horror stories (like the stuff adapted in EC Comics), and you'll get the idea.
The title story of this collection will surely get the most recognition, but it's by no means the best here. I rank "Long Distance Call" as my favorite, followed by "The Distributor". It also contains "Prey", famously adapted in the movie Trilogy Of Terror. Don't get me wrong - there are a few turkeys here that will make you question their inclusion, but that shouldn't ruin your appreciation of a true master of the horror genre.
Finally, for those who have never read Matheson before, beware: the introduction by Stephen King, who frequently names Matheson as an influence, is surprisingly lackluster. Don't let his intro affect your decision to read the book!
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Format: Paperback
The stories in the first half of this collection have a common terror thread: no one will believe what the protagonist is saying. The stories in the second half have a slightly different spin: the protagonist can't believe his/her own eyes! Often it is not clear whether the evil aggressor is legitimately supernatural, a malevolent human, or a product of a paranoid hallucination. It is a tantalizing ambiguity.
We know that dolls don't come to life, no one can use mind control to turn someone into a rapist or strip them of their five senses, corpses don't go bump in the night, and nothing can stand on the wing of a moving airplane. Nevertheless Matheson has the talent not only to make you accept these events, but to forget you're reading a story. He effortlessly slides between characters' mature reflections and their grisly demises. I found myself staying awake hours past my bedtime, three nights in a row, to read "just one more" story. And checking over my shoulder at the window behind me.
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