That’s right, this month the amazing Robert Bloch, is my icon of the month.
Robert Albert Bloch was born April 5, 1917 in Chicago, the son of Raphael “Ray” Bloch (1884–1952), a bank cashier, and his wife Stella Loeb (1880–1944), a social worker, both of German Jewish descent. Bloch’s family moved to Maywood, a Chicago suburb, when he was five; he lived there until he was ten. He attended the Methodist Church there, despite his parents’ Jewish heritage, and attended Emerson Grammar School. In 1925, at eight years of age, living in Maywood, he attended (alone at night) a screening of Lon Chaney, Sr.’s film !The Phantom Of The Opera” (1925). The scene of Chaney removing his mask terrified the young Bloch (“it scared the living hell out of me and I ran all the way home to enjoy the first of about two years of recurrent nightmares”). It also sparked his interest in horror. Bloch was a precocious child and found himself in fourth grade when he was eight. He also obtained a pass into the adult section of the Public Library, where he read ravenously. Bloch considered himself a budding artist and worked in pencil sketching and watercolours, but myopia in adolescence seemed to effectively bar art as a career. He had passions for German-made lead toy soldiers and for silent cinema.
In 1929, Bloch’s father Ray Bloch lost his bank job, and the family moved to Milwaukee, where Stella worked at the Milwaukee Jewish Settlement settlement house. Robert attended Washington, then Lincoln High School, where he met lifelong friend Harold Gauer. Gauer was editor of The Quill, Lincoln’s literary magazine, and accepted Bloch’s first published short story, a horror story titled “The Thing” (the “thing” of the title was Death). Both Bloch and Gauer graduated from Lincoln in 1934 during the height of the Great Depression. Bloch was involved in the drama department at Lincoln and wrote and performed in school vaudeville skits.
During the 1930s, Bloch was an avid reader of the pulp magazine Weird Tales, which he had discovered at the age of ten in 1927. In the Chicago Northwestern Railroad depot with his parents and aunt Lil, his aunt offered to buy him any magazine he wanted and he picked Weird Tales (Aug 1927 issue) off the newsstand over her shocked protest. He began his readings of the magazine with the first instalment of Otis Adelbert Kline’s “The Bride of Osiris” which dealt with a secret Egyptian city called Karneter located beneath Bloch’s birth city of Chicago. The Depression came in the early 1930s. He later recalled, in accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award at the First World Fantasy Convention (1975), how “times were very hard. Weird Tales cost twenty-five cents in a day when most pulp magazines cost a dime. I remember that meant a lot to me.” He went on to relate how he would get up very early on the last day of the month, with twenty-five cents saved from his monthly allowance of one dollar, and would run all the way to a combination tobacco/magazine store and buy the new Weird Tales issue, sometimes smuggling it home under his coat if the cover was particularly risqué. His parents were not impressed with Hugh Doak Rankin’s sexy covers for the magazine, and when the Bloch family moved to Milwaukeee in 1928 young Bloch gradually abandoned his interest. But by the time he had entered high school, he returned to reading Weird Tales during convalescence from flu.
H. P. Lovecraft, a frequent contributor to Weird Tales, became one of his favorite writers. The first of Lovecraft’s stories he had read was “Pickman’s Model,” in Weird Tales for October 1927. Bloch wrote: “In school I was forced to squirm my way through the works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Lowell and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In ‘Pickman’s Model’, the ghouls ate all three. Now that, I decided, was poetic justice.” As a teenager, Bloch wrote a fan letter to Lovecraft (1933), asking where he could find copies of earlier stories of Lovecraft’s that Bloch had missed. Lovecraft lent them to him. Lovecraft also gave Bloch advice on his early fiction-writing efforts, asking whether Bloch had written any weird work and, if so, whether he might see samples of it. Bloch took up Lovecraft’s offer in late April 1933, sending him two short items, “The Gallows” and another work whose title is unknown. Lovecraft also suggested Bloch write to other members of the Lovecraft Circle, including August Derleth, Robert H. Barlow, Clark Ashton Smith, Donald Wandrei, Frank Belknap Long, Henry S. Whitehead, E. Hoffman Price, Bernard Austin Dwyer and J. Vernon Shea. Bloch’s first completed tales were “Lilies,” “The Laughter of a Young Ghoul” and “The Black Lotus”. Bloch submitted these to Weird Tales; editor Farnsworth Wright summarily rejected them all. However Bloch successfully placed “Lilies” in the semi-professional magazine Marvel Tales (Winter 1934) and “Black Lotus” in Unusual Stories (1935). Bloch later commented, “I figured I’d better do something different or I’d end up as a florist.”
