At the annual Bram Stoker awards last week one author’s book was named the vampire novel of the century! But who was it? Was it Stephenie Meyer and the ridiculously popular Twilight? No. Was is Anne Rice and her innovative Interview with the Vampire? Nope, not even her. It was Richard Matheson’s story of a world overrun by the undead, I Am Legend, that has been named vampire novel of the century. Congratulations to Richard Matheson!
The prize was created by the Horror Writers Association in conjunction with the Stoker family estate to mark the anniversary of Dracula creator Bram Stoker’s death. Dracula expert Leslie S Klinger oversaw the choice and picked Matheson’s 1954 novel over titles including Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. The 86-year-old author could not attend the Bram Stoker awards ceremony in Salt Lake City this weekend due to health concerns, but sent a video message thanking his fellow horror authors for the award, and sharing how his story of one man against countless vampires was first inspired by Stoker’s own story.
“I am certainly honored and delighted that you have chosen I Am Legend as the vampire novel of the century, which is a rather dubious but interesting distinction,” said the author. “When I was a teenager I went to see Dracula with Bela Lugosi and at that time, even as a teenager, the thought occurred to me that if one vampire is scary, what if all the world were full of vampires?”
Matheson read Stoker’s novel, he said, on nightly trips to the latrine while he was a soldier. “When I was in the army and the infantry during basic training I would go down to the latrine at night while the other soldiers were sleeping, and I would sit there reading Dracula: why, I don’t know. I was pretty tired, I should have gone to sleep,” he said. “I enjoyed it at the time, never knowing I was going to write a book about vampires and certainly not that it would be derived from the idea I had when I first saw Bela Lugosi.”
Anne Rice congratulated Matheson on her Facebook page, describing his novel as “legendary”, and saying the writer had “been an inspiration to me and to so many. He is a legend himself”. She added that didn’t mind losing “to a man whose stories were inspiring me when I was still a kid writing everything with a ball point pen in a school notebook”. Stephen King has previously said that Matheson was “the author who influenced me the most as a writer”, and that I Am Legend was “an inspiration to me”.
Congratulations again to the wonderful Richard Matheson!
What are your thoughts on I Am Legend winning vampire novel of the century?