Robert Albert Bloch (April 5, 1917, Chicago – September 23, 1994, Los Angeles) was a prolific American writer, primarily of crime, horror and science fiction. He was the son of Raphael "Ray" Bloch (born 1884, Chicago - died 1952, Chicago), a bank cashier, and his wife Stella Loeb (born 1880, Attica, Indiana - died 1944, Milwaukee, Wisconsin), a social worker, both of German-Jewish descent.
Bloch wrote hundreds of short stories and over twenty novels, usually crime fiction, science fiction and, perhaps most influentially, horror fiction (Psycho). He was one of the youngest members of the Lovecraft Circle. H. P. Lovecraft was Bloch's mentor and one of the first to seriously encourage his talent.
He was a contributor to pulp magazines such as Weird Tales in his early career, and was also a prolific screenwriter. He was the recipient of the Hugo Award (for his story "That Hell-Bound Train"), the Bram Stoker Award, and the World Fantasy Award. He served a term as president of the Mystery Writers of America.
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. He also worked for a time in local vaudeville and tried to break into writing for nationally-known performers. He was a good friend of the science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum. In the 1960s, he wrote three scripts for Star Trek.
The young Bloch even appears, thinly disguised, as the character "Robert Blake" in Lovecraft's story "The Haunter of the Dark", which is dedicated to Bloch. In this story, Lovecraft kills off the Bloch character, repaying a courtesy Bloch paid Lovecraft with his tale "The Shambler from the Stars", in which the Lovecraft-inspired figure dies; the story goes so far as to use Bloch's then-current street address in Milwaukee. (Bloch even had a signed certificate from Lovecraft [and some of his creations] giving Bloch permission to kill Lovecraft off in a story.) Bloch later wrote a third tale, "The Shadow From the Steeple", picking up where "The Haunter of the Dark" finished.
After Lovecraft's death in 1937, Bloch continued writing for Weird Tales, where he became one of its most popular authors. He also began contributing to other pulps, such as the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. He gradually evolved away from Lovecraftian imitations towards a unique style of his own. One of the first distinctly "Blochian" stories was "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper", which was published in Weird Tales in 1943. The story was Bloch's take on the Jack the Ripper legend, and was filled out with more genuine factual details of the case than many other fictional treatments. Bloch followed up this story with a number of others in a similar vein dealing with half-historic, half-legendary figures such as the Man in the Iron Mask ("Iron Mask", 1944), the Marquis de Sade ("The Skull of the Marquis de Sade", 1945) and Lizzie Borden ("Lizzie Borden Took an Axe...", 1946).
Bloch also contributed to Harlan Ellison's science fiction anthology, Dangerous Visions. His story, "A Toy for Juliette", evoked both the Marquis de Sade and Jack the Ripper. In fact, Ellison's own contribution to the anthology was a direct follow-up of Bloch's, and was titled "The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World".
In addition, Randall D. Larson has authored three reference books about Robert Bloch: The Robert Bloch Reader's Guide (1986, a literary analysis of Bloch's entire output through 1986), The Complete Robert Bloch (1986, an illustrated bibliography of Bloch's writing), and The Robert Bloch Companion (1986, collected interviews). An issue of Paperback Parade magazine (No. 39, August 1994) contains two articles by Larson on colecting Bloch - "Paperblochs: Robert Bloch in Paperback" and "Robert Bloch in Paperback".
An earlier reference work by Australia's Graeme Flanagan, Robert Bloch: A Bio-Bibliography (1979) includes other valuable material including interviews with Bloch and memoirs by fellow writers such as Harlan Ellison, Mary Elizabeth Counselman and Fritz Leiber.
A new essay collection focussing on a range of Bloch's work is Robert Bloch: the Man Who Collected Psychos, edited by Benjamin J. Szumskyj (McFarland, forthcoming 2008).
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