Horror Lit: Psycho

When I came across a copy of Robert Bloch’s Psycho at a Books-A-Million, I picked it up without hesitation. I had wanted to read it since I discovered in April 2018 that the movie was based on a book (see Horror Cinema: Psycho).

Reading it, I was surprised by its gore and violence, especially for a book written in the 1950s. I was expecting it to be more of a slow burn like its movie adaptation. Instead, right from the start, there was gore. Early on, Norman Bates was described as reading books about human sacrifices where drums were made out of human skin. The classic murder scene in the motel shower was more intense than I would have ever imagined.

As a horror writer myself, I aspire to write stories that combine a psychological thrill with true-crime violence, and Psycho turned out to be just that. It was written in a clear and concise style with engaging characters.

After reading the book, I re-watched Hitchcock’s movie version. While much tamer than the book—to be expected for the time it was made in—it was an impressive film adaptation. The biggest difference between the book and film was how Norman Bates looked. In the book, he is described as overweight with thinning hair and rimless glasses, nothing like the tall, slim brunette cast in the movie.

I highly recommend this book to any horror fan.

Book
Bloch, Robert. Psycho, The Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc., 1959.

Film
Hitchcock, Alfred. Psycho, Paramount Pictures, 1960.

Queen Anne Hotel, San Francisco

Built in 1980, the Queen Anne Hotel was originally one of the most exclusive girls’ boarding schools in the San Francisco area. The headmistress of the school, Miss Mary Lake, allegedly had an affair with James “Slippery Jim” Fair, the Senator who funded the building of the beautiful Victorian mansion. Mary Lake denied the rumors, but it didn’t do her much good. A local newspaper published an article titled “Cupid and Mr. Fair,” and the nasty rumors of the affair continued circulating until Mary’s death.

Since her death, the Queen Anne Hotel has had many owners, from brothel owners to church caretakers, to mysterious secret societies. With such a curious history, it is no surprise the hotel could be haunted – but by whom?

Read more about the Queen Anne Hotel at Wild SF Walking Tours: Is the Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco Really Haunted?

Death Lit: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

I am a big fan of the YouTube channel Ask a Mortician by Cailtin Doughty. I especially love the videos on historical corpses. In all of her videos, Doughty not only provides tons of interesting information but shares it in a clear and direct style with a touch of humor. I could say the same about her writing. I was excited to pick up a copy of her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. At no point was the book morbid despite being about dying, death rites, the funeral industry and corpses. I found it informing and a pleasure to read.

I highly recommend it, particularly because I think it would be accessible to a wide range of reading skills. The style was straight-forward and easy to read, and the content never failed to keep me informed and entertained.

DYK: Deaths on set of Twilight Zone: The Movie, 1982

Did you know that Vic Morrow and two child actors, Renee Shinn Chen and Myca Dinh Le, were killed in an accident involving a helicopter during filming on the California set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. Morrow, age 53, and the children, ages 6 and 7, were shooting a Vietnam War battle scene in which they were supposed to be running from a pursuing helicopter. Special-effects explosions on the set caused the pilot of the low-flying craft to lose control and crash into the three victims. The accident took place on the film’s last scheduled day of shooting.

Read more about the tragedy at History.com.