Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 3-4.


Bloch, Robert.  Psycho.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 1959.

The enduring popularity of Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation has insured that Psycho will remain the novvel with which Robert Bloch is most identified.  Much of the substantial body of work that Bloch produced belongs to the horror genre and other categories of speculative fiction.  Despite its horrific elements, Psycho was based loosely on a sensational real-life case in rural Wisconsin, the serial murders of Ed Gein, who skinned his victims.  Psycho was much less a paean to the monsters of the great Gothic novels than a chilling prefigurement of the serial killer phenomenon of the post-Vietnam era.

If there is a consistent interest running through Bloch’s work, it is his fascination with aberrant characters who project their psychological disturbances outward and pathologically inflict their self-loathing on their intimates or on strangers.  A mother-obsessed serial killer, Norman Bates provides a prototype…

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