This is my second time reading a collection of Robert Bloch short stories and my last. His stories are never real standouts for me and there was one in particular in this collection that was so racist it turned me off of him completely as a writer. The cover is great, though, very eye-catching and a fun example of classic 1960s SF/F art. I wish they listed who did it in the copyright page, but at this time I guess it was seen as work for hire that didn’t need to be credited. Fortunately, today you can almost always find the cover artist in the copyright section somewhere, so at least attribution has improved.
The stories in this collection are very rote and all have twist endings, most of which he has italicized the last line of to try to make it feel extra impactful for the reader. However, after the second italicized twist ending, they just started seeming funny for me. If I was in middle school, it might have been scarier. As it is, I was never shocked and I could tell that these were written in a rush for magazine publication at a time when these guys were dashing off as many stories as they could for the pulps (Bloch got his start in Weird Tales). Out of the ten stories here, I thought “One Way to Mars” was the most unique and the weirdest one, with a strange man offering the main character a trip to Mars over and over. No one else can see the little man and it drives the main character insane, until he finally ends up seemingly on the trip to Mars. There was a surreal and unsettling quality to this story that I liked. The rest were ghost/horror tales with nothing new in them (haunted glasses, bargains with Satan, evil ghost monastery, evil wax figure, cosmic horror, etc). “Mother of Serpents” was so racist it has made me decide to not read any more Bloch if I can help it. It is about an early president of Haiti and voodoo, and the descriptions of Black people are just disgusting. Overall, I am all set with Bloch and see no need to visit him again. It makes a lot of sense to me that he was a huge Lovecraft fan and corresponded with him, because Lovecraft was very racist as well. Lovecraft was at least a good writer, and Bloch tends more to hack work. I did learn a lot about Weyauwega, Wisconsin in my research about him, since he wrote Psycho there, and that was interesting. I recommend the Wikipedia page for Weyauwega over this book, honestly. The Menominee tribe have a really fascinating history and their fight against the government in the 1960s and 1970s is very moving.