Bloch graduated from high school in June, 1934. He then wrote a story which promptly (six weeks later) sold to Weird Tales. Bloch’s first publication in Weird Tales was a letter criticising the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard. His first professional sales, at the age of 17 (July 1934), to Weird Tales, were the short stories “The Feast in the Abbey” and “The Secret in the Tomb”. “Feast …” appeared first, in the January 1935 issue, which actually went on sale November 1, 1934; “The Secret in the Tomb” appeared in the May 1935 Weird Tales. Bloch’s correspondence with Derleth led to a visit to Derleth’s home in Sauk City, Wisconsin (the headquarters of Arkham House). Bloch was impressed by Derleth who “fulfilled my expectations as a writer by wearing this purple velvet smoking jacket. That impressed me even more because Derleth didn’t even smoke.” Following this, and continued correspondence with Lovecraft, Bloch went to Chicago and met Farnsworth Wright, the then editor of Weird Tales. He also met the first Weird Tales writer outside of Derleth he had encountered – Otto Binder. Bloch’s early stories were strongly influenced by Lovecraft. Indeed, a number of his stories were set in, and extended, the world of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. These include “The Dark Demon”, in which the character Gordon is a figuration of Lovecraft, and which features Nyarlathotep; “The Faceless God” (features Nyarlathotep); “The Grinning Ghoul” (written after the manner of Lovecraft) and “The Unspeakable Betrothal” (vaguely attached to the Cthulhu Mythos).
It was Bloch who invented, for example, the oft-cited Mythos texts “De Vermis Mysteriis” and “Cultes des Goules”. Many other stories influenced by Lovecraft were later collected in Bloch’s volume “Mysteries of the Worm”. In 1935, Bloch wrote the tale “Satan’s Servants”, on which Lovecraft lent much advice, but none of the prose was by Lovecraft; this tale did not appear in print until 1949, in “Something About Cats and Other Pieces”. The young Bloch appears, thinly disguised, as the character Robert Blake in Lovecraft’s story “The Haunter of the Dark” (1936), which is dedicated to Bloch. Bloch was the only individual to whom Lovecraft ever dedicated a story. In this story, Lovecraft kills off Robert Blake, the Bloch-based character, repaying a “courtesy” Bloch earlier paid Lovecraft with his 1935 tale “The Shambler from the Stars”, in which the Lovecraft-inspired figure dies; the story goes so far as to use Bloch’s then-current address (620 East Knapp Street) in Milwaukee. (Bloch even had a signed certificate from Lovecraft and some of his creations giving Bloch permission to kill Lovecraft off in a story.) Bloch later recalled “believe me, beyond all doubt, I don’t know anyone else I’d rather be killed by.” Bloch later wrote a third tale, “The Shadow From the Steeple”, picking up where “The Haunter of the Dark” finished (Weird Tales Sept 1950).
Lovecraft’s death in 1937 deeply affected Bloch, who was then aged only 20. He recalled “Part of me died with him, I guess, not only because he was not a god, he was mortal, that is true, but because he had so little recognition in his own lifetime. There were no novels or collections published, no great realization, even here in Providence, of what was lost.” Elsewhere he wrote, “the news of his fate came to me as a shattering blow; all the more so because the world at large ignored his passing. Only my parents and a few correspondents seemed to sense my shock, and my feeling that a part of me had died with him.” After Lovecraft’s death in 1937, Bloch continued writing for Weird Tales, where he became one of its most popular authors. He also began contributing to other pulps, such as the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. Bloch broadened the scope of his fiction. His horror themes included voodoo (“Mother of Serpents”), the conte cruel (“The Mandarin’s Canaries”), demonic possession (“Fiddler’s Fee”), and black magic (“Return to the Sabbat”). Bloch visited Henry Kuttner in California in 1937. Bloch’s first science fiction story, “The Secret of the Observatory”, was published in Amazing Stories (August 1938).
