Another writer sadly lost to time, Charles Beaumont helped cement one of the most distinctive pop-culture totems of the 20th century, TV's The Twilight Zone, helping speculative fiction, whether horror, fantasy, or science fiction, become mainstream. He wrote around two dozen of that show's episodes, third only to Richard Matheson and creator Rod Serling himself. He also wrote screenplays for Roger Corman, The Masque of the Red Death and The Haunted Palace, Poe and Lovecraft adaptations, respectively.
Beaumont's one of those "writer's writers" who are so fondly recalled as a major influence by the likes of Matheson, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Dan Simmons, Dean Koontz, John Shirley, et. al., but little-read among genre fans today. He died tragically young and there are no widely-available, mass-produced editions of any of his works readily available.
I found these editions of Night Ride (1960) and The Hunger (1959) on eBay recently, and was fortunate enough to get them cheap, maybe $5 apiece and in very good shape for paperbacks five decades old. Haven't read nearly all the stories contained as there are three dozen between the two collections; many were originally published in Playboy or Esquire and some Beaumont adapted himself for Twilight Zone episodes, classics like "Perchance to Dream," "Shadow Play," and "The Howling Man." The last story is one of his most famous; the Tor collection The Howling Man from 1992 is very highly sought after these days... would that I had picked it up when I used to see it on used bookstore shelves in the mid 1990s.
His technical skill and humanity, conciseness and clever imagination shine forth in the handful I have read, reminding me a bit of Bradbury's works from the same era. But Beaumont has a cool sophistication too; not for nothing did many of his tales appear in Playboy - particularly the stunning story of love and jazz "The Black Country," as well as "The Crooked Man," a positive depiction of homosexuality - in the '50s. Beaumont's influence on the horror genre is undeniable; although the tales might not quite be the "violent entertainments" that The Hunger promises - a charming conceit back then, now rather tame today - and they might not really appeal to many modern horror fiction readers, their concerns and conflicts, and of course twist climaxes, are still effective and surprising. Charles Beaumont is simply a must-read writer for the true horror fiction fan.
Heavy Metal magazine October 1985
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