Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Robert Bloch

general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Shooting Star / Spiderweb

Title: Spiderweb
Author: Robert Bloch
Genre: Novel
Written: 1954
Length: 160 pages
Availability: in Shooting Star / Spiderweb - US
in Shooting Star / Spiderweb - UK
in Shooting Star / Spiderweb - Canada

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B+ : fun idea and great build-up

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Spiderweb is narrated by Eddie Haines. He set out from Iowa to make it big in Hollywood, but after a few months there is near the end of his rope (and cash). He had an idea for a show -- 'the Television Psychologist' -- and he found an agent to pitch it for him, but with no success.
       Just as he hits near-bottom someone come knocking on his door. Professor Hermann likes the sound of Eddie's voice -- "You sound sincere and convincing" -- and thinks he's the perfect man for his grand ambitions. And grand they are:

"We can take over this town, you and I. Not with a phony cult or a fly-by-night racket. We're going after the top, the cream. We'll get next to them, get under their skin, get into their minds. We'll start out by advising and analyzing them -- but we'll end up running their lives. We're going to own them, body and soul !"
       Eddie knows he's making a deal with the devil, but he's impressed by Hermann's thoroughness and he sees that this is an incredible opportunity. And, as Hermann reminds him, the kind of grand con he's proposing is hardly different from what Eddie's TV and radio pitchman-dreams (as glorified soap-salesman) consisted of:
You'd be perfectly willing to tell millions of pimply, bloated hags that they can become lovely and alluring if they buy a cake of perfumed fat to drop into their water. Isn't that the same thing ?
       So Eddie becomes 'Judson Roberts', complete with a fifty-dollar Ph.D. certificate from a correspondence school and author of the pre-written self-help manual, Y - O - U . And, after a few months of study, they go to work -- though the first thing Hermann does is make sure he ties Eddie very, very close to him -- by setting up a murder that implicates him. Not that Eddie didn't know it before, but now it's completely clear:
Professor Hermann was the Devil, and he had my soul. And my choice, my path, was clear from now on.
    I was going to hell.
       But it's a decent ride as long as Eddie plays along. Too bad those pangs of conscience lead him to try keep Hermann from doing his worst (which, admittedly, is pretty damn bad).
       Bloch is at his best in building up Hermann's plans, and the cool-as-a-cucumber mad professor is wonderful villain. The professor's elaborate cons, one atop the other, are nicely developed, and Bloch has a nice touch with the whole self-help scene -- including some of the people Eddie counsels once he's learnt all the methods. So, for example:
Baker feared his boss, Klotscher feared God, Mrs. Annixter feared cancer, which was a polite term for syphilis, which was a polite term for intercourse, which was a polite term for the Sin Against the Holy Ghost, which was a polite term for the fact that she really enjoyed it. By a strange coincide, Mr. Annixter was a patient too, and he feared -- Mrs. Annixter.
       The too impulsive Eddie isn't quite as successful a character, and Bloch doesn't handle him quite as well, especially when there's action to a scene. He's saved at the last second several times too often (always at that last second, too), and he's simply too impulsive too often, too.
       When the final confrontations start piling on it all gets kind of messy and Bloch rushes through it much faster than need be. It's a shame, because when he shows some patience the book works well; it's those points when time is of essence or Eddie is on the run (and/or chase) that he loses his sure grip.
       Sometimes Bloch gets carried away with what he's capable of as a writer, but you can't really blame him. In fact, it's too bad he can't carry it all the way through, as when early on he has Eddie wax philosophical:
     Aspirin, toothpaste, cold tablets, pills, iodine, scissors -- I hated all of it. The melancholy of anatomy ...
     Everything I saw reminded me of the way you have to fight just to keep alive. Fight with yourself, with your body. There's always something. Like this headache. Or a cold, sinus trouble. Tooth decay. Bad eyes. Bruises, blisters, cuts, burns, aches, pains. An endless round of cleaning, brushing, scrubbing, combing. Cutting of hair and fingernails and toenails. Eating, eliminating, resting, sleeping. Fighting all the time and you can't win.
       But Bloch can't keep it up, seduced instead by the easier route of turning to action -- despite barely maintaining control as the books moves towards its resolution. It's not a bad resolution, either -- just too rushed.
       Spiderweb doesn't completely work, but the parts of it that do -- especially the build-up of turning Eddie into Judson Roberts -- are really very good. Worthwhile.

- Return to top of the page -


Spiderweb: Reviews: Robert Bloch: Other books by Robert Bloch under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       American author Robert Bloch (1917-1994) is best known as the author of Psycho.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2008 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links