Friday, November 17, 2023

FFB: SOMEONE IS BLEEDING, Richard Matheson, reviewed by Ed Gorman

from the archives


While Richard Matheson would go on to become a major figure in the fields of fantasy and science fiction with such distinguished works as I Am Legend and his The Shrinking Man, his first novel was solidly criminous — a book whose influences ran heavily to James M. Cain and Hemingway.

Someone Is Bleeding is the devious tale of writer David Newton who meets a lovely but deeply disturbed young woman named Peggy Lister and falls into tormented love with her.

Peggy is surrounded by men whose overwhelming desire in life is to possess her. As we learn, Peggy's psychological problems are enough to scare off all but the most dedicated lovers. She has an understandable but pathological distrust of men because she'd been raped by her father.

For its era, Bleeding was a surprisingly complex psychosexual tale. Peggy, a dark goddess who literally rules the lives of her men, is all the more chilling for the sympathetic way in which David sees her for most of the book. She is the helpless, beautiful woman-child that many men fantasize about and long to protect as proof of their own masculinity.

As the novel rushes to its truly terrifying climax (it is an ending that must rank, for pure horror, with the best of Fredric Brown and Cornell Woolrich), we see how much Peggy comes to represent the pawn in a quest. Her men are willing to scheme, lie, and die to have her.

Matheson also gives us an exceptionally good look at the Fifties and its snake-pit moral code, its demeaning view of women, its defeated view of men. He packs an icy poetry, a bittersweet love song, and moments of real terror into this debut.
Someone Is Bleeding is a satisfyingly complex, evocative study of loneliness, romance, sexuality and pathology.

(Oh, I miss Ed)


Margot Kinberg said...

I miss Ed, too...

Jerry House said...

Ed's reviews were always lucid, often pointing us to neglected gems. When I first read SOMEONE IS BLEEDING, it knocked my socks off. The ending has stayed with me for decades.

George said...

I have a small stack of Ed Gorman's books waiting to be read. And, come to think of it, I have a couple Richard Matheson books I haven't read yet, too.

Todd Mason said...

Difficult not to miss Ed, a generous soul even in the most difficult times. And a talent with a perceptive appreciation of literature, as well.