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The Kidnapper – castaliahouse.com

The Kidnapper

Sunday , 31, December 2023 Leave a comment

I have been reading Robert Bloch for over forty years. I never wrote to him like I did to Fritz Leiber, Donald Wandrei, Carl Jacobi, and Hugh Cave. I first discovered him in that all so influential anthology Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. I still like rereading a story by him from Weird Tales here and there.

I picked up his novel The Kidnapper a few years back at a used bookstore. It is another book that I needed to scratch off the “to be read” list. This was Bloch’s third novel and published by Lion Books in 1954 as The Kidnaper. Lion Books was an imprint of Martin Goodman who published pulps, men’s magazines, and comic books that would become Marvel.

This is very much a 1950s crime story told in first person. Steve Collins (real name Stanley Kolischek) is a low level criminal back in Milwaukee after a filling station hold up job in Florida. He takes a night shift job at a tool & dye maker. He befriends the nebbish Leo Schumann and gets himself a 20 year old girlfriend in the form of Mary Adams. Mary is a maid for a very wealthy business owner. Steve first thinks up a job to rob the mansion of jewelry when Mary’s boss and wife are gone on vacation. That gets thrown out as the vacation plans change.

Steve then comes up with the idea of snatching the four year old daughter of Mary’s boss as she is leaving school. Steve ensnares Mary and Leo on the job working on how rich they are going to be when they get the ransom.

They pull off the kidnapping but things go wrong. It is then a story of Steve attempting to deal with each problem that comes up and things spiral out of control.

The paperback is 216 pages in medium sized type. I knocked The Kidnapper off in two nights. The prose is hard-boiled, smooth, and kept my attention. Like so many 1950s crime stories, you want to take a shower after reading it.

I have the 1988 Tor reprint of The Kidnapper. Tor was very good to Bloch with reprints of American Gothic, Night-World, Fire Bug, Psycho, Night of the Ripper and the collections Fear and Trembling and Midnight Pleasures. Underwood-Miller and Scream Press also reprinted omnibi of Bloch crime novels. It seemed there was a lot of Robert Bloch available in the late 1980s/early 90s.

I think the only other Bloch crime novel I have read is the famous Psycho. That is a good novel. A little different from the movie as Norman Bates is overweight, middle-aged, and balding. If you come across a copy, by all means, read it. It is a landmark novel in serial killer fiction. Also get the collection Mysteries of the Worm if you should chance to come across. Prime mid and late 1930s Weird Tales fare.

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