Friday, November 7, 2014

FFB: Robert Bloch: THE BEST OF ROBERT BLOCH (Ballantine 1977); SUCH STUFF AS SCREAMS ARE MADE OF (Ballantine/Del Rey 1979), among other collections

Robert Bloch and Fritz Leiber were the two most important writers to be mentored by H. P. Lovecraft, and were younger members of the group of corresponding friends known as the Lovecraft Circle, which also included Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, August Derleth and a small slew of others; while Derleth would not only be Lovecraft's primary publisher after his early death but would write endless pastiches of HPL's work, often based however tenuously on unpublished fragments among Lovecraft's papers, it was Bloch and Leiber who really picked up the ball with Lovecraft's primary innovation, an emphasis on existential horror in a supernatural context...humanity wasn't in trouble so much (or at least not so primarily) because of being the prize in a struggle between good and evil gods and demons, so much as because we were just another incidental item in the environment of entities and forces that took note of us, if they could at at all, only when it suited them...and our welfare was never much of their concern, when they had concerns.  Of course, both Bloch and Leiber also wrote more traditional horror and fantasy fiction, and hybrids as well...but both also went on to explore new implications of their most Lovecraftian work, and find their own voices...Bloch particularly fascinated by psychopathia and Leiber with the evolution of myth...as might well be demonstrated by their most influential early stories: Bloch's "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" and Leiber's "Smoke Ghost"...and, of course, Bloch would eventually become most famous for creating Norman Bates and his family motel, as the author of Psycho, and Leiber perhaps dually as the chronicler of the picaresque fantasy adventurers Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and for his most famous and durable horror novel, Conjure Wife. And then there were the best of succeeding generations of Lovecraftian-influenced writers: Ramsey Campbell and Fred Chappell, Thomas Ligotti and T.E.D. Klein, and others. All diverse talents, and none moreso than Bloch...as his two late 1970s career retrospective collections of short fiction, both selected by Bloch himself, helped demonstrate...even given that they pointedly only took from certain areas of Bloch's writing. The Best of slightly overrepresented  Bloch's science-fictional work (while also including fantasy and horror fiction), in part because much of it was close to his heart and in part because it was being published in Ballantine's sf/fantasy line, so a year and change later, a second collection focused more thoroughly on his horror and including no little of his more outre suspense fiction, was issued as a natural companion.

The Best of Robert Bloch Robert Bloch  (Ballantine 0-345-25757-X, Nov ’77, $1.95, 397pp, pb)
  • xi · Robert Bloch: The Man Who Wrote Psycho · Lester del Rey · in
  • 1 · Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper · ss Weird Tales Jul ’43
  • 21 · Enoch · ss Weird Tales Sep ’46
  • 39 · Catnip · ss Weird Tales Mar ’48
  • 55 · The Hungry House · ss Imagination Apr ’51
  • 79 · The Man Who Collected Poe · ss Famous Fantastic Mysteries Oct ’51
  • 97 · Mr. Steinway · ss Fantastic Apr ’54
  • 113 · The Past Master · nv Bluebook Jan ’55
  • 141 · I Like Blondes · ss Playboy Jan ’56
  • 153 · All on a Golden Afternoon · nv F&SF Jun ’56
  • 185 · Broomstick Ride · ss Super Science Fiction Dec ’57
  • 197 · Daybroke · ss Star Science Fiction Magazine Jan ’58
  • 209 · Sleeping Beauty [“The Sleeping Redheads”] · ss Swank Mar ’58
  • 225 · Word of Honor · ss Playboy Aug ’58
  • 237 · The World-Timer · nv Fantastic Aug ’60
  • 271 · That Hell-Bound Train · ss F&SF Sep ’58
  • 289 · The Funnel of God · nv Fantastic Jan ’60
  • 319 · Beelzebub · ss Playboy Dec ’63
  • 329 · The Plot Is the Thing · ss F&SF Jul ’66
  • 337 · How Like a God · ss Galaxy Apr ’69
  • 355 · The Movie People · ss F&SF Oct ’69
  • 269 · The Oracle · ss Penthouse May ’71
  • 377 · The Learning Maze · ss The Learning Maze, ed. Roger Elwood, Messner, 1974
  • 393 · Author’s Afterword: “Will the Real Robert Bloch Please Stand Up?” · aw

