No reader of horror fiction needs an introduction to Robert Bloch. Once asked how he had the energy to be such an endlessly prolific writer, Bloch replied, "I have the heart of a small boy... in a jar on my desk." A groan-inducing pun? Yes, but that type of macabre, old-man humor is one of Bloch's trademarks. Since his teenage days in the 1930s as a personal correspondent of H.P. Lovecraft's, Bloch's countless novels and story collections have mined black humor and pathological criminal behavior. His works have been printed and reprinted for decades by various publishers with all different styles of cover art, but one thing was virtually a constant after a certain 1960 movie: the phrase "author of Psycho" beneath his name.
Early works like the crime novel The Scarf (1947), or The Opener of the Way (1945) originally from Arkham House, have it on their later mass market paperback resissues. And it's really no surprise, is it? Bloch had ostensibly created (with a filmmaker's assist, of course) the most iconic murder in all of horror - and crime - fiction. Publishers were not about to let reading audiences forget that.
A UK edition of Opener of the Way (1976), as well as Mysteries of the Worm (1981), collect Bloch's Weird Tales/Cthulhu Mythos stories of the 1930s, which he admits were maybe just a little too amateurishly Lovecraftian to be of much interest years later.
The Dead Beat (1960) and Firebug (1961) are suspense pulps with the appropriate cover art. Dig how the match flame is burning up Psycho...
Pleasant Dreams (1960/1979), Nightmares (1961), Strange Eons (1978), and The Skull of the Marquis de Sade (1963) collect Bloch's short stories. Yes, that's Peter Cushing examining the Marquis skull in the 1965 movie The Skull.
Terror (1962) and Horror-7 (1963) don't really go out of their way in the title department but know that a terrified woman is simply irresistible to horror fiction readers. Or at least a woman who seems slightly perplexed and pissed by her situation.
Novels like Night World (1972) and The Cunning (originally published as There is a Serpent in Eden in 1979 with a completely incongruous cover) followed. By the 1980s Bloch was being published by the Tor horror line, who even went way back to 1954 with its reprint of The Kidnapper. "Better than Psycho!" it exclaims. One seriously doubts that claim. The Night of the Ripper (1984) and Lori (1989) look like any other mass market horror paperback of the era; the latter title part of Bloch's boundless fascination with Jack the Ripper, whom he first wrote about in his classic short story "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" way back in '43. I read it way back in '89 or so and yet remember nothing about it.
By the time of his death at age 77 in 1994, Robert Bloch was, of course, considered a grand master of genre fiction. One wonders just what became of that small boy's heart in a jar on his desk...
John Rhode's The Hanging Woman
3 hours ago