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Robert Bloch
Includes Shooting Star
Originally published 1954
Hard Case Crime 2008

Spiderweb by the author of Psycho Robert Bloch might have been originally published in the mid-fifties but the premise of this mystery novel of sorts is still relevant: a self-help guru in whom people place their confidence is really a confidence man.

Just when Eddie Haines is ready to pack in his Hollywood dreams and go back home to Iowa he receives a job offer from Professor Hermann. The Professor's plan is to corner the market by creating and controlling the perfect guru. With training, Haines becomes Judson Roberts, self-help expert.

Bloch is excellent at explaining the scheme and Haines' problems with his doppelganger Judson Roberts, making it clear that Bloch himself was not enamored with tricksters of that ilk

There is a minor glance at Hollywood society here through a couple of secondary character actors who slip in and out of the story.

Spiderweb is a great example of how pulp fiction of the fifties and early sixties had a rhythm all its own. There are, for example, more explanations as to what is going on and the main character is much more introspective yet the suspense and mystery is still there.

Another marked difference between mystery novels of that era and the modern age is the plots were usually more elaborate and, more often than not, the main character was a loner operating in a corrupt world that was darker than it is depicted now; perhaps because black and white were easier to distinguish back then thus the black was blacker.

Spiderweb, published by Hard Case Crime with another Robert Bloch Hollywood based thriller; Shooting Star, is the story of such a loner in a dark world.

This is a fun, well-written, easy read. As the paperback also includes another Bloch mystery, Shooting Star, it is certainly a good bang bang for your buck.