Such Stuff As Screams Are Made Of  Robert Bloch  (Ballantine 0-345-27996-4, Feb ’79, $1.95, 287pp, pb)
  • ix · Introduction · Gahan Wilson · in
  • 1 · The Tunnel of Love [“Hell Is My Legacy”] · ss New Detective Magazine Jul ’48
  • 11 · The Unspeakable Betrothal · ss Avon Fantasy Reader 9, ed. Donald A. Wollheim, Avon Publishing Co., 1949
  • 26 · The Girl from Mars · ss Fantastic Adventures Mar ’50
  • 34 · The Head Hunter [“Head Man”] · ss 15 Mystery Stories Jun ’50
  • 52 · The Weird Tailor · nv Weird Tales Jul ’50
  • 74 · Lucy Comes to Stay · ss Weird Tales Jan ’52
  • 81 · The Pin · ss Amazing Dec ’53/Jan ’54
  • 96 · I Do Not Love Thee, Doctor Fell · ss F&SF Mar ’55
  • 107 · Luck Is No Lady · ss AHMM Aug ’57
  • 124 · The Cure · ss Playboy Oct ’57
  • 132 · The Screaming People · nv Fantastic Jan ’59
  • 171 · The Big Kick · ss Rogue Jul ’59
  • 181 · The Masterpiece · ss Rogue Jun ’60
  • 186 · Talent · ss If Jul ’60
  • 200 · The Final Performance · ss Shock Sep ’60
  • 214 · Life in Our Time · ss EQMM Oct ’66
  • 223 · Underground [“The Living Dead”] · ss EQMM Apr ’67
  • 230 · A Case of the Stubborns · ss F&SF Oct ’76
  • 248 · The Head · ss The Ides of Tomorrow, ed. Terry Carr, Little & Brown, 1976
  • 257 · What You See Is What You Get · ss F&SF Oct ’77
  • 273 · Nina · ss F&SF Jun ’77
  • 284 · Author’s Afterword · aw
Everything in these books ranges from good to brilliant (from the surreal South African psychodrama "The Funnel of God" to the gentle nostalgic fantasy of "The Movie People", the key run-ups to Psycho "Lucy Comes to Stay" and "I Do Not Love Thee, Doctor Fell") and while Bloch would go onto further good short (and long) work in the decade and half after the publication of the latter book, reading such later collections as Midnight Pleasures and Cold Chills will give you a better sense of his late career than you'll get from, for example, The Selected Stories of Robert Bloch, which was reprinted in paperback in a typo-ridden edition with the utterly fraudulent title The Complete Stories of Robert Bloch. (As I mentioned to Sergio Angelini not too long ago, the complete short Bloch fiction would run more to thirty volumes than this set's three.) Looking at the contents of the three-volume set again, I see that while it does include some rather minor Bloch stories, and while overlapping heavily with these two volumes above for some reason omits such obvious stories as "That Hell-Bound Train", it, too, is a decent representation of Bloch's shorter work...but the awful packaging and error-riddled text of the paperback edition makes it a poor choice for first reading. You should read "Water's Edge", though...and won't suffer with "Talent" nor "The Animal Fair"...but "Freak Show" was a very poor choice to end with. Bloch's humorous fantasies, the Damon Runyonesque Lefty Feep stories and his Thorne Smith pastiches and others, are mostly missing from these volumes as well...among much else. And then there are the novels, and the occasional nonfiction...The Lost Bloch collections are utterly recommended...