In 1935 Bloch joined a writers’ group, The Milwaukee Fictioneers, members of which included Stanley Weinbaum, Ralph Milne Farley and Raymond A. Palmer. Another member of the group was Gustav Marx, who offered Bloch a job writing copy in his advertising firm, also allowing Bloch to write stories in his spare time in the office. Bloch was close friends with C.L. Moore and her husband Henry Kuttner, who visited him in Milwaukee. During the years of the Depression, Bloch appeared regularly in dramatic productions, writing and performing in his own sketches. Around 1936 he sold some gags to radio comedians Stoopnagle and Budd, and to Roy Atwell. Also in 1936, his tale “The Grinning Ghoul” was published in Weird Tales (June); “The Opener of the Way” appeared in Weird Tales (Oct); “Mother of Serpents” appeared in the December issue. The December issue also contained Lovecraft’s tale “The Haunter of the Dark” in which he killed off young author “Robert Blake”. In 1937, following Lovecraft’s death, “The Mannikin” appeared in Weird Tales for April. Weird Tales published “Return to the Sabbath” in July 1938. Bloch’s first science fiction story, “The Secret of the Observatory” appeared in Amazing Stories (Aug 1938). In a profile accompanying this tale, Bloch described himself as “tall, dark, unhandsome” with “all the charm and personality of a swamp adder”. He noted that “I hate everything”, but reserved particular dislike for “bean soup, red nail polish, house-cleaning, and optimists”.
In 1939, Bloch was contacted by James Doolittle, who was managing the campaign for Mayor of Milwaukee of a little-known assistant city attorney named Carl Zeidler. He was asked to work on Zeidler’s speechwriting, advertising, and photo ops, in collaboration with Harold Gauer. They created elaborate campaign shows; in Bloch’s 1993 autobiography, “Once Around the Bloch”, he gives an inside account of the campaign, and the innovations he and Gauer came up with – for instance, the original releasing-balloons-from-the-ceiling shtick. He comments bitterly on how, after Zeidler’s victory, they were ignored and not even paid their promised salaries. He ends the story with a wryly philosophical point:
Also in 1939, two of Bloch’s tales were published: “The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton” (Amazing Stories, August) and “The Cloak” (Unknown, March). In October 1941, the tale “A Good Knight’s Work” in Unknown Worlds first appeared. Shortly thereafter, Bloch created the Damon Runyon-esque humorous series character ‘Lefty Feep’ in the story “Time Wounds All Heels” Fantastic Adventures (April 1942). Around the same time, he began work as an advertising copywriter at the Gustav Marx Advertising Agency, a position he held until 1953. Marx allowed Bloch to write stories in the office in quiet times. Bloch published a total of 23 ‘Lefty Feep’ stories in “Fantastic Adventures”, the last one published in 1950, but the bulk appeared during World War II. Feep’s character name had actually been coined by Bloch’s friend/collaborator Harold Gauer for their unpublished novel “In the Land of Sky-Blue Ointments”, Bloch also worked for a time in local vaudeville and tried to break into writing for nationally known performers.
Bloch gradually evolved away from Lovecraftian imitations towards a unique style of his own. One of the first distinctly “Blochian” stories was “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”, (Weird Tales, July 1943). The story was Bloch’s take on the Jack the Ripper legend, and was filled out with more genuine factual details of the case than many other fictional treatments. It cast the Ripper as an eternal being who must make human sacrifices to extend his immortality. It was adapted for both radio (in “Stay Tuned for Terror”) and television (as an episode of “Thriller” in 1961 adapted by Barré Lyndon). Bloch followed up this story with a number of others in a similar vein dealing with half-historic, half-legendary figures such as the Man in the Iron Mask (“Iron Mask”, 1944), the Marquis de Sade (“The Skull of the Marquis de Sade”, 1945) and Lizzie Borden (“Lizzie Borden Took an Axe …”, 1946). In 1944, Laird Cregar performed Bloch’s tale “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” over a coast-to-coast radio network
Towards the end of World War Two, in 1945, Bloch was asked to write 39 15-minute episodes of his own radio horror show called “Stay Tuned for Terror.” Many of the programs were adaptations of his own pulp stories. (None of the episodes, which were all broadcast, are extant). The same year he published “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade” (Weird Tales, Sept). August Derleth’s Arkham House, Lovecraft’s publisher, published Bloch’s first collection of short stories, The Opener of the Way, in an edition of 2,000 copies, with jacket art by Ronald Clyne. At the same time, his best-known early tale, “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”, received considerable attention through dramatization on radio and reprinting in anthologies. This story, involving a Ripper who has found literal immortality through his crimes, has been widely imitated (or plagiarized); Bloch himself would return to the theme. Stories published in 1946 include “Enoch” (Weird Tales, Sept) and Lizzie Borden Took an Axe (Weird Tales, Nov).
