Of course, all of that was overshadowed by his greatest success: the 1959 novel, Psycho, adapted by legendary director Alfred Hitchcock as perhaps his most famous film.
But there’s a lot more to Robert Bloch than just Psycho, as most fans know. Bloch was one of the earliest members of the Lovecraft Circle and Lovecraft was his early mentor. Bloch began writing to Lovecraft in 1933, after discovering his stories in Weird Tales, and his first professional sales to the same magazine a year later — when he was only 17 — were heavily influenced by him. Bloch even used Lovecraft as a (doomed) character in his 1935 short story “The Shambler from the Stars.” Lovecraft returned the favor, killing off his character “Robert Blake” in “The Haunter of the Dark” (1936), which he dedicated to Bloch.
Bloch gradually expanded his correspondence to Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, and others laying the groundwork for what would eventually be known as the Cthulhu Mythos. Together, they built on Lovecraft’s work, kicking off a tradition that is still very much alive today.
Bloch didn’t just hobnob with the Lovecraft Circle — in 1935, he joined The Milwaukee Fictioneers, a group of pulp fiction writers including Ralph Milne Farley, Raymond A. Palmer, and Stanley Weinbaum. Around the same time, he became friends with C.L. Moore and her husband Henry Kuttner. Man, those pulp writers sure stuck together.
After Lovecraft’s death in 1937, Bloch continued writing for Weird Tales, but also expanded to other markets, including Amazing Stories, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, F&SF, and many others. Real notice came with his early story, “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” which originally appeared in Weird Tales in 1943 and became one of the most reprinted fantasy tales of the 20th Century.
Bloch’s first published novel was The Scarf (1947), followed by Spiderweb (1954). But it was his short fiction that really brought him critical acclaim during the period, including “The Man Who Collected Poe” (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, 1951), “The Past Master” (Bluebook, 1955), and his Hugo-award winning “That Hell-Bound Train” (F&SF, Sep 1958)
In 1977, Lester del Rey selected Robert Bloch to include in his monumental Classic Science Fiction series, reprinting the best short fiction of the most acclaimed SF and fantasy writers of the early 20th Century. The book included 22 stories spanning over three decades, from 1943 to 1974.
The Wizardry of Robert Bloch
A creature sat on his shoulder and whispered in his ear… “Kill!”
“The Past Master”
Why did he have to buy — or steal — all the world’s great art… by tomorrow?
“The Movie People”
Up there were shadows on the screen, posturing on a back-lot Babylon or on a ghost-town set… or were they looking at you?
The man Who Collected Poe
He had first editions, bizarre and unique mementos, unknown works… and something more!
“That Hellbound Train”
The service beats Amtrak — but the terminal is something else again!
These and 17 other demonic diversions — including the now-classic “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” — are a fiendish fest for all mavens of the macabre and addicts of the macabre, served up by the Shah of Shudders, himself… Robert Bloch!
More than a touch of Forrest J. Ackerman in that final paragraph… makes you wonder if Del Rey was hiring him to do marketing copy.
Here’s the Table of Contents:
Robert Bloch: The Man Who Wrote Psycho, by Lester del Rey
“Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” (Weird Tales, Jul 1943)
“Enoch” (Weird Tales, Sep 1946)
“Catnip” (Weird Tales, Mar 1948)
“The Hungry House” (Imagination, Apr 1951)
“The Man Who Collected Poe” (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Oct 1951)
“Mr. Steinway” (Fantastic, Apr 1954)
“The Past Master” (Bluebook, Jan 1955)
“I Like Blondes” (Playboy, Jan 1956)
“All on a Golden Afternoon” (F&SF, Jun 1956)
“Broomstick Ride” (Super Science Fiction, Dec 1957)
“Daybroke” (Star Science Fiction Magazine, Jan 1958)
“Sleeping Beauty” (Swank, Mar 1958)
“Word of Honor” (Playboy, Aug 1958)
“The World-Timer” (Fantastic, Aug 1960)
“That Hell-Bound Train” (F&SF, Sep 1958)
“The Funnel of God” (Fantastic, Jan 1960)
“Beelzebub” (Playboy, Dec 1963)
“The Plot Is the Thing” (F&SF, Jul 1966)
“How Like a God” (Galaxy, Apr 1969)
“The Movie People” (F&SF, Oct 1969)
“The Oracle” (Penthouse, May 1971)
“The Learning Maze (The Learning Maze, 1974)
Author’s Afterword: “Will the Real Robert Bloch Please Stand Up?”
The Best of Robert Bloch was edited by Lester del Rey and published in November, 1977. It was 396 pages in paperback, priced at $1.95. Unlike many others in the series, I don’t believe this one had a hardcover Science Fiction Book Club reprint.
So far we’ve covered the following volumes in the Classics of Science Fiction line (in order of original publication):
The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum
The Best of Fritz Leiber
The Best of Henry Kuttner
The Best of John W. Campbell
The Best of C M Kornbluth
The Best of Philip K. Dick
The Best of Fredric Brown
The Best of Edmond Hamilton
The Best of Murray Leinster
The Best of Robert Bloch
The Best of Jack Williamson
The Best of Hal Clement
The Best of James Blish
The Best of John Brunner
See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.