Final Reckonings Robert Bloch (Underwood-Miller 0-88733-055-X (Vol.1), Mar ’88, $80.00 set, 371pp, hc) The Selected Stories of Robert Bloch, Vol. I
  • 1 · Mannikins of Horror · ss Weird Tales Dec ’39
  • 11 · Almost Human [as by Tarleton Fiske] · ss Fantastic Adventures Jun ’43
  • 27 · The Beasts of Barsac · ss Weird Tales Jul ’44
  • 45 · The Skull of the Marquis de Sade · ss Weird Tales Sep ’45
  • 61 · The Bogey Man Will Get You · ss Weird Tales Mar ’46
  • 71 · Frozen Fear · ss Weird Tales May ’46
  • 79 · The Tunnel of Love [“Hell Is My Legacy”] · ss New Detective Magazine Jul ’48
  • 87 · The Unspeakable Betrothal · ss Avon Fantasy Reader 9, ed. Donald A. Wollheim, Avon Publishing Co., 1949
  • 99 · Tell Your Fortune · nv Weird Tales May ’50
  • 121 · Head Man · ss 15 Mystery Stories Jun ’50
  • 135 · The Shadow from the Steeple · nv Weird Tales Sep ’50
  • 153 · The Man Who Collected Poe · ss Famous Fantastic Mysteries Oct ’51
  • 165 · Lucy Comes to Stay · ss Weird Tales Jan ’52
  • 171 · The Thinking Cap · nv Other Worlds Science Stories Jun ’53
  • 195 · Constant Reader · ss Universe Jun ’53
  • 207 · The Pin · ss Amazing Dec ’53/Jan ’54
  • 219 · The Goddess of Wisdom · ss Fantastic Universe May ’54
  • 233 · The Past Master · nv Bluebook Jan ’55
  • 253 · Where the Buffalo Roam · ss Other Worlds Science Stories Jul ’55
  • 267 · I Like Blondes · ss Playboy Jan ’56
  • 277 · You Got to Have Brains · ss Fantastic Universe Jan ’56
  • 287 · A Good Imagination · ss Suspect Detective Stories Jan ’56
  • 301 · Dead-End Doctor · ss Galaxy Feb ’56
  • 313 · Terror in the Night · ss Manhunt Feb ’56
  • 321 · All on a Golden Afternoon · nv F&SF Jun ’56
  • 343 · Founding Fathers · ss Fantastic Universe Jul ’56
  • 359 · String of Pearls · ss The Saint Detective Magazine Aug ’56
Bitter Ends Robert Bloch (Underwood-Miller 0-88733-055-X (Vol.2), Mar ’88, $80.00 set, 368pp, hc) The Selected Stories of Robert Bloch, Vol. II
  • 1 · Water’s Edge · ss Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Sep ’56
  • 15 · The Real Bad Friend · nv Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Feb ’57
  • 35 · Man with a Hobby · ss AHMM Mar ’57
  • 41 · Welcome, Stranger · ss Satellite Apr ’57
  • 49 · Terror Over Hollywood · nv Fantastic Universe Jun ’57
  • 69 · Luck Is No Lady · ss AHMM Aug ’57
  • 83 · Crime in Rhyme · ss EQMM Oct ’57
  • 91 · The Cure · ss Playboy Oct ’57
  • 97 · Sock Finish · nv EQMM Nov ’57
  • 113 · Broomstick Ride · ss Super Science Fiction Dec ’57
  • 121 · Daybroke · ss Star Science Fiction Magazine Jan ’58
  • 129 · Betsy Blake Will Live Forever [“Is Betsy Blake Still Alive?”] · ss EQMM Apr ’58
  • 143 · Terror in Cut-Throat Cove · nv Fantastic Jun ’58
  • 175 · Word of Honor · ss Playboy Aug ’58
  • 183 · That Old Black Magic · ss Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Sep ’58
  • 197 · The Deadliest Art [“The Ungallant Hunter”] · ss Bestseller Mystery Magazine Nov ’58; ; as “The Living Bracelet”, EQMM Jun ’59
  • 203 · The Screaming People · nv Fantastic Jan ’59
  • 233 · The Hungry Eye · nv Fantastic May ’59
  • 251 · Show Biz · ss EQMM May ’59
