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The Unofficial Robert Bloch Website

Essays

Robert Bloch

Esther Cole

In 1951, Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, served as master of ceremonies at the New Orleans World Science Fiction Convention. We met then.

On September 4, 1994, I visited Bloch in his home atop Lookout Mountain. We parted there. He died three weeks later of cancer.

More than thirty years ago, and shortly after Hitchcock's movie version of Psycho, I had interviewed Bloch on that same hilltop, and offer the following as a small glimpse into the life, philosophy, humor, and wonder of this gentle man.

Bloch claimed to be an overcompensated writer. "The things I've written and done are just strong overcompensations for weaknesses. I am lazy, introverted, insecure, and self centered. I fight these weaknesses by going to the other extreme." (Sound familiar? Most writers escape through their work.)

"I'm scared of people" - I never could tell if Bob were being serious in his conversation! - "so I deal indirectly with them through fiction or separated by footlights. I compensate for my laziness by a disciplined work schedule. I fight my introversion by speaking before groups."

Were these all the motivations and rationalizations that made up this writer? No, Bloch was a delightful enigma, a puzzlement, maybe even a split personality. He wrote horror fantasy, but in person, he was the antithesis of the characters he created. He was long and slim with a kind face and a benevolent smile. He was warm toward animals and small children, but his stories could include heinous acts against them.

Does writing one thing and being another make a person into a psychological case history? Does it merely indicate a vivid imagination? Or was Robert Bloch a unique combination of all these factors?

Bloch was a prolific writer of horror/fantasy, short stories, articles, and screenplays. He wrote twenty books, 400 plus short stories and articles, screenplays for Hitchcock and other TV shows and movies, and never failed to answer a letter or respond to a request for help. All this output on a manual typewriter, going sixty words a minute, with two fingers.

He offered pointers for aspiring writers:

  1. Read voraciously. It's food for your imagination.
  2. Live vicariously. You can't do and write simultaneously.
  3. Keep a disciplined writing schedule.

Bloch gave of himself constantly to friends, fans, fellow writers, and to his adored wife, Elly.

At the end of that long ago interview, when asked what animal he'd rather be, he twinkled and said, "A Galapagos tortoise. They live slothful, long lives, have no natural enemies, and can mate for up to sixty four hours at a time."

It has been almost a year since Bob died. I still expect to see a tall, skinny Galapagos tortoise in our local bookstore!

_______________________

Esther Cole was active in the Little Mens club in the SF Bay Area in the 1950s, and was the Secretary of the 1954 San Francisco Worldcon. She is a frequent contributor to the fanzine Mimosa, often writing on matters of fan history. Her latest (as of this writing) contribution to Mimosa can be found here.

This essay originally appeared in Mimosa 17 (October 1995). This essay is 1995 by Esther Cole, and is reprinted here with permission. The webmaster wishes to extend his thanks to Ms. Cole and Nicki and Richard Lynch.