Robert Bloch’s Contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos

A few years ago, I decided to read all of the Cthulhu Mythos fiction written by the Lovecraft Circle. I did posts on August Derleth, Henry Kuttner, Donald Wandrei, Frank Belknap Long and Clark Ashton Smith. The plan was to move on to Robert Bloch and then to finish with Robert E. Howard.

Before starting on Robert Bloch’s mythos tales, I decided that I should first read his best known work and its sequels. I enjoyed the first Psycho book, but I hated its sequels so much that I decided to hold off on reading Bloch again. I waited about a year and then started on Mysteries of the Worm, a collection of Bloch’s Cthulhu Mythos stories.

The Mysteries of the Worm

Chaosium – 2000 (First, shorter, version published in 1981)

The first two stories were run of the mill Lovecraftian pastiches, nothing special. The next story, The Shambler from the Stars was deadly. This is the story in which Bloch bases the protagonist on Lovecraft and then kills him off, a favour Lovecraft repaid in his The Haunter of the Dark. I really liked this one. It reminded me of that Frank Belknap Long story where he kills off a fictional Lovecraft. Murder seems to have been the highest form of flattery with these guys.

The standard of most of the stories is pretty decent. There’s a bunch towards the middle of the book that incorporate Bloch’s fascination with Ancient Egypt. I found these a bit tedious, but that was probably because I read all of them in one sitting.

I really liked the longer stories towards the end of the collection. Black Bargain, Notebook Found in a Deserted House, Terror in Cut-Throat Cove, and The Shadow from the Steeple, a sequel to Lovecraft’s The Haunter of the Dark, were all great. These were written more recently than the others, and they feel a lot less like somebody simply trying to write like Lovecraft. Based on the quality of these stories, I would be willing to read more Bloch in the future.

I’ve long known that Lovecraft and Bloch were penpals, but I didn’t realise Bloch was only a teenager at the time of their correspondence. It’s pretty cool that Lovecraft was so encouraging to some pesky kid that kept writing to him.

Strange Eons

Pinnacle Books – 1979 (Originally published 1978)

The premise of this novel is that Lovecraft’s stories were true, and the Old Ones are about to destroy the world. This book will be an absolute waste of time for anyone who isn’t familiar with Lovecraft’s best known stories. It’s pretty silly, but I enjoyed it in a mindless way. There are entities and characters who reappear in Lovecraft’s work, but Lovecraft never tried to codify his mythos. Bloch does. Strange Eons features elements from The Call of Cthulhu, The Rats in the Walls, the Shadow over Innsmouth, Cold Air, Pickman’s Model and several more. I read through it, enjoying the references but deliberately not spending too much time thinking if they worked to create a cohesive whole. This is clearly a homage to Bloch’s old mentor, and I don’t think he meant for anyone to take it too seriously. At one point it discusses the history of the Haunter of the Dark, the story in which Lovecraft kills off a fictionalized version of the author.

This is mastubatory, fanboy trash, but it was entertaining enough. I liked it just fine.

Ok. I guess I’ll start on Robert E. Howard soon.

Robert Bloch’s Psycho Novels

I’m planning on doing a post on Robert Bloch’s Cthulhu Mythos stories, but I thought it would be a disgrace to write about this guy without having first read his most famous work.

When I was in my early 20s, I worked in a carpark in a big shopping centre in Ireland. The first time that the shops opened on Stephen’s day (That’s “Boxing Day” for all you protestants out there.), I was lucky enough to bag the opening shift in the carpark control room. This was only 12-13 years ago, but the shops being open so soon after Christmas was a big deal at the time. I didn’t object to working on the 26th on religious grounds, but working in retail during the holiday season and seeing how awful people are when they’re shopping would make anyone believe that we all need a few days away from the shops after the 24th. I thought the mall should have remained closed, but I wasn’t in a position to turn down a shift. I went to bed on Christmas night at about 1am and had to wake up 2 hours later to get to work. When I arrived, there was already a crowd of lowlife scum queuing to get in. After the initial rush of opening the place up, myself and the Polish lad I was working with were left with a few hours with very little to do. We looked through the hard-drive on the office computer for a movie. (The night shift boys had loads on there.) I can’t remember our choices, but I know we settled on a torrented file of Hitchcock’s Psycho. There were 16 to 20 screens in front of us to watch the security cameras throughout the mall, the movie only taking up one. I remember the infamous Psycho theme playing while my eyes wandered between images of Janet Leigh being butchered and the zomboid shoppers milling about the mall with their Christmas dinners still unshat in their tummies. It was a truly horrifying experience.

Simon & Schuster – 1959

I had first seen Psycho when I was a kid, and even before seeing it I knew the basic story from references in the Simpsons and other stuff. It’s one of those stories that I assume everyone knows. When I started reading the book, I found it hard to imagine what it would be like to go into this story without knowing the main plot twist. I reckon it would probably make the book a whole lot more shocking. At this point though, I reckon there are as many people who don’t know what Norman Bates is as there are people who don’t know that Dracula is a vampire.

As far as I can remember, the book is pretty similar to the film. The only thing that really surprised me was the undercurrents of sexuality and sexual violence that run through the book. I mean, I knew that this stuff was in there, I had just forgotten how much of a pervert Bates is.

Psycho 2
Whispers Press – 1982

Psycho 2 is terrible. It’s written as some kind of ironic parody/commentary on slasher movies. It was boring, uninspired rubbish. I find it hard to understand how anybody reading the sequel to the mother of all slashers would want to read a half-hearted critique of the genre it inspired. Psycho 2 reads like it’s trying to show how it is more distinguished and intelligent than all of the books/movies about knife wielding perverts that followed it.

The writing is boring, clunky and extremely predictable. I guessed where it was going to go by the end of the first few chapters. Bloch can’t resist using the exact same trick he uses in the first one.

This book would have been way better if Bloch tried to emulate the types of movies he is trying to critique. Psycho 2 sucks.

Psycho House
Tor – 1990

Psycho 2 was so terrible that I decided against reading Psycho 3 or Psycho House or whatever it’s called. Shortly after making this decision, I found myself in work with nothing to read except an ebook version of the 3 Psycho novels. I reluctantly started Psycho 3. I finished it a few hours later. It was so crap that I couldn’t bring myself to do anything other than skim through it very quickly. Norman Bates dies early on in the second novel, and he has absolutely no role in this book. At one point a demonologist character appears, but his only function in the book is to distract the reader from what’s really going on. There is no supernatural element at play here. There is also no psycho in this novel. The murders that occur are committed by a person who is not suffering from any form of mental illness. This is an absolutely shitty murder mystery novel.

I only found out after reading Psycho 3 that it is considered Bloch’s worst novel. This is a relief, as I have been planning to read more of his stuff. Psycho is a decent novel. It’s quick and nasty, even if you already know the story. If I owned physical copies of Psycho 2 and Psycho 3, I would tear out the pages and use them to blow my nose. Despite their names, the sequels to the original Psycho movie are entirely different to the sequels to the novel. I briefly considered watching them, but I decided to dress up in my mom’s clothes instead.