richard matheson - stir of echoesRichard Matheson
Tor
1958

The day it all started – a hot, August Saturday – I’d gotten off work a little after twelve.

Tom Wallace lived an ordinary life, until a chance event awakened psychic abilities he never knew he possessed. Now he’s hearing the private thoughts of the people around him – and learning shocking secrets he never wanted to know. But as Tom’s existence becomes a waking nightmare, greater jolts are in store when he becomes the unwilling recipient of a compelling message from beyond the grave!

You may be familiar with the movie Stir Of Echoes. That was the other movie about someone who could see dead people that was released in 1999. Only, that time it was Kevin Bacon. What you may not know is that the movie was based on a novel of the same name written by the guy who wrote the book I Am Legend.

I came across a mass paperback copy of A Stir Of Echoes at (where else?) Half Price Books, and it was a copy that was clearly reprinted to cash in on the movie that was to be released. After reading it, I realized then and there that, like the afore-mentioned I Am Legend, the late, great Richard Matheson’s work gets maybe a cursory glance from Hollywood when making them for the big screen. But, this isn’t a review of what the differences between the book and the movie are. I’ll leave that one up to The Dom’s Lost In Adaptation series.

A Stir Of Echoes tells the tale of one Tom Wallace, who is your ordinary suburbanite in the late 1950s–wife, kid, house, socialite neighbors, et-cetera, et-cetera. One evening, during a rather dull social gathering at the neighbors, he’s subjected to a bit of fun hypnosis experimentation, he suddenly finds himself in possession of some strange heightened senses…as he catches glimpses of a mysterious and ghostly woman clad in black, and seems to have some sort of clairvoyant ESP, meaning he can hear dead people, too. It’s one up on that 6th Sense kid. Soon thereafter, while trying to keep from having a psychotic meltdown (which tends to happen when you start seeing and hearing things that aren’t there), he finds himself an unwilling participant in a murder mystery, which leads him to see the darker side of his neighbors…

A Stir Of Echoes is a nifty bit of modern Gothic literature, a 20th Century ghost story that builds on the mood of paranoia and horror in a very palpable manner. Mind you, the story is set in the 1950s because it was written in the 1950s; but I think the period setting lends to the build up of the plot. It’s not without its slow parts, but its rather brief length makes them rather negligible.

Overall, A Stir Of Echoes was another reinforcement of why I admire the writer’s style so much. Indeed, he has influenced a number of other authors and movie directors I admire, so it’s really a no-brainer. A Stir Of Echoes is a nicely understated supernatural thriller that I would recommend checking into sometime.

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