A Subtle but Powerful Horror Tale

Post date: May 4, 2014 6:33:42 PM

Shadow on the Sun

Author Richard Matheson was an amazingly prolific author and screenwriter best known, perhaps, for his novel I Am Legend which was the basis of multiple movies and is considered the granddaddy of the zombie genre. While I enjoyed Legend so much that I read it twice, I think Shadow On the Sun was even better.

In the late 1800s, an uneasy truce has been achieved between the western town of Picture City and nearby Apaches. The peace was the achievement of Indian agent Billjohn Finley despite hostility from the U.S. Cavalry and a representative of the Indian Bureau. What should have been a cause of celebration, however, suddenly threatens to reignite the war between the Apaches and the settlers when the horribly mutilated bodies of two white men are discovered. The deaths are initially blamed on Apache raiders, but when a stranger shows up in town wearing the clothing of one of the victims, Finley begins to suspect the stranger. But as he investigates, the Indian agent starts to wonder if the stranger is even human.

Matheson builds suspense slowly as the truth about the stranger is revealed. An author who frequent crossed genres between horror and westerns, Matheson creates a vivid sense of place with his description of the Old West environments. The horror is built into the suspense rather than vivid descriptions of violence.

This short book was published in 1994 and never got the attention Matheson’s other work, such as Legend and The Incredible Shrinking Man. That’s too bad because Shadow on the Sun is a subtle but powerful book both as a western and a horror novel.