Normally the authors I feature in this series are authors I’ve read for a while and authors I’ve read a good amount of work from. Sometimes the trend will be forced to change. This is one of those times. The author in today’s Authors We Love installment is relatively new to me, yet he has grabbed me by the shoulders, shaken me, and forced me to keep reading him. Well, he wasn’t that forceful because I’m not one to be pushed around. I can hold my own against most opponents, haha.
A few weeks ago I was looking in the horror/fantasy/sci-fi section of my local bookstore (it’s one tall shelf separated between the genres) for some very random books. I haven’t read much horror until recently, so that was my goal; find some things I haven’t heard of before. It was here that I found Robert Bloch’s American Gothic, along with a few other authors/books.
Two weeks ago I opened up the book and read a few pages of it. I didn’t get far because I was in the middle of maybe 15 (slight exaggeration) books and put it down. But these few pages intrigued me enough to keep him in mind for later reading. The next time I was in the store I found the only other book of his there. It was The Best of Robert Bloch, a collection of his short stories from 1977. This was perfect. What better way to read an author you want to without having very much time to read?
On the back of this book is a few titles of stories within. I saw “The Man Who Collected Poe” and HAD to read that one. It was amazing. Bloch set up a very Poe-like atmosphere in the story. The characters screamed Poe. And yet it wasn’t Poe, it was Bloch. The twists in the story amazed me as well, and I needed to read more.
Next came the first in the collection, “Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper.” I don’t know much about Jack The Ripper. I know he killed a lot of people and all that. I don’t know many details of it all though. This story gave me enough history of the killings all while setting up a fictional world in which The Ripper might still be alive decades later. Again, Bloch sets the reader up for another great twist that left me baffled and in love with the story. My reaction was similar to his story “Enoch.” These 3 stories left me amazed.
I wanted more of Bloch. I knew I’ve seen his name somewhere else, so I looked in my anthologies and found a few stories here and there. One of these anthologies is Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 1 (1939). While the “best of” collection I have states “classic science fiction” on the cover and the genre on the spine, I haven’t run into sci-fi so far in that. But the story in Asimov’s collection IS sci-fi from Bloch. The story from here is “The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton.” When I was reading this I felt like a little kid reading a story of space travel from a magazine. Sitting there amazed, as if I haven’t seen movies that are “far more fantastical” than this story. I think I skipped that stage of my childhood as it is. But this story left me feeling younger and joyous reading of “future” pioneer space missions to Mars. As for the story itself, I was questioning the narrators words the entire time. I’m happy to say I was right (mainly) about the outcome, but the way in which it came to be was very well-written and entertaining.
Another genre Bloch wrote in was dystopian. While walking the dog over the last week, I listened to an audio-book of This Crowded Earth. It’s a story by Bloch about a future America, and world, in which overpopulation is an every-present problem and it leads to disaster. It was written in the 50′s (I think) but as with most stories about the “future” many elements ring true in today’s world. It’s always scary to connect the dots between stories of old and the reality of the world today. Too many small things can happen that would help lead to situations like those in dystopian stories. We can only hope someone with enough influence will make others see the light. (Not to be all let’s save the world on you all. It’s just something to pay attention to, even if the reality might not be as extreme at the moment.)
I have a few more stories to read from him (aside from the rest of the best of book). Some are in sci-fi books, while others are from a few Lovecraftian anthologies. The bottom line here is that Robert Bloch’s writing, in such a short exposure to him, has grabbed me and made me want more and more. I look forward to reading American Gothic soon in order to see what he can do with a novel length horror story. I have high hopes