Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Book Review: Psycho by Robert Bloch

Psycho by Robert Bloch

It is hard to imagine the world of modern horror fiction with the Hitchcock film Psycho, it's influence is everywhere. In so many ways it changed the horror film for the better. I listened to this novel on CD and tried listen to with an ear for the experience of the original reader. What it would have been like to read this book in the late 50's when there was no film to compare it too? I tried to do the same the last time I read the Shining.

Psycho is a brillant work of horror fiction that despite the statements of the film's screenwriter(who likes to take way to much credit) is a lot like the film. Probably the only difference is that Norman Bates is fat in the novel. The structure of the film, the creepy setting and all the twists and turns are there.

While HP Lovecraft is often cited as kick starting the modern horror tale it was he student Robert Bloch who really set the stage for modern horror novel. If you were not aware Bloch was taught the craft through letters and critiques of his work that Lovecraft traded with him before his death. Bloch had Lovecraft's ability to do the grand cosmic horror tale but developed skills that were beyond his mentor.

He was not the reclusive misanthrope that Lovecraft was, he could write a realistic tale set in the modern world with very real seeming human characters. Norman Bates is a ridculous killer character like Jason or Freddy. He is a realistic psychopath who could be out there. His crimes are not that far fetched and that is part of the power of this short novel.

Long before Thomas Harris and James Patterson got on the best seller list with serial killers, or before slasher movies took the teeth out of the concept of how scary a serial killer could be Bloch nailed this story. Nailed Norman Bates and unrolled the suspense like a red carpet.

Try to put the movie out of your head and read this novel, it could teach modern horror authors a lot about what it takes to make chills.

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