Tuesday, December 11, 2007


It really sucks when the business end of the writing world interferes with the creative - like when restrictions are placed on writers telling them just how long a novel should be, or what type of narrative is acceptable. Oh, don't get me wrong, I understand full well why a publisher isn't overly willing to sign off on a two or three thousand page novel; I do know a little something about the law of economic return. But that doesn't make it any easier to swallow... from a writer's standpoint.

Case in point:

I guess I really ought to preface this by saying that Richard Matheson is flat-out my favorite writer. For me, reading Matheson is like inhaling a breath of fresh air. The combination of a genius-level imagination, an incredibly astute assessment of the way the real world works, and an astounding gift for the actual craft of the language, makes him a living legend in my mind. Matheson is one of those writers that I pride myself on collecting limiteds of.

So, I'm just saying up front, I dig Matheson.

Come Fygures Come Shadowes is the story of a teenage girl named Claire, in the early twentieth century. Her mother is a Medium - as in she communicates with the dead - and she's training Claire to cultivate her God Given gift - passed down proudly from her mother's side of the family - to take her own place as a medium. The mother is a shrill, bitter woman, (reminding me of Piper Laurie's fantastic turn as Sissy Spacek's mother in Carrie) who domineers everyone within reach. Claire is terrified to give herself over to trances as she conducts sittings for customers who come to the home to speak with their dearly departed.

The book escalates, with the perils - both physical and mental - becoming more and more strenuous for Claire.

And then the book ends.

You see, when Matheson originally started working on this manuscript, he showed what he had finished and what was yet to be completed to his publisher. The publisher in turn told him that the book would be over two-thousand pages long and impossible to sell. Being young and without a lot of confidence, (Matheson explains this in the book's afterword) he dropped the project Cold Turkey... and has regretted it ever since.

Come Fygures Come Shadowes is only a fraction of what the intended story was to be. Don't get me wrong, it really is a complete story in and of itself, however, at the end you do get a sense that there was more to the overall tale. Luckily, Matheson explains the story behind the work in the afterward, and is so nice as to tell you what he'd planned to unfold had the book been written.

Last year I read Matheson's Mediums Rare which is a nonfiction, chronological history of Mediums. Considering the references in Come Fygures Come Shadowes, I'm wondering if Mediums Rare didn't evolve out of research done for the novel.

So. When the business end infringes on the creative... well, that sucks.

Rated 4 out of 5

(Originally reviewed in "The Daily Cave" on January 19th, 2007)

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