Monday, April 3, 2017

Robert Bloch in some of his best collections of short fiction: redux for Bloch Centennial Week

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publisher after his early death but would write endless pastiches of HPL's work, often based however tenuously on unpublished fragments among Lovecraft's papers, it was Bloch and Leiber who really picked up the ball with Lovecraft's primary innovation, an emphasis on existential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 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 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 The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction aka 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 [arguably a book or a magazine]
  • 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 Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine 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 Blochwhich 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.

The Contento Index:

Blood Runs Cold, stories by Robert Bloch (Simon & Schuster, 1961, $3.50, 246pp, hc); Also in pb (Popular Library Oct ’62). 
· The Show Must Go On · ss Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Jan ’60 
· The Cure · ss Playboy Oct ’57 
· Daybroke · ss Star Science Fiction Magazine Jan ’58 
· Show Biz · ss Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine May ’59 
· The Masterpiece · ss Rogue Jun ’60 
· I Like Blondes · ss Playboy Jan ’56 
· Dig That Crazy Grave! · ss EQMM Jun ’57 
· Where the Buffalo Roam · ss Other Worlds Jul ’55 
· Is Betsy Blake Still Alive? · ss EQMM Apr ’58 
· Word of Honor · ss Playboy Aug ’58 
· Final Performance · ss Shock Sep ’60 
· All on a Golden Afternoon · nv F&SF Jun ’56 
· The Gloating Place · ss Rogue Jun ’59 
· The Pin · ss Amazing Dec ’53/Jan ’54 
· I Do Not Love Thee, Doctor Fell · ss F&SF Mar ’55 
· The Big Kick · ss Rogue Jul ’59 
· Sock Finish · nv EQMM Nov ’57 

Contents of the original edition, courtesy the Contento Index...
Pleasant Dreams Robert Bloch (Arkham House, 1960, $4.00, 233pp, hc)
  • · Sweets to the Sweet · ss Weird Tales Mar ’47
  • · The Dream Makers · nv Beyond Fantasy Fiction Sep ’53
  • · The Sorcerer’s Apprentice · ss Weird Tales Jan ’49
  • · I Kiss Your Shadow · ss F&SF Apr ’56
  • · Mr. Steinway · ss Fantastic Apr ’54
  • · The Proper Spirit · ss F&SF Mar ’57
  • · Catnip · ss Weird Tales Mar ’48
  • · The Cheaters · nv Weird Tales Nov ’47
  • · Hungarian Rhapsody [as by Wilson Kane] · ss Fantastic Jun ’58
  • · The Light-House · ss Fantastic Jan/Feb ’53; completed by Bloch from a Poe fragment.
  • · The Hungry House · ss Imagination Apr ’51
  • · Sleeping Beauty [originally published as“The Sleeping Redheads”] · ss Swank Mar ’58
  • · Sweet Sixteen [originally published as “Spawn of the Dark One”] · ss Fantastic May ’58
  • · That Hell-Bound Train · ss F&SF Sep ’58
  • · Enoch · ss Weird Tales Sep ’46
And (courtesy of The Unofficial Robert Bloch Website) of the much later 1980 Jove/HBJ paperback edition (with stories included in more recent collections removed, and some from his unreprinted first collection, The Opener of the Way, Arkham House, 1945, added):

Sweets to the Sweet

The Dream-Makers
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
I Kiss Your Shadow
The Proper Spirit
The Cheaters
Hungarian Rhapsody
The Light-House
The Hungry House
Sleeping Beauty 
Sweet Sixteen 
The Mandarin’s Canaries · ss Weird Tales Sep ’38
Return to the Sabbath · ss Weird Tales Jul ’38
One Way to Mars · ss Weird Tales Jul ’45

Perhaps oddly, it was originally rather difficult for me to find an image of the hardcover edition of Blood Runs Cold, only the fourth collection of Robert Bloch's short stories, his second after the success of the film adaptation of Psycho would saddle him with an identifier-phrase for the rest of his life (and one often advertised on his books, as with the Popular Library paperback edition above, in type larger than his name is set in). I've in fact never seen the "Inner Sanctum Mystery" edition (as opposed to a photo) from Simon and Schuster, as far as I know, but the paperback is fairly common, even 47 years later. And if that isn't Janet Leigh swallowing her fist on the cover (I don't think so), Popular Library sure hoped you'd think it was.

