A brief look at the life of author Robert Bloch

Robert Bloch’s most famous work has now been transformed into a successful (ish) film franchise and a successful television show, which showcased the delusions, murderous tendencies, and maternal issues of one Norman Bates. Psycho (1959) is known for a lot of things (especially the movie), and so is its author, as he wasn’t necessarily a one-trick pony in the literature and writing field.

Robert Bloch was born in April (April 5th), so today we will talk about the life and times of this outstanding writer, and his contributions to the writing world.

Early life

Robert Bloch was born Robert Albert Bloch Chicago, Illinois, on April 5th, 1917. His father was a bank teller and his mother was a social worker. As a child, he weathered the normalcy of suburban life and attended grammar school. His interest in horror was sparked late one night while attending a screening of 1925’s Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney, Sr.

Publishing career

Bloch, much like many of the writers in the mid-1900s, were inspired by writers of the turn of the century who had largely published in pulp magazines. Bloch was hugely inspired by Weird Tales, which featured the likes of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. In fact, Lovecraft and Bloch started a correspondence that resulted in Bloch’s inclusion into the Lovecraft Circle—a group of popular writers at the time—even though he was the youngest of the troupe.

At this time, Bloch sent along his submissions to the Weird Tales but did not see immediate fanfare until other publications started taking notice of his work. Weird Tales followed suit.

As stated by Wisconsin Historical Society, “Weird Tales initially rejected Bloch’s submissions until similar publications began to pick up his stories. He quickly became one of the magazine’s most popular authors” (Wisconsin).

Nevertheless, Bloch’s relationship with other writers helped expose him to a community of like-minded artists. John O’Neil, writing for Black Gate, wrote that, “Bloch gradually expanded his correspondence to Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, and others laying the groundwork for what would eventually be known as the Cthulhu Mythos. Together, they built on Lovecraft’s work, kicking off a tradition that is still very much alive today” (O’Neil).

Later career and death

After publishing stories over the next decade, Bloch wrote his first novel in 1947, and would publish 50 more over the course of his career, including the mainstay psychological-horror novel Psycho, and 50 screenplays and 400 short stories. He was also the recipient of the Hugo Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the World Fantasy Award. Additionally, he served as “president of the Mystery Writers of America.”

Goodreads states: “Robert Bloch was also a major contributor to science fiction fanzines and fandom in general. In the 1940s, he created the humorous character Lefty Feep in a story for Fantastic Adventures” (Goodreads). Furthermore, he also “worked for a time in local vaudeville,” and “wrote 3 stories for Star Trek.”

Bloch died at 77 years old in 1994.

Works Cited

“A writer of Weird Tales. Storyteller. Robert Albert Bloch. 1917-1994.” Wisconsin Historical Society. Wisonsin.org. Website: https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS16513

“Robert Bloch.” Goodreads. Goodreads Inc. Web: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12540.Robert_Bloch

O’Neil, John. “Vintage Treasures: The Best of Robert Bloch.” July 19, 2013. Black Gate: Adventures in Fantasy Literature. Web: https://www.blackgate.com/2013/07/19/vintage-treasures-the-best-of-robert-bloch/