Book Reviewed: Psycho by Robert Bloch
Publisher: Simon & Shuster in 1959, republished by The Overlook Press in 2010 ($14.95 for the recent paperback)
Before I go into my current book review, let me first apologize for something. For as many of you may well know, we are into the third day of February, which is of course Black History Month. Now I made a promise to myself that I would read some books by Black authors, and I intend to follow through with that promise. But the book I am about to review here was near the top of my To Be Read pile, and I just couldn’t resist. My next book to read and review is the graphic novel trilogy March, but for now allow me to play the fan-boy to the grand short horror novel Psycho—the novel that inspired the classic Hitchcock picture featuring the eerie Norman Bates!
I have talked before about books and their film adaptations, and I stand by my feeling that the balancing act between book and film is the weirdest thing ever. Regardless of that fact, there are certainly some real gems to be had from this symbiotic relationship; Psycho is one such gem. The book, no doubt partially inspired by the Ed Gein case, brought out not one but four movies, as well as a remake and a television series. It has become a national icon, and for good reason. As morbid as it sounds (considering the subject matter), I loved this book almost as much as Bates loved his mother!
The story deals with a middle-aged man who lives with his mother…well, maybe lives with her doesn’t quite ring true, but in any case they share a sort-of life together at their hotel. It is here where the violence and mental illness run rampant—the suspense is truly killer, and it builds perfectly towards a double-twist ending that left me with nightmares when I tried to go to sleep last night. The film version had the same effect on me when I first saw it. The story is so iconic and well know that I won’t get into it here, but I will tell you that the book is well worth a read, just as the original film is well worth a watch.
One of my film buff friends suggested that the book and movie were extremely similar, and I am inclined to agree. Honestly they are virtually the exact same story, except for the physical description of Norman Bates. In the movie Norman is exceptionally portrayed by Anthony Perkins, and in his performance he is young, lively, charming in a shy schoolboy sort of way. He looks forever young and is thin. But in the book he is overweight and a perpetual turn-off to those who encounter him. His readings in psychology and the occult are the same, but that particular personality quirk reads different in the book given his overall makeup. That eeriness just added to my enjoyment of the book.
Regardless of this difference between book and movie, I can’t help but shout out my love for Bloch’s novel. I would recommend it to any and all.