The first collection he published in the wake of Psycho the film, with Arkham House, was Pleasant Dreams (1960--see the little photo for its cover), which is a clangorous book, perhaps the best non-retrospective collection of Bloch's career, and for some reason has never gotten a true paperback reprint...Belmont, that low-rent pb publisher, in 1961 did a Very abridged 10-story version that took its title from the hardcover's subtitle, Nightmares, and in 1979, Jove (formerly Pyramid) offered an somewhat abridged version of Pleasant Dreams which managed to cite three of the dropped stories on its back-cover copy (perhaps the stories were left out because "Enoch," "Mr. Steinway," and "That Hell-Bound Train" were still in print in the 1977 Ballantine collection The Best of Robert Bloch, but that's a sorry excuse). Even without those three stories, Pleasant Dreams is a fine collection...but not so much better than Blood Runs Cold as to justify the large discrepancy between the asking prices of the two books, particularly the paperbacks.

It's also odd that before I picked it up again, I remembered Blood Runs Cold as primarily a suspense-fiction collection, versus Pleasant Dreams as a mostly-horror assembly. PD is nearly all horror, and Blood is mostly suspense fiction...but the newer book is eclectic, including the gentle fantasy "All on a Golden Afternoon," three sf stories (and one borderline sf/fantasy satire of the sort Playboy was always happy to publish, "Word of Honor"), one in each of Bloch's usual modes when approaching science fiction: ultraviolet humor and heavy metaphor ("Daybroke") and somewhat less gallows humor and slightly less heavy metaphor ("Where the Buffalo Roam") with the last a fine grim twist/joke-story (with no metaphoric freight to speak of) I won't spoil here by naming, along with a straightforward horror story ("The Pin"). But most of the collected works here are tales of very bad behavior in the (then) here and now, with a few historical fictions mixed in. 

You get Bloch's best suspense short story, by me, "Final Performance," with the brilliant one-sentence opening paragraph "The neon intestines had been twisted to form the word Eat." That the resonance of that line will be amplified by the end of the story is just one of its masterful aspects...and it's notable that Bloch, presumably, sequenced the charming "...Afternoon" as the next story after this one. Anyone who's read Bloch realizes that his characters are often as doomed as any of those in Cornell Woolrich or Jim Thompson's work, but Bloch is often cool and keeping a certain distance from those often not-so-beautiful losers, which (along with the strong streak of humor that runs through most of his work) has often kept him from being considered properly among his peers in crime fiction. But as he demonstrates even with another, brief joke story of sorts, "The Show Must Go On," he can put you into the mind of the deranged as well as anyone who's written in these fields, and with "Show Biz," he gives you some very professional, very ugly folks you don't ever want to meet. "I Do Not Love Thee, Doctor Fell" is, along with "Lucy Comes to Stay," the most obvious antecedent to Psycho the novel among Bloch's works, and as such suffers in comparison with the novel, but the story is still worth reading and not just for its historical importance.

It was after reading "The Big Kick," I think, that my friend Alice asked me, "Bloch doesn't seem to like the Beats very much, does he?" It's true that a number of his villains are countercultural (as are a similar number of his heroines/heroes and innocent victims), but even more are very conventional-seeming people who have simply lost or never developed compassion; Bloch disliked his monsters, but like most of the best crime (and horror) fiction writers could help you understand them and their actions. 

