Richard Matheson’s 1958 novel, A Stir of Echoes, is more than a horror story. The plot is speculative—Tom Wallace, after being hypnotized at a neighborhood party, is able to read people’s thoughts and see events in the near future. He thinks his new abilities are connected with a ghostly woman who visits his home in the night’s quiet hours, but nothing is as simple it seems. Matheson paints the 1950’s Southern California suburban setting vivid with a lucid and cinematic style. The characters are full-bodied. Tom’s neighbors look and act genuine. They love, dream and live. At least that’s how it appears on the surface, but what Tom discovers with his new abilities is much darker because he now also sees their lust and hate, anger and fear, betrayal and vindictiveness; all those unsavory emotions and actions we do our best to hide.
a mystery, too, that is rife with Cold War paranoia. The paranoia
reflects the attitude of the American society in the 1950s: Everything’s
great! Except we’re all going to die (figuratively through communist
assimilation and literally with the hydrogen bomb). But it’s the humanity
Matheson uncovers that provides the power and longevity of the work and
the great thing about A Stir of Echoes is, it can be read as
illuminative literature or as a straight horror novel, and even better, as both.