I Am Legend is named vampire novel of the century
Richard Matheson's 1954 novel bats off competition from Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire to win one-off Bram Stoker prize
Tuesday 3 April 2012
The one-off prize was dreamed up by the Horror Writers Association in conjunction with the Stoker family estate to mark the centenary of Dracula creator Bram Stoker's death, and saw a jury chaired by Dracula expert Leslie S Klinger pick Matheson's 1954 novel over titles including Stephen King's Salem's Lot and 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 ill health, but sent a video message thanking his fellow horror authors for the award, and revealing how his thrice-filmed story of a man alone in Manhattan battling hordes of vampires was first inspired by Stoker's own story.
"I am certainly honoured 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 toilet 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."
Rice posted congratulations to 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". The Interview with a Vampire author added that she 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". 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".
The ceremony also saw the Bram Stoker award for superior achievement in a novel handed to Joe McKinney's Flesh Eaters, about a zombie plague, with authors including Alan Moore, Peter Straub, King and even Joyce Carol Oates also snapping up prizes. Oates won the horror gong for superior achievement in a fiction collection for The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares, six tales of suspense in which the title story sees an 11-year-old child kept in a basement by an older girl from her school, and told the world has ended.