The students of Bloch, from Richard Matheson to Joe R. Lansdale, from Stephen King (who needs to brush up on his lessons) to Gahan Wilson, have gone on to give us work that sometimes rivals that of the unassuming, genuinely and unnecessarily modest, revolutionizer of at least two fields of writing (Bloch and Fritz Leiber were the acolytes of H.P. Lovecraft who took what was most important about HPL's work and developed it further, and did so in much better prose than Lovecraft cared to strive for). Bloch is the Hammett/Hemingway/Heinlein figure in horror fiction, the one who turned the field back toward the lean and straightforward prose Bierce and the Edwardians had been moving toward, and incorporated developments in psychology and psychiatry in his portrayals of existential terror. And he gave the literary world the kind of human monster who might need our help, but whom we definitely needed to control.

Blood Runs Cold is a good slice of Bloch's work in his early years as already a  master of his art.

A typical subtle Jove package (better than some); the edition I have

(Popular Library, 1962)
and its twin...

               (Popular Library, 1965)

    Shock! ed. M. C. Allen (New York: Popular Library SP375, 1965, 50¢, 144pp, pb)
    • 7 · The Destructors · Graham Greene · ss Picture Post Jul 24 1954 (+1)
    • 23 · Evening Primrose · John Collier · ss 1940 Presenting Moonlight (Viking Press 1941 [officially, though 1940])
    • 35 · Miriam · Truman Capote · ss Mademoiselle Jun 1945
    • 48 · Earth to Earth · Robert Graves · ss Punch Feb 1955; ; as “The Steinpilz Method”, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Apr 1956
    • 54 · The Small Assassin · Ray Bradbury · ss Dime Mystery Magazine Nov 1946
    • 73 · The Hunger · Charles Beaumont · ss Playboy Apr 1955
    • 88 · Thompson · George A. Zorn · ss Story v35 #8 1962
    • 112 · Suspicion · Dorothy L. Sayers · ss Mystery League Oct 1933; Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Dec 1950
    • 129 · You Can’t Run Fast Enough · Arthur Kaplan · ss Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Apr 1958
    • 138 · The Man and the Snake · Ambrose Bierce · ss San Francisco Examiner Jun 29 1890

...Two Robert Bloch collections
...Robert Bloch on Sweet Freedom
...Tony Palladino design and illustration
...some suspense fiction anthologies
...and some more

and the book that introduced me to Bloch's prose:

HAUNTINGS: STORIES OF THE SUPERNATURAL, edited by Henry Mazzeo (Doubleday 1968)

Contents, all illustrated by Edward Gorey:

Introduction: The Castle of Terror by Henry Mazzeo 
The Lonesome Place by August Derleth 
In the Vault by H. P. Lovecraft 
The Man Who Collected Poe by Robert Bloch 
Where Angels Fear by Manly Wade Wellman 
Lot No. 249 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
The Haunted Dolls’ House by M. R. James 
The Open Door by Mrs. Oliphant 
Thus I Refute Beelzy by John Collier 
Levitation by Joseph Payne Brennan 
The Ghostly Rental by Henry James 
The Face by E. F. Benson 
The Whistling Room by William Hope Hodgson 
The Grey Ones by J. B. Priestley 
The Stolen Body by H. G. Wells 
The Red Lodge by H. Russell Wakefield 
The Visiting Star by Robert Aickman 
Midnight Express by Alfred Noyes

This might be the most important book to me among all those I've read. It's certainly, among the four or five horror anthologies I read by the time I was eight, one of only two aimed at adults (the other was the Berkley paperback edited by Hal Cantor, Ghosts and Things), and the one which I remember best (odd how few women's stories were collected in either this or the Cantor, which featured only Shirley Jackson's "The Lovely House" in that wise, though Betty M. Owen's Scholastic Book Services anthologies and the Robert Arthur and Harold Q. Masur Hitchcock anthologies helped redress that balance). Happily for me, perhaps (foolishly) because of the Gorey illustrations, this one was classed in the children's section of the Enfield Central Public Library, where I found it easily enough (not that having to go over to the adult section to find, say, Joan Aiken's collection The Green Flash was any great trial).