Bloch’s first novel was published in hardcover – the thriller “The Scarf” (The Dial Press 1947; the Fawcett Gold medal paperback of 1966 features a revised text). It tells the story of a writer, ‘Daniel Morley’, who uses real women as models for his characters. But as soon as he is done writing the story, he is compelled to murder them, and always the same way: with the maroon scarf he has had since childhood. The story begins in Minneapolis and follows him and his trail of dead bodies to Chicago, New York City, and finally Hollywood, where his hit novel is going to be turned into a movie, and where his self-control may have reached its limit. In 1948, Bloch was the Guest of Honor at Torcon I, World Science Fiction Convention, Toronto, Canada. In 1952 he published “Lucy Comes to Stay”(Weird Tales, Jan). Bloch published three novels in 1954 – “Spiderweb”, “The Kidnapper” and “The Will to Kill” as he endeavoured to support his family. That same year he was a weekly guest panellist on the TV quiz show “It’s a Draw”. “Shooting Star” (1958), a mainstream novel, was published in a double volume with a collection of Bloch’s stories titled “Terror in the Night”. “This Crowded Earth” (1958) was science fiction.
With the demise of “Weird Tales”, Bloch continued to have his fiction published in “Amazing, Fantastic, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction”, and “Fantastic Universe”; he was a particularly frequent contributor to “Imagination” and “Imaginative Tales”. His output of thrillers increased and he began to appear regularly in “The Saint”, “Ellery Queen” and similar mystery magazines, and to such suspense and horror-fiction magazine projects as “Shock”. Bloch continued to revisit the Jack the Ripper theme. His contribution to Harlan Ellison’s 1967 science fiction anthology “Dangerous Visions” was a story, “A Toy for Juliette”, which evoked both Jack the Ripper and the Marquis de Sade in a time-travel story. The same anthology had Ellison’s sequel to it titled “The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World”. His earlier idea of the Ripper as an immortal being resurfaced in Bloch’s contribution to the original Star Trek series episode “Wolf in the Fold”. His 1984 novel “Night of the Ripper” is set during the reign of Queen Victoria and follows the investigation of Inspector Frederick Abberline in attempting to apprehend the Ripper, and includes some famous Victorians such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle within the storyline.
Bloch won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “That Hellbound Train” in 1959, the same year that his sixth novel, “Psycho”, was published. Bloch had written an earlier short story involving dissociative identity disorder, “The Real Bad Friend”, which appeared in the February 1957 Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, that foreshadowed the 1959 novel “Psycho”. However, “Psycho” also has thematic links to the story “Lucy Comes to Stay.” Also in 1959, Bloch delivered a lecture titled “Imagination and Modern Social Criticism” at the University of Chicago; this was reprinted in the critical volume The Science Fiction Novel (Advent Publishers). His story “The Hungry Eye” appeared in Fantastic (May). This was also the year in which, despite having graduated from painting watercolours to oils, he gave up painting completely. ‘Norman Bates’, the main character in “Psycho”, was very loosely based on two people. First was the real-life serial killer Ed Gein, about whom Bloch later wrote a fictionalized account, “The Shambles of Ed Gein”. (The story can be found in Crimes and Punishments: The Lost Bloch, Volume 3). Second, it has been indicated by several people, including Noel Carter (wife of Lin Carter) and Chris Steinbrunner, as well as allegedly by Bloch himself, that ‘Norman Bates’ was partly based on Calvin Beck, publisher of “Castle of Frankenstein”.
