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.

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.

Desdemona

DESDEMONA
O, banish me, my lord, but kill me not!

OTHELLO
Down, strumpet!

DESDEMONA
Kill me to-morrow: let me live to-night!

OTHELLO
Nay, if you strive–

DESDEMONA
But half an hour!

OTHELLO
Being done, there is no pause.

DESDEMONA
But while I say one prayer!

OTHELLO
It is too late.

Desdemona by Rodolfo Amoedo, 1892

Shakespeare, Othello, Act V, Scene ii, 1622.

Surrounded By Beasts

In Greek legend, sorceress Circe (pronounced Kirke) is the daughter of Helios, the sun god, and Perse, an ocean nymph. She is said to have been surrounded by beasts that could not be seen elsewhere. When others came to her palace, they saw the beasts, but only what they recognized, like lions, bears and wolves. The beasts acted as domesticated animals, showing their kindness by wagging their tails. Some say they were actually drugged victims of Circe.

The Sorceress by John William Waterhouse, c. 1911

Sources:
* Circe — Greek Mythology Link
* Britannica — Circe: Greek Mythology

DYK: Misery (1990)

Kathy Bates is nominated for an Oscar at tonight’s Academy Awards, so I thought I would take a look back at Misery, the movie she starred in that led her to winning an Oscar for best female in a leading role in 1990.

Did you know that Bette Midler turned down the role of Annie Wilkes? She thought the story was too violent, but later called herself “stupid” for her decision. However, screenwriter William Goldman wrote Misery with then unknown but respected theater actress Kathy Bates in mind.

Her co-star, James Caan, was not the first choice to play Paul Sheldon. Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman and Robert Redford all said no to the role. William Hurt said no twice. Warren Beatty showed a lot of interest and gave the director Rob Reiner and Goldman ideas for the character before having to turn them down, too, because he had to keep working on Dick Tracy.

Caan had to stay in bed for 15 weeks of shooting. He said he thought that Reiner was playing a “sadistic” joke on him, knowing the actor wouldn’t enjoy not moving around for so long. Caan wasn’t used to playing a reactionary character, and found it much tougher to play.

Read more interesting facts about Misery on Mental Floss.

Reiner, Rob. Misery, Columbia Pictures, 1990.