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A Stir of Echoes Paperback – June 30, 2000
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About the Author
He lives in Calabasas, California.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The day it all started—a hot, August Saturday—I’d gotten off work a little after twelve. My name is Tom Wallace; I work in Publications at the North American Aircraft plant in Inglewood, California. We were living in Hawthorne, renting a two-bedroom tract house owned by one of our next-door neighbors, Mildred Sentas. Another neighbor, Frank Wanamaker, and I usually drove to and from the plant together, alternating cars. But Frank didn’t like Saturday work and had managed to beg off that particular day. So I drove home alone.
As I turned onto Tulley Street, I saw the ‘51 Mercury coupe parked in front of our house and knew that Anne’s brother, Philip, was visiting. He was a psychology major at the University of California in Berkeley and he sometimes drove down to L.A. for weekends. This was the first time he’d been to our new place; we’d only moved in two months before.
I nosed the Ford into the driveway and braked it in front of the garage. Across the street Frank Wanamaker’s wife, Elizabeth, was sitting on their lawn pulling up weeds. She smiled faintly at me and raised one white-gloved hand. I waved to her as I got out of the car and started for the porch. As I went up its two steps I saw Elizabeth struggle to her feet and adjust her maternity smock. The baby was due in about three months. It was the Wanamaker’s first in seven years of marriage.
When I opened the front door and went into the living room, I saw Phil sitting at the kitchen table, a bottle of Coca-Cola in front of him. He was about twenty, tall and lean, his darkish-brown hair crew-cut. He glanced in at me and grinned.
“Hi, brother man,” he said.
“Hi.” I took off my suit coat and hung it in the front closet. Anne met me in the kitchen doorway with a smile and a kiss.
“How’s the little mother?” I asked, patting her stomach.
“Gross,” she said.
I chuckled and kissed her again.
“As they say,” I said, “hot enough for you?”
“Don’t even talk about it,” she answered.
“Hungry?” she asked.
“Good. Phil and I were just about to start.”
“Be right with you.” I washed my hands and sat down across from Phil, eyeing his blindingly green polo shirt.
“What’s that for,” I asked, “warning off aircraft?”
“Glows in the dark,” he said.
“Helps the co-eds keep track of you at night,” I said. Phil grinned.
“Now don’t you two get started again,” Anne said, putting a dish of cold cuts on the table.
“Whatever does you mean?” Phil said to her.
“Never mind now,” she said. “I don’t want any needling session this weekend. It’s too hot.”
“Agreed,” said Phil, “needling excluded. Agreed, brother man?”
“And spoil my weekend?” I said.
“Never mind,” said Anne. “I can’t face that and the heat both.”
“Where’s Richard?” I asked.
“Playing in the backyard with Candy.” Anne sat down beside me with a groan. “There’s a load off my feet,” she said.
I patted her hand and we started eating.
“Speaking of Candy,” Anne said, “I trust you haven’t forgotten the party tonight at Elsie’s.”
“Oh my God,” I said, “I did forget. Do we have to go?”
Anne shrugged. “She invited us a week ago. That was excuse time. It’s too late now.”
“Confusion.” I bit into my ham on rye.
“Brother man seems less than joyous,” Phil said. “Elsie’s shindigs no goo’?”
“No goo’,” I said.
“Who is she?”
“Our next-door neighbor,” Anne told him. “Candy’s her little girl.”
“And parties are her profession,” I said. “She’s the poor man’s Elsa Maxwell.”
Anne smiled and shook her head. “Poor Elsie,” she said. “If she only knew what awful things we say behind her back.”
“Dull, huh?” said Phil.
“Why talk?” I said. “Go to the party with us and see for yourself.”
“I’ll liven ‘er up,” said Phil.
* * *
A little after eight-fifteen Richard fell asleep in his crib and we went next door to Elsie’s house. In most marriages you think of a couple’s home as theirs. Not so with that house. Ron may have made the payments on it but the ownership was strictly Elsie’s. You felt it.
It was Ron who answered our knock. He was twenty-four, a couple of years older than Elsie, a couple of inches taller. He was slightly built, sandy-haired with a round, boyish face that seldom lost its impassive set; even when he smiled as he did then, the ends of his mouth curling up slightly.
“Come in,” he said in his quiet, polite voice.
Frank and Elizabeth were already there, Elizabeth settled on the red sofa like a diffident patient in a dentist’s waiting room, Frank’s thin body slouched in one of the red arm chairs. He brightened only a little when we came in, raising his bored gaze from the green rug, straightening up in the chair, then standing. I introduced Phil around.
I glanced over and saw Elsie peering around the corner of the kitchen doorway. She’d cut her dark hair still shorter and bobbed it still tighter, I noticed. When we’d moved into the neighborhood, she’d had long, drabby blond hair.
We all said hello to her and she disappeared a moment, then came into the room with a tray of drinks in her hands. She was wearing a red, netlike dress which clung tightly to the curves of her plump body. When she bent over to put the tray down on the blondwood coffee table, the bosom of the dress slipped away from her tight, black brassiere. I noticed Frank’s pointed stare, then Elsie straightened up with a brassy, hostesslike smile and looked at Phil. Anne introduced them.
“Hel-lo,” Elsie said. “I’m so glad you could come.” She looked at us. “Well,” she said, “name your poison.”
What happened that evening up to the point when it all began is not important. There were the usual peregrinations to the kitchen and the bathroom; the usual breaking up and re-gathering of small groups—the women, the men, Frank, Phil and myself, Elizabeth and Anne, Elsie and Phil, Ron and me—and so on; the drifting knots of conversation that take place at any get-together.