  • 257 · The Gloating Place · ss Rogue Jun ’59
  • 265 · The Man Who Knew Women · nv The Saint Mystery Magazine Jul ’59
  • 285 · The Big Kick · ss Rogue Jul ’59
  • 293 · Night School · ss Rogue Aug ’59
  • 303 · Sabbatical · ss Galaxy Dec ’59
  • 311 · The Funnel of God · nv Fantastic Jan ’60
  • 331 · ’Til Death Do Us Part · ss Bestseller Mystery Magazine Jan ’60
  • 335 · The Show Must Go On · ss Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Jan ’60
  • 339 · A Matter of Life · ss Keyhole Mystery Magazine Jun ’60
  • 345 · Pin-Up Girl [as by Will Folke] · ss Shock Jul ’60
  • 351 · The Baldheaded Mirage · ss Amazing Jun ’60
  • 363 · The Masterpiece · ss Rogue Jun ’60
Last Rites Robert Bloch (Underwood-Miller 0-88733-055-X (Vol.3), Mar ’88, $80.00 set, 398pp, hc) The Selected Stories of Robert Bloch, Vol. III
  • 1 · Talent · ss If Jul ’60
  • 11 · The World-Timer · nv Fantastic Aug ’60
  • 35 · Fat Chance · ss Keyhole Mystery Magazine Aug ’60
  • 45 · The Final Performance · ss Shock Sep ’60
  • 55 · Hobo · ss Ed McBain’s Mystery Book #2 ’60
  • 59 · A Home Away from Home · ss AHMM Jun ’61
  • 67 · The Unpardonable Crime · ss Swank Sep ’61
  • 73 · Crime Machine · ss Galaxy Oct ’61
  • 79 · Untouchable · ss The Saint Mystery Magazine (UK) Nov ’61
  • 85 · Method for Murder · ss Fury Jul ’62
  • 91 · The Living End · ss The Saint Detective Magazine May ’63
  • 95 · Impractical Joker [“Deadly Joker”] · ss The Saint Detective Magazine Aug ’63
  • 109 · Beelzebub · ss Playboy Dec ’63
  • 117 · The Old College Try · ss Gamma #2 ’63
  • 133 · A Quiet Funeral · ss The Skull of the Marquis de Sade, Pyramid, 1965
  • 139 · The Plot Is the Thing · ss F&SF Jul ’66
  • 145 · Life in Our Time · ss EQMM Oct ’66
  • 153 · Underground [“The Living Dead”] · ss EQMM Apr ’67
  • 159 · A Toy for Juliette · ss Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967
  • 165 · The Gods Are Not Mocked · ss EQMM Aug ’68
  • 171 · How Like a God · ss Galaxy Apr ’69
  • 185 · The Movie People · ss F&SF Oct ’69
  • 195 · The Double Whammy · ss Fantastic Feb ’70
  • 205 · In the Cards · ss Worlds of Fantasy Win ’70
  • 217 · The Warm Farewell · ss Frights, ed. Kirby McCauley, St. Martins, 1976
  • 227 · The Play’s the Thing · ss AHMM May ’71
  • 235 · The Animal Fair · ss Playboy May ’71
  • 247 · The Oracle · ss Penthouse May ’71
  • 253 · Ego Trip · ss Penthouse Mar ’72
  • 269 · His and Hearse [“I Never Had a Christmas Tree”] · nv Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Jun ’72
  • 291 · Space-Born · nv Children of Infinity, ed. Roger Elwood, Watts, 1973
  • 305 · Forever and Amen · ss And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire, ed. Roger Elwood, Chilton, 1972
  • 321 · See How They Run · ss EQMM Apr ’73
  • 331 · The Learning Maze · ss The Learning Maze, ed. Roger Elwood, Messner, 1974
  • 343 · The Model · ss Gallery Nov ’75
  • 351 · A Case of the Stubborns · ss F&SF Oct ’76
  • 365 · Crook of the Month · ss AHMM Nov ’76
  • 379 · Nina · ss F&SF Jun ’77
  • 389 · Freak Show · ss F&SF May ’79
For more of this week's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

