"I have the heart of a young child. I keep it in a jar on my desk."
— Robert Bloch
Robert Bloch (1917-1994) was a prolific writer of horror/crime fiction (with some forays into science fiction), writing hundreds of short stories and over 20 novels. He also adapted several of his works into teleplays for Star Trek: The Original Series
(most famously the Jack the Ripper
episode "Wolf In the Fold"), Alfred Hitchcock Presents
, and Boris Karloff's Thriller
(he also wrote for I Spy
), as well as screenplays, many for Amicus Productions
. His most well-known work is Psycho
(which he did not personally adapt for the screen).
Bloch was one of the youngest members of the so-called "Lovecraft Circle", and H.P. Lovecraft
himself encouraged him to take up writing.
Works by Robert Bloch with their own trope pages include:
Tropes exhibited in the work of Robert Bloch
- Afterlife Express: "That Hell-Bound Train"
- All Psychology Is Freudian: Jung's name is mentioned, but Bloch preferred Freudian psychology, probably for the wordplay potential (see below).
- Ax-Crazy: Oh yeah.
- Author Filibuster: In short works it came off more as a Take That, but Bloch was very uncomfortable with some of the post-WWII youth subcultures, particularly the Beats and the hippies (the 1960 novel The Dead Beat being a particularly egregious example).
- Black Comedy / Gallows Humor
- Dead Guy Puppet: "The Final Performance" uses this as a twist ending.
- Dead Man's Chest: The short story "Frozen Fear" has a man kill his wife, dismember her, and store the parts in a freezer (he plans to dispose of them the following winter by burning them. Supernatural karmic revenge ensues. Notably adapted as a segment of the 1972 British horror anthology Asylum.
- Deal with the Devil: In "That Hell-Bound Train".
- Death by Irony / Hoist by His Own Petard / Karmic Death
- Death Takes a Holiday: "The Pin"
- Dem Bones: "Skeleton in the Closet" features the protagonists uncle as this trope and eventually the protagonist and his accomplice in murder
- Disposable Vagrant: "The Knife" in "Hobo" frequently targets the homeless.
- Eldritch Abomination: Occasionally he wrote one that wasn't part of his Cthulhu Mythos stories.
- Freudian Excuse
- Freudian Slip: Inordinately fond of these just for the purpose of wordplay and punning.
- Ghost Pirate: "Terror in Cut-Throat Cove" but the real danger is an Eldritch Abomination.
- Gollum Made Me Do It: See also Split Personality Takeover below.
- Go Mad from the Revelation
- Groin Attack: This lovely image from "The Night Before Christmas"
- Santiago: "The young man was stripped and tied to a tree. His genitals were smeared with wild honey. You've heard of the fire ants, amigo? They swarmed in this area-and they will devour anything which bears the scent of honey."
- Historical-Domain Character:
- Hollywood Satanist: The standard explanation for any Evil Sorcerer.
- Human Resources
- Insane Equals Violent: "The Screaming People"
- It's the Journey That Counts: In "That Hell-Bound Train," protagonist Martin makes a Deal with the Devil that the Devil can have his soul if he, Martin, has the power to stop time when he reaches the moment of perfect happiness. Because Martin is always convinced that he could be happier, he never uses that power during his lifetime. After his death, he acknowledges this trope and uses his power to stop time aboard the hell-bound train so he can enjoy an endless journey with "all the jolly crew" of the damned.
- Jack the Ripper: A favorite Bloch subject. Along with "Wolf in the Fold", there's his famous short story "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper", as well as "A Toy for Juliette" in Dangerous Visions (which in turn inspired Harlan Ellison's "The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World"). He also wrote the forward to the Batman vs the Ripper Elseworld Gotham by Gaslight, written as though by Jack himself.
- Literal Genie: The devil in "Picture"
- Mommy Issues: Psycho.
- Narrator All Along
- Never One Murder
- Our Vampires Are Different:
- "Tooth and Consequences"
- "The Bat is My Brother"
- Pungeon Master: Fredric Brown once told him that he was the best (or worst) punster he had ever known.
- Robotic Reveal: The twist of "Iron Mask" is that the man in the iron mask is actually a Nazi operated robot!
- See-Thru Specs: "The Cheaters" features glasses that let you read people's minds.
- Silent Age of Hollywood: Bloch was a big fan of Lon Chaney, and it shows (especially in the novel The Star Stalker). There are also stories set during the Golden Age of Hollywood and the Fall of the Studio System, though often (especially in the latter era) they showed how disrespectfully the vintage stars were treated by the new blood.
- Split Personality: Most prominent in Psycho, but it pops up in some of his other stories.
- Split Personality Takeover: We see a classic example in Psycho, but Bloch had an unusual variant in a couple of stories. In these the bad personality was treated as if it were an Enemy Without (though it never manifests physically) and at the end of the story the two personalities decide to team up.
- Talking to Themself: see above.
- Totally Radical: Attempts to send up Beat and hippie slang always came out this way. His tries at Future Slang (usually in a Hold Your Hippogriffs form) were usually not much better.
- Tuckerization: Bloch wrote an affectionate Take That story about H.P. Lovecraft, and his short story "ETFF" (about an alien going to a science fiction convention) reads like a Who's Who of popular sf authors (and fans) of the 1970s.
- Twist Ending
- Unreliable Narrator
- Urban Fantasy: "The Bat is My Brother"
- Word Association Test: Like with Freudian Slips, Bloch used these for wordplay— but seldom as literal psychological tests; they were more likely to show up as a running chain of words and phrases in a character's thoughts.