Bloch’s basing of the character of ‘Norman Bates’ on Ed Gein is discussed in the documentary “Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Plainfield”, which can be found on Disc 2 of the DVD release of the remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2003). However, Bloch also commented that it was the situation itself – a mass murderer living undetected and unsuspected in a typical small town in middle America – rather than Gein himself who sparked Bloch’s storyline. He writes: “Thus the real-life murderer was not the role model for my character Norman Bates. Ed Gein didn’t own or operate a motel. Ed Gein didn’t kill anyone in the shower. Ed Gein wasn’t into taxidermy. Ed Gein didn’t stuff his mother, keep her body in the house, dress in a drag outfit, or adopt an alternative personality. These were the functions and characteristics of Norman Bates, and Norman Bates didn’t exist until I made him up. Out of my own imagination, I add, which is probably the reason so few offer to take showers with me.”
Though Bloch had little involvement with the film version of his novel, which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock from an adapted screenplay by Joseph Stefano, he was to become most famous as its author. Bloch was awarded a special Mystery Writers of America scroll for the novel in 1961. The novel is one of the first examples at full length of Bloch’s use of modern urban horror relying on the horrors of interior psychology rather than the supernatural. “By the mid-1940s, I had pretty well mined the vein of ordinary supernatural themes until it had become varicose,” Bloch explained to Douglas E. Winter in an interview. “I realized, as a result of what went on during World War II and of reading the more widely disseminated work in psychology, that the real horror is not in the shadows, but in that twisted little world inside our own skulls.” While Bloch was not the first horror writer to utilise a psychological approach (it originates in the work of Edgar Allan Poe), Bloch’s psychological approach in modern times was comparatively unique.
Bloch’s agent, Harry Altshuler, received a “blind bid” for the novel – the buyer’s name was not mentioned – of $7,500 for screen rights to the book. The bid eventually went to $9,500, which Bloch accepted. Bloch had never sold a book to Hollywood before. His contract with Simon & Schuster included no bonus for a film sale. The publisher took 15 percent according to contract, while the agent took his 10%; Bloch wound up with about $6,750 before taxes. Despite the enormous profits generated by Hitchcock’s film, Bloch received no further direct compensation. Only Hitchcock’s film was based on Bloch’s novel. The later films in the “Psycho” series bear no relation to either of Bloch’s sequel novels. Indeed, Bloch’s proposed script for the film “Psycho II” was rejected by the studio (as were many other submissions), and it was this that he subsequently adapted for his own sequel novel. The film “Hitchcock” (2012) tells the story of Alfred Hitchcock’s making of the film version of “Psycho”. Although it mentions Bloch and his novel, Bloch himself is not a character in the movie.
Following his move to Hollywood, around 1960, Bloch had multiple assignments from various television companies. However, he was not allowed to write for five months when the Writers Guild had a strike. After the strike was over, he became a frequent scriptwriter for television and film projects in the mystery, suspense, and horror genre. His first assignments were for the Macdonald Carey vehicle, “Lock-Up”, (penning five episodes) as well as one for “Whispering Smith”. Further TV work included an episode of “Bus Stop” (“I Kiss Your Shadow”), 10 episodes of “Thriller” (1960–62, several based on his own stories), and 10 episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1960–62). His short story collection “Pleasant Dreams – Nightmares” was published by Arkham House in 1960. Bloch wrote the screenplay for “The Cabinet of Caligari” (1962), which is only very loosely related to the 1920 German silent film, and proved to be an unhappy experience. The same year, Bloch penned the story and teleplay “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” for “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. The episode was shelved when the NBC Television Network and sponsor Revlon called its ending “too gruesome” (by 1960s standards) for airing. Bloch was pleased later when the episode was included in the program’s syndication package to affiliate stations, where not one complaint was registered. Today, due to public domain status, the episode is readily available for free.
His TV work did not slow Bloch’s fictional output. In the early 1960s he published several novels, including “The Dead Beat” (1960), and “Firebug” (1961), for which Harlan Ellison, then an editor at Regency Books, contributed the first 1,200 words. In 1962 numerous works appeared in book form. Bloch’s novel “The Couch” (1962) (the basis for the screenplay of his first movie, filmed the same year) was published. That year several Bloch short story collections- “Atoms and Evil”, “More Nightmares” and “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” were published, as well as another novel, “Terror” (whose working titles included “Amok” and “Kill for Kali”). Editor Earl Kemp assembled a selection of Bloch’s prolific output for fan magazines as “The Eight Stage of Fandom: Selections from 25 years of Fan Writing” (Advent Publishers). In this era, Stephen King later wrote, “What Bloch did with such novels as The Deadbeat, The Scarf, Firebug, Psycho, and The Couch was to re-discover the suspense novel and reinvent the antihero as first discovered by James Cain.” During 1963, Bloch saw into print two further collections of short stories, “Bogey Men” and “Horror-7”. In 1964 Bloch married Eleanor Alexander and wrote original screenplays for two films produced and directed by William Castle, “Strait-Jacket” (1964) and “The Night Walker” (also 1964), along with “The Skull” (1965).The latter film was based on his short story “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade”.