17 comments:

P. C. Hosmer said...

Wow! I am fascinated by the Bloch / Lovecraft connection. This gives me a whole new motivation to re-engage with Bloch. Thanks for the generous and intriguing posting. Bravo!

Todd Mason said...

Well, thanks, Mr. Hosmer. And good luck with your blog...I imagine you might know that Bloch's "The Man Who Collected Poe" inspired a Poe scholar to send along the Poe fragment to Bloch that he was the first to complete and publish, as "The Light-House", in FANTASTIC in 1953...see his collection PLEASANT DREAMS...

P. C. Hosmer said...

I should have known the Block / Lovecraft connection, and I should have known much more about his work. But now, if time permits (and that is now the crucial question), I will catch up on what I have missed.

AND . . . Please, no "Mr." in front of my humble name. You make me feel like an old, old man. But wait! I am an old, old man. Damn!

Todd Mason said...

Lovecraft and Bloch were so close that they wrote stories for WEIRD TALES in which the other was a character, horribly murdered. Though HPL changed Bloch's name to "Robert Blake" in his story ("The Haunter of the Dark")...who knew what might come of that name...

P. C. Hosmer said...

Blake, huh? I guess that homicidal loon is still alive. Oh, the somewhat mighty fall onto the trash-heap of life. From child actor to . . . oblivion.

P. C. Hosmer said...

In the "one thing leads to another" quirkiness of the blog-scape, I have just now stumbled upon a Robert Block story ("Life in Our Time") in a dusty old anthology sitting on my shelves. So, because of your posting, Block will most likely be one of my first postings. Ain't this whole blogging connections thing a kick in the pants?

Todd Mason said...

Can be. Though he's Bloch...that other guy, Lawrence, is our most visible Block these days...

P. C. Hosmer said...

Damn . . . I am a blockhead! What a @&#!* mistake. Shame on me . . . Yes, Bloch. With an "h" . . . See, you are already learning that I am dangerously unreliable and inaccurate.

Richard said...

Those Bloch collections have some stuff that would have scared the wee out of me when I was 10 or 12. Geez, Fred Brown's "The Father Thing" did that, and I've never forgotten that one

Todd Mason said...

Philip Dick wrote that one, though. Brown wrote a few pretty close to it...and Bloch edited THE BEST OF FREDRIC BROWN for the Ballantine series, along with his own books...

Todd Mason said...

I'm pretty sure I started reading Bloch with "The Man Who Collected Poe" in HAUNTINGS, edited by Mazzeo and illustrated by Gorey, which I've reviewed for FFB and which I read when I was 8...though I seem to recall I already recognized his name, maybe from seeing his scripts on THRILLER repeats on Channel 56 in Boston, sometime between 1969 and 1973, the first time we lived near the Hub.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Thirty volume sounds like a bloody good idea to me Todd! And the recent Sturgeon collections suggest that such things can happen ... great post chum!

Jack Seabrook said...

The Best of Robert Bloch had a big impact on me as a teenager when it first came out. I've been enjoying Bloch's work ever since. Thanks for the reminder--that cover brought me right back!

Todd Mason said...

A true COMPLETE STORIES of Bloch would be an interesting project, Sergio...though Bloch didn't always swing for the fences to the same extent Sturgeon seemed to, and a fair amount of his earlier pro work was material he never made much effort to have reprinted (I think he was reasonably happy with everything he published in WEIRD TALES and a few other markets, but he was also the best of the folks helping fill the pages of Ray Palmer's Ziff-Davis magazines for a while, with such other talented folk as William P. McGivern and Howard Browne...in a notable parallel with Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov went out of his way, in his memoirs, to note that the issue of Palmer's AMAZING that had Asimov's first story in it, actually also had one *good* piece of fiction in it, Bloch's "The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton"--duly reprinted in the Asimov and Co. retro best sf of the year volume for 1939. ..Asimov also provided a blurb used on one of the early Sturgeon Project volumes, in which he noted how awetstruck and not a little hopelessly jealous he would be whenever a new Sturgeon story appeared in the early days of their careers. As with McGivern, only moreso, even Bloch's minor work for FANTASTIC ADVENTURES et al. tended to stand out a bit.

Jack, I was already an utter and compleat Bloch fan by the time I picked up my copy of THE BEST OF...I had bought my copy of COLD CHILLS slightly earlier, just as the slightly shabby Leisure paperback came out, and I think that was my first Bloch collection, and I have copies of most of them now. My college roommate borrowed my copy of the BEST and commented, "I bet you like 'The Funnel of God' a lot"; he continues, I gather, to prefer more traditional horror. And I'm sorry if you missed SCREAMS when it came out (with less support from Del Rey Books...one of their few Horror-tagged releases, aside from their Lovecraft volumes)...I think it would've been as much up your alley and similarly impressive (who said warping?).

Richard said...

Oops, obviously I forgot the author. [hangs head in shame] but the story was scary.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Todd, thanks for this exhaustive post on the best of Robert Bloch. I have a couple of his stories, "The Opener of the Way" (Weird Tales) and "The Black Brain" (Fantasy Adventures) under his pseudonym Tarleton Fiske, both waiting to be read, courtesy Archive.org. Of the two, "The Opener..." is said to be an intense tale.

Todd Mason said...

Well, for probably obvious reasons he titled his first collection after that WEIRD TALES story...the FANTASTIC ADVENTURES story, as a pseudonymous offer, might be slighter, indeed.