Book #11 – Psycho by Robert Bloch
This is a rewrite that didn’t disappoint me. When I first read it, probably in high school, maybe in college, I was too in love with the movie. The differences between the book and the movie were too great for me to enjoy the book then. Still, I saw that it was good. It was the first of Robert Bloch’s book that I’d read. I bought all the rest on the strength of this book. It might be his absolute best.
It has all the things I like about Bloch’s style. The writing is tight. There’s less description in this book. He uses it only when he needs it, never when we’re in the internal world of Norman Bates. The word usage is again very charged, manipulative. Psycho avoids the things that annoys me about Bloch’s plots. The novel’s contemporary setting allows for the spunky, strong female characters that Bloch likes. The gimmick is actually very simple and avoids too much of the twisting some of Bloch’s later novels have. The only thing I *really* disliked was the second to last “explanation” chapter. It’s long, it’s boring. It’s fairly inaccurate in light of modern psychology, though not as bad as other more recent novels. The movie does this scene better in it’s very concise manner.
All the previous lessons are reinforced. Also, the way metaphors are carried though. I often give up on them after the initial statement. One more line of followthrough makes it more effective. Also, Block uses changes in the mood of the characters to highlight the tension. For example: Chapter 15 when Lila is going through the Bates house. She starts angry at the men. That dissolves into bravado and curiosity. And then we hit fear. It would have been easy (and crappy) to write that scene only with fear and maybe a smattering of curiosity. Masterful. The other thing that I noticed (and I’m seeing this in Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Night Blooming as well) is that the time and character transitions that I sweat over are handled as non-issues. They’re there and not confusing.