Bloch’s further TV writing in this period included “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” (7 episodes, 1962–1965), “I Spy” (1 episode, 1966), “Run for Your Life” (1 episode, 1966), and “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.” (1 episode, 1967). He penned three scripts for the original Star Trek series which were screened in 1966 and 1967: “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, “Wolf in the Fold” (another Jack the Ripper variant), and “Catspaw”. In 1968, Bloch returned to London to do two episodes for the English Hammer Films series “Journey to the Unknown” for Twentieth Century Fox. One of the episodes, “The Indian Spirit Guide”, was included in the American TV movie “Journey to Midnight” (1968). The other episode was “Girl of My Dreams,” co-scripted with Michael J. Bird and based on the eponymous story by Richard Matheson. Following the movie “The Skull” (1965), which was based on a Bloch story but scripted by Milton Subotsky, he wrote the screenplays for five feature films produced by Amicus Productions – “The Psychopath” (1966), “The Deadly Bees” (co-written with Anthony Marriott, 1967), “Torture Garden” (also 1967), “The House That Dripped Blood” (1971) and “Asylum” (1972). The last two films featured stories written by Bloch that were printed first in anthologies he wrote in the 1940s and early 1950s. During the 1970s, Bloch wrote two TV movies for director Curtis Harrington – “The Cat Creature” (1973) (an ABC Movie of the Week) and “The Dead Don’t Die”. “The Cat Creature” was an unhappy production experience for Bloch. Producer Doug Cramer wanted to do an update of “Cat People” (1942), the Val Lewton-produced film. Bloch commented: “Instead, I suggested a blending of the elements of several well-remembered films, and came up with a story line which dealt with the Egyptian cat-goddess (Bast), reincarnation and the first bypass operation ever performed on an artichoke heart.” A detailed account of the troubled production of the film is described in Bloch’s autobiography. Bloch meanwhile (interspersed between his screenplays for Amicus Productions and other projects), penned single episodes for “Night Gallery” (1971), “Ghost Story” (1972), “The Manhunter” (1974), and “Gemini Man” (1976).
In 1965, two further collections of short stories appeared – “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade” and “Tales in a Jugular Vein”. 1966 saw Bloch win the Ann Radcliffe Award for Television and publisher yet another collection of shorts – “Chamber of Horrors”. Bloch returned to the site of his childhood home at 620 East Knapp St, Milwaukee (the address used by Lovecraft for the character Robert Blake in “The Haunter of the Dark”) only to find the neighbourhood razed and the entire neighbourhood levelled and replaced by expressway approaches. In 1967, another Bloch collection, “The Living Demons” was issued. He also published another classic story of Jack the Ripper, “A Toy for Juliette” in Harlan Ellison’s “Dangerous Visions” anthology. In 1968 he published a duo of long sf novellas as “This Crowded Earth” and “Ladies Day”. His novel “The Star Stalker” was published, and “Dragons and Nightmares” (the first collection of Lefty Feep stories) appeared in hardcover (Mirage Press). The collection “Bloch and Bradbury” (a collaboration with Ray Bradbury) and the hardcover novel “The Todd Dossier”, originally as by Collier Young, were published in 1969. Bloch won a second Ann Radcliffe Award, this time for Literature, in 1969. That same year, Bloch was invited to the Second International Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro, March 23–31, along with other science fiction writers from the United States, Britain and Europe.
