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Spotlight on: Come Fygures Come Shadowes by Richard Matheson

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Come Fygures Come Shadowes by Richard Matheson Richard Matheson, Come Fygures Come Shadowes

The history of this book is nearly as interesting as the story inside. Early in Richard Matheson's career, he outlined the entire arc of what was to be a 2000-page novel about spirits and mediums. His publisher at the time, however, warned him that a book of that size would be prohibitively expensive and would not sell. Due to a lack of confidence in his instincts, Matheson stopped writing the novel to work on more commercially viable projects, leaving only a tiny portion written of what may have proved -- based on what has been published -- to be a defining work of his career.

Come Fygures Come Shadowes concerns young Claire, who learns that she has the ability to talk to the spirit world, just as her mother can. After she turns eighteen and her talents come to full fruition, she is forced by her mother into reluctantly taking over the family practice of sitting as a medium. The closer Claire gets to a successful trance state, the more "The Fear" takes over and makes her resist it, much to her mother's chagrin. Claire believes, based on the physical effects she experiences, that a successful trance will kill her, and each contact with the unknown only serves to make her feel this more strongly. Nevertheless, Mother will not relent.

The published portion of Come Fygures Come Shadowes only covers a part of the whole storyline. Taken on its own merits, though, it is another example of Matheson's narrative power. His characters are clear and easily visualized; even the despicable are enthralling, and the mystery surrounding the usually-absent father made me yearn to know more about him. Matheson's telling of Claire's first successful "sitting" is a thrill ride, filled with visual descriptions of the behavior of ectoplasm and colored smoke, as seen by the "sitters" (clients). The spiritual manifestations become characters of their own, and I was eager to learn more about their source. The subject matter, as written by Matheson, fascinated me where it previously had not.

It is difficult to review Come Fygures Come Shadowes as a complete work. What I can say, though, is definitive: had there been more to this book, I would still be reading it. It is obviously well-researched and I was frustrated that there was no more to be read, since Claire's story ends at such a climactic point, and especially when I read Matheson's afterword detailing what he had planned for the later sections of the novel.

The part that is told is somewhat complete on its own, but many loose threads are left lying. Such an enthralling, well-researched story deserves to be told. Alas, Matheson feels it is "too late to make creative amends." But his fans can appreciate Come Fygures Come Shadowes for what it is: yet another newly available piece in the intricate and exciting puzzle creating a fuller portrait of the work of Richard Matheson, one of the greatest and most influential writers of his generation.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on The Green Man Review. Copyright 2004. Reprinted with permission.

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