BARRY HOFFMAN: Richard Matheson had his material spread all over his beautiful home. When I visited he took me into his garage and there were two metal cabinets (at least 6-8 drawers) of material. I thought that was everything but he later told me there was a closet with a refrigerator blocking it that had more of his material. And, from discussions there were other places where he stored manuscripts. He didn’t find the journal until last December. He sent it to me and while I loved it I felt it was far too short for a limited edition book (it would have been about 50 pages). But, in the journal he mentioned novels he wrote that hadn’t been published. A number we published (this was after he finished his journal in 2003), but I noted one title I didn’t recognize – LEAVE YESTERDAY ALONE. When I asked him about it he told me, yes, it existed. He sent it to me and we decided to publish both the journal and novel in one volume.
HL: To your knowledge, is this pretty much the version of Leave Yesterday Alone that Richard originally penned all those years ago or was there much editing or revisions required that took place before it was published considering his progress since first penning this one?
BH: Just like HUNGER AND THIRST he made no revisions. He sent me the manuscript and we published it as he wrote it. Richard didn’t feel it appropriate to revise these earlier works. His writing had changed so much in the 50+ years since he penned these two books that massive revisions would have been required. He was not one to revisit old works and rewrite them.
HL: Although it’s certainly the eventual nature of things, it’s sad to think this is likely the last new material from Matheson’s library of work that we’ll ever see published. Does Gauntlet Press have anything up its proverbial sleeve that would see it adding to Matheson’s legacy?
BH: We have been exploring one title that I can’t mention right now. Sadly, the rights might belong to MGM and from my past experiences with studios they take a long time to do something that is relatively simple – locate the contract and determine whether they own the rights to it or if they reverted back to Matheson. It took us two years to acquire the rights to both DUEL and THE KOLCHAK SCRIPTS. I’m persistent, though, and will keep trying to acquire this title. I will also be in touch with the Matheson estate regarding anything else they might find that has not been previously published.
HL: It’s tough to truly leave yesterday alone with an author of Matheson’s magnitude who has had numerous literary and cinematic yesterdays worth celebrating. As a fan, which of his work, or works, has captured your fondest memory?
BH: Without a doubt I AM LEGEND stirs my fondest memory. It was the first Matheson signed limited we published and the third book Gauntlet Press published. Just as important to me has been spreading the word of Matheson’s unproduced and censored screenplay he wrote for his novel. He sold it to Hammer Films and the US and British Censor Boards demanded massive changes (ones that today would seem ludicrous). To their credit both Hammer Films and Matheson refused to make the changes. Unfortunately the rights were then sold to Warner Bros. and three versions (none using Matheson’s script) were produced, none resembling Matheson’s novel or screenplay. I’ve published the screenplay (and the letter demanding the changes) three times: first in the signed limited of BLOODLINES; then in the trade paperback VISIONS DEFERRED (two other scripts were also included); and finally, as a stand alone trade paperback RICHARD MATHESON’S I AM LEGEND SCREENPLAY. My hope is that with this inexpensive trade paperback it will get in the hands of both fans and possibly a producer/director who will adapt Matheson’s screenplay as it was meant to be filmed.
HL: What about your fondest personal recollections of Richard Matheson, the man, after having worked with him through so many years?
BH: There are so many. Richard was a humble and down to earth individual. I recall going out to dinner with his family and unlike many authors of his fame having a genuine conversation with him. He valued the opinion of others. He was also fiercely loyal. He didn’t want a dustjacket on the first 5 books (all classic-revisited titles) of his we published (he never told me why). When we published HUNGER AND THIRST, though, he knew he needed a dustjacket to explain the book was written fifty years prior to its publication. I showed him the work of three artists and he decided to have Harry O. Morris do the cover art for the book. He was so happy with the cover that from then on he only used Harry for his cover art for limited edition books (including several published by other publishers). I got a laugh out of a short note he sent me along with several aborted novels that would go into MATHESON UNCOLLECD Vols. 1 and 2. “These are pretty good. I don’t know why I didn’t finish them,” he wrote. And, one last anecdote. For I AM LEGEND he wanted the cover of the book to be red and the slipcase blue (remember there was no dustjacket for this book). He liked the way it looked so much that when we began work on HELL HOUSE he wanted the same cover. I mentioned this to his son Richard Christian Matheson who I had become friendly with. R.C. said “No, it’s has to be black – cover and slipcase. Now, I’d learned not to argue with Richard when he made a decision so I put the onus on R.C. to convince his father to go with black. I got a call from Richard several days later. He agreed that black was more appropriate and then added “What’s the color of our next book going to be . . . pink!!!” He had a wonderfully wry sense of humor. I could go on for another dozen pages, but these are some of the memories I most cherish.
HL: No doubt, we will never see another quite like Matheson. How do you think his legacy will hold up in years to come, and how might he continue to influence future generations of writers?
BH: His legacy is cemented with I AM LEGEND, HELL HOUSE, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME and his many teleplays and screenplays. You have to keep in mind that he penned what is probably the most famous episode from the original The Twilight Zone “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” As long as episodes of The Twilight Zone air the many scripts he wrote will be appreciated. I mention WHAT DREAMS MAY COME because when the film was released (around the time of the Columbine shooting) Richard received many letters telling him how his work helped them cope with the death of family members or those of friends. It’s message will resonate for decades to come. As for his influence on future generations of writers, well, Stephen King summed it up best: “Without Richard Matheson there would be no Stephen King.” Anyone penning a novel or writing a screenplay about vampires will have to read I AM LEGEND for inspiration. Those who want to write a haunted house story will turn to HELL HOUSE. And his short stories will provide fodder for idea for future writers a hundred years from now.