In 1976, two records of Bloch recordings of his stories were released by Alternate World recordings – “Gravely, Robert Bloch!” and “Blood! The Life and Times of Jack the Ripper!”(with Harlan Ellison). In 1977, Lester del Rey edited “The Best of Robert Bloch” for Del Rey books. Two further short story collections appeared – “Cold Chills” and “The King of Terrors.” Bloch continued to published short story collections throughout this period. His “Selected Stories” (reprinted in paperback with the incorrect title “The Complete Stories”) appeared in three volumes just prior to his death, although many previously uncollected tales have appeared in volumes published since 1997. Bloch also contributed the story “Heir Apparent,” set in Andre Norton’s “Witch World”, to T”ales of the Witch World (Vol. 1)”. 1979 saw the publication of Bloch’s novel “There is a Serpent in Eden” (also reissued as “The Cunning”), and two more short story collections, “Out of the Mouths of Graves” and “Such Stuff as Screams Are Made Of”. His numerous novels of the 1970s demonstrate Bloch’s thematic range, from science fiction – “Sneak Preview” (1971) – through horror novels such as the loving Lovecraftian tribute “Strange Eons” (Whispers Press, 1978) and the non-supernatural mystery “There is a Serpent in Eden” (1979).
Bloch’s screenplay-writing career continued active through the 1980s, with teleplays for “Tales of the Unexpected” (one episode, 1980), “Darkroom” (two episodes,1981), “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1 episode, 1986), “Tales from the Darkside” (three episodes, 1984–87 – “Beetles”, “A Case of the Stubborns” and “Everybody needs a Little Love”) and “Monsters” (three episodes, 1988–1989 – “The Legacy”, “Mannikins of Horror”, and “Reaper”). No further screen work appeared in the last five years before his death, although an adaptation of his “collaboration” with Edgar Allan Poe, “The Lighthouse”, was filmed as an episode of The Hunger in 1998. “The First World Fantasy Convention: Three Authors Remember” (Necronomicon Press, 1980) features reminiscences of that important event by Bloch, T.E.D. Klein and Fritz Leiber. In 1981, Zebra Books issued the first edition of the Cthulhu Mythos-themed collection “Mysteries of the Worm”. This item was reprinted some years later in an expanded edition by Chaosium. Bloch’s sequel to the original “Psycho” (“Psycho II” was published in 1982 (unrelated to the film of the same title) and in 1983 he novelised “Twilight Zone: The Movie”. His novel “Night of the Ripper” (1984), was another return to one of Bloch’s favourite themes, the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. In 1986, Scream Press published the hardcover omnibus “Unholy Trinity”, collecting three by now scarce Bloch novels, “The Scarf, The Dead Beat and The Couch”. A second retrospective selection of Bloch’s nonfiction was published by NESFA Press as “Out of My Head”.
In 1987, Bloch celebrated his 70th birthday. Underwood-Miller issued the three-volume hardcover set “The Selected Stories of Robert Bloch” (individual volumes titled “Final Reckonings”, “Bitter Ends” and “Last Rites”). When Citadel press reissued this in paperback they incorrectly named it “The Collected Stories of Robert Bloch”. The same year a collection, “Midnight Pleasures” appeared from Doubleday, and “Lost in Time and Space” with ‘Lefty Feep’ (Creatures at Large Press) collected a number of the stories on the ‘Lefty Feep’ series. The latter was the first of a projected series of three volumes, however the further volumes were never published. In 1988, Tor Books reissued Bloch’s scarce second novel, “The Kidnapper.” In 1989, several works were published: “The Collection”, “Fear and Trembling”, the thriller novel “Lori” (later adapted as a standalone graphic novel) and another omnibus of long out-of-print early novels, “Screams” (containing “The Will to Kill”, “Firebug” and “The Star Stalker”). Randall D. Larson issued “The Robert Bloch Companion: Collected Interviews” 1969-1986 (Starmont House), together with “Robert Bloch” (Starmont Reader’s Guide No 37), an exhaustive study of Bloch’s work, and “The Complete Robert Bloch: An Illustrated, Comprehensive Bibliography” (Fandom Unlimited Enterprises). Larson’s three books were bound in hardcover and distributed by Borgo Press.