This book introduced me to all these geniuses, though of course I'd heard of Sherlock Holmes before reading Doyle's detective-free mummy story here, and had probably seen adaptations of at least some of these folks' works on Night Gallery, or in Bloch's case, his Star Trek scripts, and the George Pal productions of adaptations from that other familiar name, H. G. Wells. 

Despite the attempts by some reviewers to claim this book for the ghost story tradition, Mazzeo cast his net considerably wider than that, including revenants other than Doyle's mummy, devils (or at least one Assumes they're devils) in at least one of the wittiest stories here (John Collier lets you know, after all, with his title, and Manly Wade Wellman is only a bit more coy in labeling his tale of a place you don't want to be). M. R. James traps children with a toy, Alfred Noyes with a book; Joseph Payne Brennan, with his best story and one of his shortest, traps the childish, and even H. P. Lovecraft is represented by one of his least self-indulgent stories. Derleth shows what he could do, when not attempting to corrupt Lovecraft's legacy into a Christian metaphor, and Wells's stolen body story is an improvement over the "Elvesham" variation collected by Damon Knight in his The Dark Side. J. B. Priestly, a diverse man of letters, I would next encounter primarily as the author (and reader, for a Spoken Arts recording) of his essay collection Delight, which was indeed delightful; Robert Aickman, while also expert on the waterways of Britain, remained for me and many others the greatest of ghost-story writers of the latter half of the 20th Century, even with Russell Kirk and Joanna Russ and Charles Grant and so many others providing excellent contributions to that literature. That obscure fellow James and E. F. Benson (not yet rediscovered for his comedies of manners, and only one of three prolific Benson brothers in the horror field) were the only writers shared by both this book and the Cantor; the Hodgson is a Carnacki story, a fine introduction to psychic investigators.

And the Gorey illustrations will stay with anyone (Fritz Leiber, in his review of the book in his column in the magazine Fantastic, notes the sequence of the Gorey illustrations on the front and back covers tell their own story). This book essentially introduced me to lifelong favorites Bloch, Collier, Benson and Wellman, and even the weakest stories here were rewarding; the Noyes, like the Brennan, is almost certainly the best thing he wrote (at least in prose or the uncanny) and a landmark in the field. I see where Gahan Wilson reviewed this for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1969, Fritz Leiber somewhat belatedly for Fantastic in 1973...I still need to find my, or a, copy of the F&SF/Wilson...for that matter, I will need to read this book again, eventually, and see how completely all of these have stuck with me. And, as far as I know, Mazzeo never published another book.


Mike Stamm said...

I should sit down one day and compare my various Bloch collections; I have 34.6* Bloch books on the shelf (not counting the BEST OF, which may be gone or just somewhere else), 9 of which are novels. In 1962 Belmont issued a follow-up to NIGHTMARES, entitled (of course) MORE NIGHTMARES, which it says is made up of stories from PLEASANT DREAMS (completing that TOC?) and THE OPENER OF THE WAY. Since I don't have a copy of either Arkham House collection (alas), it's hard to tell. I do know that I don't have all of his books, and that he wrote quite a bit more than I thought he did. I got a copy of THE SKULL OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE, issued after the Amicus (?) film THE SKULL came out, and the story "Lizzie Borden Took an Axe" unnerved me so badly (I think I was 12) that I stapled those pages together for years so I wouldn't risk reading it again...

*The 1969 BLOCH AND BRADBURY contains 10 stories, 6 by Bloch and 4 by Bradbury.

Todd Mason said...

Yes, the Belmont mixes and matches, and sitting down with ISFDB can help sort it out (I have a copy of the 1972 magazine-format (pirate?) version of BLOCH AND BRADBURY, listed by ISFDB as WHISPERS FROM BEYOND, which adds mostly anonymously-authored filler essays, in one or another of the unopened storage boxes, which I hope to uncover sooner rather than later...).

Elgin Bleecker said...

Todd – Thanks very much for all this information on Bloch.

Todd Mason said...

Thank you.