"Noir" includes three short novels written by the legendary Richard Matheson back in the 1950's. These works bring us back to an era of in your face, hard-boiled, and unsubtle prose. In the first novel, "Someone is Bleeding," a writer named Dave Newton falls in love with a beautiful blonde who seems to harbor an antipathy towards men. "Fury on Sunday" describes the escape of an inmate from an insane asylum, and his subsequent attempt to take revenge on those who have wronged him. The final novel, "Ride the Nightmare" is about a family whose world is turned upside down when a shadowy figure from the past decides to pay them a visit.
The first two stories are occasionally suspenseful, but the author's melodramatic writing style and one-dimensional characters keep them from being first-rate. Matheson writes truncated "just the facts, ma'am" type of sentences, which evoke the fifties very well: "Eyes. That was my first impression. The biggest and brownest eyes I'd ever seen, great big eyes seeming to search for something." All three novels feature psychotic characters who lash out at others. In the first story, a woman named Peggy attracts men easily but she cannot bring herself to trust them. Is this femme fatale also a homicidal maniac? In the second story, Vince is a gifted former concert pianist whose career is cut short when he has a mental breakdown. After he escapes from the hospital where he has been confined, he sets out to kill the husband of the woman he loves. Will a night of abject terror end in tragedy? These first two novels, although occasionally powerful, lack depth and realism.
The third novel, "Ride the Nightmare," illustrates how much Matheson grew as a writer as his career progressed. In this story, Chris Martin lives with his wife, Helen, and their young daughter, Connie. Chris runs a successful music store, and he is proud of everything that he has accomplished. One day, he gets a call from someone who harbors a serious grudge against him. He must face the fact that he has unwittingly embroiled his beloved wife and child in a terrible situation from which there may be no escape. "Riding the Nightmare" is a mature and well-developed tale with nail-biting scenes of suspense and violence.
"Noir" provides a nostalgic look at a prose style that exemplifies fifties fiction. It also gives the reader a glimpse of three early works by Richard Matheson, the author of many memorable scripts for the Twilight Zone as well as other successful television shows and films.