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The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, edited by Roger Anker Book Review | SFReader.com
The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, edited by Roger Anker Genre: Dark Fantasy Publisher: Gauntlet Press Published: 2004 Review Posted: 4/15/2005 Reviewer Rating:
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The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, edited by Roger Anker
Book Review by Jeff Edwards
Have you read this book?
The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont: Volume One opens with an apt quote from Beaumont himself: "All the fantasy writers I know have a way of dwelling on their own fears and phobias. A writer spends his life being his own psychiatrist." These words echo quietly throughout the collection.
Writers - and others with strong imaginations - often terrify themselves with demons of their own design. Beaumont takes this idea and amplifies it: his trademark scenario is a claustrophobic, nightmarish situation from which his characters cannot escape. In "Perchance to Dream," Edward Hall stays awake for eighty-seven hours, convinced that his dreams will kill him. "The mind is everything," he says. Edward is certain that if he dies in a dream, his heart won't withstand the shock in real life. In "The Jungle," Alan Richards and his wife are terrorized by a curse laid upon them by angry African shamans. Alan has seen voodoo work - has seen healthy people sicken and die - because the victims believed in the dark magic, "and their belief made it real."
In his own life, Beaumont fell victim to the typical Hollywood syndrome: "[T]he more money he made, the more he spent," says a friend. Too much was never enough. Beaumont's scripts reflect the same type of excess. In "A Nice Place to Visit," a small-time criminal dies and goes to heaven (he thinks) where everything he wants is just a wish away. In "The Prime Mover," Ace Larsen is ecstatic to learn that a friend possesses the power of telekinesis - and that this talent can be exploited for profit in the casinos of Las Vegas. Despite winning enough money to last a lifetime, Ace continues to gamble with bigger and bigger stakes, his behavior turning uglier with every dollar he wins.
In addition to tales of greed and overactive imagination, Beaumont (whose real name was Nutt until he had it legally changed) often wrote about losing one's identity. In "Person or Persons Unknown," David Gurney is puzzled - then horrified - when no one seems to recognize him. His wife and co-workers all regard him as a stranger, as though David's existence has been wiped out. At the start of "In His Image," Alan Talbot finds himself in a similar situation: when he returns to his hometown after only a few days' absence, Alan discovers someone else living in his house. His neighbors are gone; the town has changed - even the buildings are different: "[E]ither I've got the worst memory in the world...or..." Sadly, Beaumont would soon struggle with his own memory: he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at the age of thirty-five. He died just a few years later.
Beaumont's premature death at the age of thirty-eight was tragic, but he left behind a body of work that continues to inspire writers and filmmakers. The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont: Volume One does a superb job of preserving that legacy for a new generation of readers to discover.
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