Bloch’s novel is an enjoyable crime noir about Hollywood’s dark side. Eddie Haines is a washed-up radio jockey who can’t get airtime in LA. Then he’s befriended by Professor Otto Hermann who promises to make Eddie rich. All Eddie has to do is pretend to be a gifted self-help guru to the stars. It seems that Hermann has access to many secrets of the film stars and by using Eddie in his new guise of Judson Roberts, they can fleece unsuspecting pigeons. When Eddie meets Ellen and falls in love with her, he can’t get out of his deal with Hermann – because he too was being cunningly blackmailed…
Bloch gives away some of the conman’s secrets, which should be enlightening and educational. His characters use the psychological studies of the day to good effect to work subtle and convincing scams.
There are some great one-liners in this book. As the Professor explains about one film star hooked on astrology: ‘But she won’t so much as sleep with an assistant producer without consulting the stars.’
Bloch’s horror writing style is in evidence as well: ‘Poinsettias pressed myriad bleeding mouths to a garden wall.’
And he always likes to play with words – as evinced by some of his book and short story titles. Here, he goes all alliterative: ‘I eyed elkskin and surveyed suede.’
Of course he’s a master of the hardboiled style too; this is a great description: ‘She gave a look that would have made her a fortune as a glass cutter…’
Stephen King writes of Bloch, ‘Perhaps the finest psychological horror writer.’ [He’s keeping his options open, I guess, using ‘perhaps’.]
King’s writing pal Peter Straub says, ‘Robert Bloch is one of the all-time masters.’
I wouldn’t disagree with either of these gentlemen. Bloch is worth reading.