A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini

ROBERT BLOCH – The King of Terrors. Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1977. No paperback edition.

   Robert Bloch has long been recognized as the patriarch macabre fiction writers, having made his first professional sale half a century ago (to Weird Tales in 1934, at tender age of seventeen). But he has also written extensively in the criminous field, with several novels, hundreds of short stories. and five major collections.

   The King of Terrors, subtitled “Tales of Madness and Death,” collects the best of his many short works on the theme of psychopathology. “Throughout man’s history,” Bloch says in his introduction, “I suppose death was the King of Terrors. The ultimate threat to our egos is the thought of their extinction. Now we have recently come to learn that mental illness can also destroy the ego, rob s of our self-awareness and, thus, identity. In a word — living death, the King of Terrors’ tortured twin.”

   That tortured twin makes for some truly fearful and fear-filled tales. “The Real Bad Friend,” for instance, which covers some of the same psychopathological ground as Bloch’s classic novel Psycho and predates the book by two years; “Water’s Edge,” a deceptively simple story about an excon and a woman’s horrifying retribution against him; and a pair of beautifully understated shockers- “Home Away from Home,” about a young woman’s ill-advised visit to her psychiatrist uncle in a remote section England, and “Terror in the Night,” about a young man’s escape from an insane asylum. Not all the stories here are first-rate-Bloch — but all are enjoyable and the best ones are truly shuddersome.

   Bloch’s other criminous collections are also recommended. (It should be noted, however, that there is considerable duplication of stories among them.) They are Terror in the Night and Other Stories (1958), Blood Runs Cold (1961), Cold Chills (1977), and Out of the Mouths of Graves (1978).

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.