Robert Bloch – The Skull Of The Marquis de Sade (Pyramid 1965: Corgi 1976: Robert Hale 1975)
The Skull of the Marquis De Sade
A Quiet Funeral
The Weird Taylor
The Man Who Knew Women
“Lizzie Borden Took An Axe…”
The Devil’s Ticket
The Bogey Man Will Get You
The Skull Of The Marquis De Sade: Christopher Maitland, a collector of morbid artifacts, is offered the skull of the divine Marquis for a knock-down £500 by down at heel Wapping-based dealer Marco who confesses he wants shot of it as the relic is playing on his mind. Maitland decides to sleep on it and, after a restless night in which he dreams vividly of being tortured by the Inquisition, consults his friend and fellow collector, Sir Fitzhugh Kilroy who once owned the skull and advises Maitland against making the purchase. “I’m not trying to frighten you, my friend. But I know the history of that skull. During the last hundred years it has passed through the hands of many men. Some of them were collectors, and sane. Others were perverted members of secret cults – worshippers of pain, devotees of Black Magic. Men have died to gain that grisly relic, and other men have been – sacrificed to it.”
Despite telling Sir Fitzhugh that he’s decided to give the skull a miss, Maitland calls on Marco at his Soho flat (Soho is, apparently a district of Wapping in this story) and finds him dead on his bed with a torn throat. Obviously, Marco’s police dog must have contracted rabies or something because there’s no sign of any break-in. Maitland shoots the dog and heads off home with his prize ….
“Lizzie Borden Took An Axe …”: Black Sorcery expert Gideon Godfrey is dead, his skull split in two by a blow with an axe. Godfrey was the legal guardian of young Anita Loomis and filled her head with so much mumbo jumbo that she believes herself to be the prey of an incubus. Boyfriend Jim is skeptical, but slowly he comes to the conclusion that Anita has been possessed by the same demon that drove Lizzie Borden to slay her parents ….
The Bogeyman Will Get You: Sixteen year old Nancy and her folks visit Lake Beaver for the second successive summer and she sets out to attract the hermit-like Philip Ames who lives in a neighbouring cottage, writing his thesis. All is going well until, on the evening of their first date, as the moon rises over the lake, he inexplicably cries off. As he disappears from view of the tearful Nancy, a bat flies out of the darkness and comes straight at her – after which Nancy becomes suspicious as to who and what she’s taken a fancy to. “Yes, that was it. Tonight, after Philip left, she’d tell Laura. Tell her that Philip didn’t eat and there were no mirrors and he was so pale and nobody saw him in the daytime and a bat flew out of the sunset. Tell her that Philip was … a vampire.”
One of only eight of his Weird Tales Bloch expressed satisfaction with in an interview with Graeme Flanagan in Robert Bloch: A Bio-Bibliography (privately printed, 1979), the others being Lucy Comes To Stay, Catnip, Sweets To The Sweet, Enoch, The Cheaters, One Way To Mars and Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper.
A Quiet Funeral: To avoid suspicion, Vetch calls at the Luigeruis Funeral Parlour to pay his respects to ace counterfeiter Charlie the Printer. It was Vetch who sabotaged his friend’s car, causing it to run off the road and burst into flames with Charlie trapped inside screaming for help. Vetch doesn’t like to think of Charlie dying like that. He doesn’t like to think of death, period. And he really hates to think about premature burial ….