Friday, November 23, 2007

Ride the Nightmare -- Richard Matheson

RIDE THE NIGHTMARE, originally published by Ballantine in 1959, is the third and final suspense novel by Richard Matheson reprinted in the Forge Books collection, NOIR. It’s also my favorite of the three, although I admired and enjoyed SOMEONE IS BLEEDING and FURY ON SUNDAY, too.

RIDE THE NIGHTMARE has a fairly typical set-up for a novel of this sort: Chris and Helen Martin are living a happy suburban life with their young daughter Connie when something happens to disrupt it and put them all in mortal danger, in this case a phone call from someone who claims to know Chris . . . and who also wants him dead. Chris’s past contains a dangerous secret that Helen never knew about, and once that barrier is breached, things just get worse and worse for both of them.

There’s nothing in the plot you won’t see coming, but what makes it work so well is purely a matter of style and pacing. Poor Chris and Helen hardly ever get a breather before something else terrible comes barreling down on them, and Matheson is a master at keeping the reader flipping the pages to find out what’s going to happen next. In lesser hands, this technique can get a little silly. Not in this case, though, as Matheson pulls it off just fine. I highly recommend this novel, and for that matter, the entire collection . . . although I might quibble a little with the title, since I don’t consider any of the novels to truly be noir. As examples of straight suspense, though, you won’t find many that are better.


Juri said...

This became an excellent episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Forget the director, but I seem to remember that Matheson did the script himself.

James Reasoner said...

Yeah, Matheson did the script for the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, which was directed by Bernard Girard. The novel also served as the source for the Charles Bronson movie COLD SWEAT, although the filmmakers moved the action to Europe instead of California.