Bloch’s novel, “The Jekyll Legacy” (1990), was a collaboration with Andre Norton and a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. The same year he returned to the ‘Norman Bates’ “mythos” with “Psycho House” (Tor), the third “Psycho novel”. As with the second novel in the sequence, it bears no relation to the film titled “Psycho III”. It would prove to be his last published novel. In February 1991, he was given the Honor of Master of Ceremonies at the first World Horror Convention held in Nashville, Tennessee. “Weird Tales” issued a special Robert Bloch issue in Spring, including his screenplay for the televised version of his tale “Beetles””. A standalone chapbook of the story “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” was issued in both hardcover and paperback by Pulphouse, and Bloch co-edited with Martin H. Greenberg the original anthology “Psycho-Paths” (Tor). In 1991 Bloch contributed an Introduction to “In Search of Lovecraft” by J. Vernon Shea. In 1992, Bloch celebrated his 75th birthday with a bash at a Los Angeles mystery/horror bookstore which was attended by many sci-fi/horror notables. In 1993, he published his “unauthorized autobiography”, “Once Around the Bloch” (Tor) and edited the original anthology “Monsters in Our Midst”. In early 1994, Fedogan and Bremer published a collection of 39 of his stories, “The Early Fears”. Bloch began editing a new original anthology, “Robert Bloch’s Psychos” but was unable to complete work on it prior to his death; Martin H. Greenberg finished the work posthumously and the book appeared several years later (1997).
On October 2, 1940, Bloch married Marion Ruth Holcombe; it was reportedly a marriage of convenience designed to keep Bloch out of the army. During their marriage, she suffered (initially undiagnosed) tuberculosis of the bone, which affected her ability to walk. After working for 11 years for the Gustav Marx Advertising Agency in Milwaukee, Bloch left in 1953 and moved to Weyauwega, Marion’s home town, so she could be close to friends and family. Although she was eventually cured of tuberculosis, she and Bloch divorced in 1963. Bloch’s daughter Sally (born 1943) elected to stay with him. On January 18, 1964, Bloch met recently widowed Eleanor (“Elly”) Alexander (née Zalisko) — who had lost her first husband, writer/producer John Alexander, to a heart attack three months earlier — and made her his second wife in a civil ceremony on the following October 16. Elly was a fashion model and cosmetician. They honeymooned in Tahiti, and in 1965 visited London, then British Columbia. They remained happily married until Bloch’s death. Elly remained in the Los Angeles area for several years after selling their Laurel Canyon Home to fans of Bloch, eventually choosing to go home to Canada to be closer to her own family. She died March 7, 2007, at the Betel Home in Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada.
Bloch died on 23 September 1994 after a long battle with cancer, at the age of 77. In Los Angeles after a writing career lasting 60 years, including more than 30 years in television and film. Bloch survived by seven months the death of another member of the original “Lovecraft Circle”, Frank Belknap Long, who had died in January, 1994. Bloch was cremated and his ashes interred in the Room of Prayer Columbarium at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. His wife Elly is also interred there, they both have book-shaped urns. The Robert Bloch Award is presented at the annual Necronomicon convention. Its recipient in 2013 was editor and scholar S.T. Joshi. The award is in the shape of the Shining Trapezohedron as described in H.P. Lovecraft’s tale dedicated to Bloch, “The Haunter of the Dark”.
Bloch wrote a number of screenplays which remain unproduced. These include “Merry-Go-Round” for MGM (loosely based on Ray Bradbury’s story “Black Ferris”); “Night-World” (from Bloch’s novel, for MGM); “The Twenty-First Witch”; and “Day of the Comet” (from the H.G. Wells story), and a television adaptation of “Out of the Aeons”. Some scenes from Bloch’s incomplete screenplay for the unproduced movie “Earthman’s Burden”, to have been based on the Hoka stories of Gordon R. Dickson and Poul Anderson appear in Richard Matheson and Ricia Mainhardt, eds, “Robert Bloch: Appreciations of the Master”. Bloch appeared in the documentary “The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal” (1985)
Many of Bloch’s published works, manuscripts (including those of the novels “The Star Stalker”, “This Crowded Earth”, and “Night World”), correspondence, books, recordings, tapes and other memorabilia are housed in the Special Collections division of the library at the University of Wyoming. The collection includes several unpublished short stories, such as “Dream Date”, “The Last Clown”, “A Pretty Girl is Like a Malady”, “Twilight of a God”, “It Only Hurts When I Laugh”, “How to Pull the Wings Off a Barfly”, “The Craven Image”, “Afternoon in the Park”, “Title Bout”, and ‘What Freud Can’t Tell You”. In addition there is even an unpublished one-act play entitled “The Birth of a Notion – A Tragedy of Hollywood”. Thousands of other items from fanzines and professional periodicals to film stills, lobby cards, one-sheets and posters and press-books connected with Bloch’s films, together with transcripts of several of his speeches, are also housed in the collection.