There was record music and a little sporadic attempt at dancing. There was Candy stumbling into the living room, blinking and numb with only half-broken sleep; being tucked back into her bed. There were the expected personality displays—Frank, cynical and bored; Elizabeth, quietly radiant in her pregnancy; Phil, amusing and quick; Ron, mute and affable; Anne, soft-spoken and casual; Elsie, bouncing and strainedly vivacious.
One bit of conversation I remember: I was just about to go next door to check on Richard when Elsie said something about our getting a baby-sitter.
“It doesn’t matter when you just go next door like this,” she said, “but you do have to get out once in a while.” Once in a while, to Elsie, meant an average of four nights a week.
“We’d like to,” Anne said, “but we just haven’t been able to find one.”
“Try ours,” said Elsie. “She’s a nice kid and real reliable.”
That was when I left and checked on Richard—and had one of my many n
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0765308711
- ISBN-13 : 978-0765308719
- Dimensions : 5.6 x 0.57 x 8.24 inches
- Publisher : Tor Books (June 30, 2000)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #553,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I wanted something different to read in the middle of all the Dray Prescot books I’m reading over the Christmas break, happened across this one on Amazon, and downloaded it on a whim. Then I sat down to read.
Richard Matheson was an excellent storyteller. It doesn’t matter what medium he worked in: novel, short story, television. He just introduced you to a character and a situation, and then he got on with it. A Stir of Echoes (notice that the book is titled differently than the movie) starts out calmly, just a dinner date that includes a brother-in-law who gets along well with his sister and Tom Wallace, the narrator of this tale.
After getting hypnotized, Tom starts seeing a mysterious woman in his house and becomes convinced she is a ghost. This book was written back in 1958 (I was actually surprised by the copyright date) and talk of medium and séances had kind of faded, although SF had picked up the “wild talents” theory (basically psi powers like telepathy, precognition, and psychometry, etc.).
Matheson’s story is a quick, gripping read. Although I had seen the movie, I was delighted to learn that the book was not the same story. Most of it is there, but the tension ratchets up in different ways and the ending is much different.
The thing I liked the most is the fact that Tom Wallace just seems like an everyday guy, a buddy you could hang with at work, a friend who has a family life and problems similar to yours. It’s that everyman feel that really sets off this book. I was swept away by the story, by Tom’s problems and his efforts to handle them for himself and his family. I was so caught up in them that I forgot that I wasn’t reading about the 21st century. The absence of computers and cell phones never really touched me because I was so firmly entrenched in Tom’s world.
The book does take a weird twist at the end, and that bothered me somewhat. Although Tom is on hand for the finale, he’s not really cognizant of the action. I didn’t much care for that, but the whole confrontation that takes place proceeds at a blistering pace and turns so unexpectedly I was caught flatfooted.
This is a good book for a weekend read. Dedicated readers can probably knock it out in a night or two. Rest assured, if you’ve seen the Kevin Bacon movie (also good!), you haven’t seen everything Matheson has to offer. Pick up a copy for a slow, dark weekend and enjoy being captivated
I saw the film, “Stir of Echoes”, years ago when it was released. I enjoyed the movie, but had no idea it was based on a book. Like most adaptations, there was some departure from the novel. I think that allowed me to still be engaged in the book, as I didn’t quite know where it would lead.
Top reviews from other countries
You may have heard of Stir of Echoes, in 1999 it was made into a film starring everyone's favourite gymnast Kevin Bacon. What you probably didn't know that the film was an adaptation of a fantastic book.
This is the second Matheson book I've read (the other being the amazing I Am Legend, possibly one of the best books ever written) and I loved it. It's a bite sized 256 pages and reads very much like an episode of the Outer Limits, and is one of those most comfortable reads you long for, when you have a hectic life.
Matheson has this uncanny ability to write timeless classics which manage to truly capture the human spirit. You can't put the book down, not only because it's thrilling but because you feel a real connection to the protagonist. Its hard to believe this was written in 1958.
I must say it held me all the way through and I was keen to find out the answers to Tom Wallace's incredible psychic abilities. On reflection I wouldn't label it a 'must read' book, but it did keep me on the hook right the way through.
Tom Wallace lives with his wife Anne and their young son Richard, a perfectly normal family in a perfectly normal, friendly neighbourhood. The neighbours and the Wallace family are close-knit and they have frequent get togethers, and one in paticular will stand out in Toms mind forever. Anne's Brother is learning Hypnotism and, since Tom is the hardline-skeptic of the group, her brother encourages Tom to be hypnotised. The hypnotism goes successfully (in a strange way) and Tom spills out all sorts of revelations about his life, impressing the group, however it doesn't end there as Tom awakens out of the trance to find everyone has unknowingly and very suddenly become an open book to him, even in their futures. And it isn't just the living who want to share their secrets with Tom... is his neighbourhood as quaint and perfect as it seems? Will his family suffer in his quest to find truth in all the madness he's experiencing as a result of the hypnotism? You'll have to read the Book to find out!
This book is quite a speedy read, it's quite short and is written attractively and simply so I read it in about 2 days. But even the way that it's written doesn't do the story much justice, I found that not a great deal happens, there seems to be more filler than anything exciting or thrilling happening to Tom. Whatever does happen happens very quickly, almost blink-and-you'll-miss-it, I think it would have made the story better to drag it out a bit more. Also SOE came across as a very scattered and uneven read. It's okay, not brilliant.