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Wilson Tucker is a prolific writer in the fields of science fiction, suspense, and mystery, and is well known as an active participant in the science fiction fan community. Mr. Tucker was a friend of Robert Bloch for many years, and agreed to discuss him with me. Although retired, Mr. Tucker does maintain a website devoted to his work here. We spoke via email in April 2000.
MGP: Under what circumstances did you first meet Robert Bloch? Tucker: We met at Los Angeles in 1946 while attending the world convention there. The convention was held in a hall across the street from MacArthur Park, and the park had a small lake with electric boats for rental by the hour. When the convention program became too boring for me I would duck out, cross the street and take a boat ride. Imagine my surprise one afternoon to discover another convention attendee in an adjoining boat. We actually bumped into each other because we were poor pilots, but we did get acquainted and spent time with each other for the remainder of that weekend. It was the beginning on a long term friendship that lasted fifty-some years. I was familiar with his work, having read short stories in Weird Tales, Unknown, and Fantastic Adventures. I liked him at once upon that first meeting, seeing him as a weird, happy nut. Only Hugo knows what he thought of me. MGP: While you both wrote in the genres of science fiction, mystery, and suspense, many of your works leaned towards the genre of science fiction, while Robert Bloch is probably best known for his excursions into the field of horror. Do you feel that your writing (style or subject matter) was influenced by Robert Bloch? Do you feel that he was influenced by your fiction? Tucker: I don't believe that either of us was influenced by the other's fiction. I never consciously followed his style, mostly because I was trying to write like other idols such as Tiffany Thayer and Thorne Smith. I failed to emulate them but my own style arose from the attempts. MGP: Which of Robert Bloch's stories did you enjoy the most? What would you say distinguishes his fiction from his contemporaries? Tucker: His 1939 story "The Cloak" (in Unknown) made a deep impression on me. I also used to believe that he wrote another short called "The Jesus Shoes" (or something very similar) that was impressive, but he denied that. His weird and horror stories usually had a hard-to-define wry twist that his contemporaries lacked. Much of it was downright funny though weird. (Or perhaps I laughed when I shouldn't have.) Read a short called "The Movie People." It was touching, sentimental, and humorous in an unexpected way. MGP: How would you describe Robert Bloch's personality? Tucker: His personality was one of good humor, weird humor, exuding friendship. If he liked you, you were his brother and you could have that shirt if you needed one. He liked puns and off the wall observations. Once upon a time he and I and my girlfriend of the moment stayed overnight at a Niagara Falls motel while returning from a convention. Next morning he arranged matters so that the three of us emerged from the motel room linked arm-in-arm, the only threesome party in that honeymoon hotel. Of course they stared at us with amazement. MGP: What are some of your favorite memories of Robert Bloch? Tucker: Bloch and I enjoyed foolish behavior at those conventions we attended together. Where he was toastmaster, he would roast me; and when my turn came I would roast him. Sometimes we exchanged name badges and each pretended to be the other, fooling only those newcomers who didn't know either of us. I would discuss his stories as "mine" and he would discuss my books as "his." At a convention in St. Louis he did such a splendid job of roasting me that the next one or two speakers who followed him to the mike also took swipes at me.
One time we sat on an iron railing at a Joliet railway station watching the trains go by. An overnight Pullman train bound for California stopped before us and Bloch delighted in pointing out famous people to me, people he claimed to see through the train windows. There's Gloria Swanson, there's Gary Cooper, and look--look, there's Gene Autry and his horse!
MGP: How should Robert Bloch be remembered? How would he want to be remembered? Tucker: He would want to be remembered for two talents, his great gift for writing scary fiction, and his wry sense of humor.