Charles Beaumont (1929-1967) was best known for his horror and science fiction stories, many of which he (and others) adapted for the classic 1959-64 Twilight Zone television series. Some of those tales are included in the recent (2015) collection Perchance To Dream: Selected Stories from Penguin Books, which offers an okay sampler of 22 of Beaumont’s works. Beaumont’s solid, compelling style, sometimes whimsical in tone depending on the subject matter, is not unlike his mentor & friend Ray Bradbury’s storytelling techniques.
At least six stories by Beaumont that wound up on The Twilight Zone are here, including “The Jungle” (a man is cursed by an African tribe he tried to displace and finds himself stalked by… something in a deserted city), “The Howling Man” (is that screaming guy locked up in a monastery really the Devil?), “In His Image” (after pushing a woman in front of a subway train to her death, strangely unconcerned Peter Nolan goes off to get married & visit his old hometown, but discovers things aren’t what they seem to be), “The Beautiful People” (in a totalitarian future, a young girl is forced to change her physical appearance against her will), and the title story, “Perchance To Dream” (a man is terrified of falling asleep, believing he’ll die if he does). Fans of the show’s versions may get a kick out of the differences between Beaumont’s original tales and the TV versions (“The Jungle” took place in an automated city in the future; the TZ version is set in 1960s New York & includes other characters, yet is just as suspenseful). All of these, plus the more character- orientated “Song For A Lady” (retitled “Passage on the Lady Anne” when it was dramatized on TZ in 1963), still pack an emotional wallop.
There are also some real undiscovered gems here that didn’t get adapted by TZ, including the terrifying “The New People” (there’s something strange about the new neighbors…) and the thought provoking “Last Rites” (can an artificially made human being possess an actual soul?). There’s also the humorous “Blood Brother” (how does somebody adjust to being a vampire?) and the somewhat silly “A Classic Affair” (a man falls in love with… a classic car!). And the time travel story “Father, Dear Father” is simply a long build up to an obvious (and dumb) punchline, proving that as good as he was, Beaumont didn’t always hit a home run.
Fantasy fans may like reading the book’s introduction by the late Ray Bradbury (taken from a 1982 collection of Beaumont’s stories) and the more recent afterword by the actor William Shatner (who had worked, and became friends, with Beaumont on the 1962 film The Intruder, also based on the author’s work). Both are heartfelt and touching testimonials to Beaumont the writer and the man.
We carry not only Perchance To Dream but other works (including films he wrote or co wrote) by Beaumont in our catalog. Here’s hoping this anthology will lead to more collections of the writer’s output being published. If you like exciting, offbeat fantasy thrillers, with a bit of whimsy, then check out the works of Charles Beaumont!
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