Nightmare At 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories By Richard Matheson Paperback – Jan 5 2002
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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. See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
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?Read more ›
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.
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!
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.
Most recent customer reviews
It's a collection of short stories. Some are long. Some are flash-fiction-y. I've read about half the stories and gave the book 5 stars just for those stories I read.Published 25 days ago by elginblatherford
Anyone who loves scary short stories will surely enjoy this book. There are a wide variety of notable authors and quite a few stories that I will never forget.Published on May 21 2013 by Samantha K Krewulak
a great collection. matheson has a way of writing. he shows you how you can express more and be more intense with a simplistic style. Read morePublished on April 8 2003 by jan erik storebø
As I child I was a huge fan of anything scary. Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and the "movie of the week" were my childhood thrills. Read morePublished on Jan. 23 2003 by J. Fercho
Each of the twenty Matheson short story/novella gems in this collection represents a separate haunting, of sorts. Read morePublished on May 18 2002 by Bruce Rux
Included in this collection are twenty of Richard Matheson's best tales of horror. These stories were written some forty-fifty years ago and the fact that they still manage to... Read morePublished on April 11 2002 by K. H. ZAINAL
After reading Matheson's "I Am Legend", I picked this book up considering the awe I felt with "I Am Legend". Read morePublished on March 8 2002 by Brian Nagele
'Nightmare at 20,000 feet' intro by Stephen King is a collection of classic weird tales in which King remembers his mentor, Richard Matheson's spine tingling short stories spanning... Read morePublished on Feb. 28 2002 by Victoria Taylor Murray
This anthology belongs on the bookself of any self-proclaimed fan of horror fiction. Using a spartan writing style free of the usual tepid writing conventions that mar most of the... Read morePublished on Feb. 23 2002