A while back, I was asked by Benjamin Szumskyi — editor of books on horror writers as well as founding editor of the journals Studies in Fantasy Literature and Studies in Australian Weird Fiction — if I would contribute to his latest endeavour, a book of critical essays on Robert Bloch.
Over the years I’ve read stories by Bloch and watched films that he scripted, but I can’t say I’m anything resembling an authority on the man’s work. Not having time to get up to speed, I declined. Undeterred, Ben asked if I’d consider writing a Foreword to the book instead. This seemed like a reasonable alternative, so I agreed and then began to think about it. I started out writing something fairly typical — a flat descriptive piece that ticked off the requirements: Bloch the crime/horror writer, Psycho, his work in cinema, Jack the Ripper, the Lovecraft legacy… To tell you the truth it felt pretty dull. So I tossed it and did something a bit more left-field.
Instead of a “real” Foreword, I ended up writing a piece of fiction in the form of a Foreword. It was inspired by a famous Bloch quote, one often falsely assigned to Stephen King:
I have the heart of a child. I keep it on a jar on my shelf.
It begins like this:
Let me tell you a story about Robert Bloch. It’s also about two people who were central to his development as a writer of the Weird. Only some of it is true.
It’s a little known fact that at one point the world was changed radically and all that we knew ceased to be, replaced by a reality that was stranger and more dangerous than anything that had preceded it.
This apocalypse happened because of H.P. Lovecraft — at least at first — though it began somewhere in a future time, a time when the bones of the dead sang and anyone with the ear to hear the music could seek out the dead and listen to their unliving ballads.
As a piece of fictional non-fiction, it ticks off all the afore-mentioned Bloch requirements and metaphorically seeks to encapsulate all that makes Bloch as significant and interesting as he is. It’s just that beyond those vagaries, it’s all lies. Like all fiction.
And history for that matter.
Oh, yes, I should add it ends on a pun.
The Man Who Collected Psychos: Critical Essays on Robert Bloch, edited by Benjamin Szumskyj, with a Foreword by Robert Hood, is now available from McFarland.
Notes, bibliography, index
262 pp. • softcover 2009
Click here to buy a copy.
The author best known for his fictional cross-dressing serial killer Norman Bates in Psycho has seen little critical review of his work. These 12 essays examine Robert Bloch’s novels, short stories and life, as well as the themes and issues explored in his influential canon. Bloch’s fascination with killers, man’s inhumanity to man, the dichotomy of tragedy and comedy, and his contributions to screen adaptations of his work are here covered by leading scholars of fantastic literature. The volume charts the growth of Robert Bloch from a writer of amateur pastiches to an acclaimed author bridging the gap between H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King.
- Robert Bloch: The Psychology of Horror — Steve Vertlieb
- A Literary Tutelage: Robert Bloch and H.P. Lovecraft — S.T. Joshi
- Lessons from Providence: Bloch’s Mentors, Bloch as a Mentor and Bloch and Fandom — Phillip A. Ellis
- The Lighter Side of Death: Robert Bloch as a Humorist — Darrell Schweitzer
- The Twisted World Inside Our Skulls: The 1950s Crime and Suspense Novels of Robert Bloch — Leigh Blackmore
- Yours Truly, Daniel Morley: An Examination of Robert Bloch’s novel The Scarf — John Howard
- The Keys to the Bates Motel: Robert Bloch’s Psycho Trilogy — Scott D. Briggs
- “Better the House Than an Asylum”: Gothic Strategies in Robert Bloch’s Psycho — Rebecca Janicker
- Ripping Good Yarns: Robert Bloch’s Partnership with Jack the Ripper — Randall D. Larson
- Robert Bloch and His Serial Killers — Philip L. Simpson
- Hell Is Other People: Robert Bloch and the Pathologies of the Family — Joel Lane
- Programming Bloch: The Small-Screen Career of Psycho’s Creator — Matthew R. Bradley
This is an excellent book on the topic and you all need a copy. The piece of oddball fiction from me is a fairly insignificant bonus.