**** Out of 5
Release Date- 1982
Written by- Robert Bloch
Locked in an insane asylum, Norman Bates manages to escape and murders visiting nuns and steals their van. Along the way Norman picks up a hitchhiker and attacks. Next morning the van is found burnt with two bodies one being one of the nuns and the other believed to be Norman Bates. Norman’s doctor Adam Claiborne finds evidence to believe Norman picked up a hitchhiker and Norman is still alive, but nobody believes him. When Adam learns of a film called Crazy Lady being made based off the Bates murders, Adam believes Norman is heading to Hollywood to stop the production so Adam takes off for Hollywood hoping to stop Norman.
As you can see Psycho II features an entirely different plot than the film version of Psycho II and while the film often gets positive reviews the novel gets mixed reviews. Going into Psycho II I wasn’t sure what to expect, which was how I went into the novel for the original. I really had no expectations for either, but after reading Psycho, which became one of my favorite novels I had to get a copy of Psycho II. I think some of the mixed reviews stem from Norman playing a very small role where as in the films he’s the main character. Like stated the film goes in a totally different direction and I think it was the right move as I’m not certain the novel would have worked as a film.
Book reviews are still new to me so just bare with me as I go over Psycho II.
After Norman escapes he’s only mentioned and his fate isn’t revealed until the end. The lack of Norman might turn off certain people, but works great in contrast to the story. This is also a very different Norman than the films and even the original novel. Norman in the novel Psycho isn’t quite as likable as the film version, but he’s more or less the same. Really the only difference is we get inside his mind and see how messed up he is. Here in Psycho II there is no Mother. Norman has no memory of the murders since his other personality committed them, but here it’s all Norman and Norman is quite insane and evil and even has sex with a dead body! This Norman Bates is quite different than the one in the films and while this Norman Bates may not work in the film it does in the novel. Again as much a like Norman was in the original film and novel they are also just different enough that its believable that Norman is this messed up whereas no way this works in the films.
The only real thing in common between the book and film are Sam and Lila are also married in the book. Neither play a huge part, but Lila isn’t anything like she was in the film version of Psycho II. Here she’s closer to the way she was in the original novel and film. I was really happy they both returned and while they play a bit part it’s a highly effective part.
In many ways this is a satire on Hollywood and a shot at the splatter films that dominated the era this novel came out. It also shows the sleazier side of Hollywood and Bloch’s disgust is quite obvious.
For the good majority of the book Robert Bloch writes a terrific novel and I’d go as far to say I liked it more than the original novel as well as the film version of Psycho II (nothing tops the original film). Bloch crafts a great story as the threat of Norman is always present and Bloch also does a great job of keeping you guessing. Is Norman really dead or is he out there somewhere. The pace of the book was incredible as I couldn’t put it down. While characters aren’t great they are solid enough to carry the book during lulls in the action though I thought Adam was a great lead. However the last 60 or so pages sadly the novel takes a nosedive and the pacing is zapped as it slumps along to the shocking twist.
It’s quite unfortunate Psycho II got so sloppy towards the end with chapters that have no impact on the story, it also jumps around too much with no narrative flow. I was really digging this novel and again was enjoying it more than the first novel, but it got so messy the original novel ended up being the better of the two. And I would also probably give the edge to the film version of Psycho II. However despite the problems don’t let that turn you off as 95% of Psycho II is excellent.
The problems with the final act of the novel are it just feels like filler scenes that while perhaps add to the characters to some degree also could have been removed and nothing would feel like it were missing and we also get some really, really bizarre chapters that have nothing to do with the story.
There is a very bizarre chapter about Paul Morgan who is sort of a washed up actor that’s cast to play Norman. Since Norman would dress as his Mother, Morgan assumed Norman was gay even though he’s been told that isn’t the case, but in attempt to get deeper into the character he goes undercover to a gay brothel of sorts with Hollywood look a like escorts such as Robert Redford, John Travolta and Clint Eastwood. To say this section of the book is odd would be a major understatement. Not only was it really odd, but it also wasn’t needed. In no way does it serve the plot and I’m not really sure what the point of this was. There was zero reason for this chapter as again it has no bearing on the story.
The director of Crazy Lady also has a backstory and like the chapter with Paul Morgan this was also pointless and not needed. I guess if anything it was setting him up as a possible suspect. This was yet another chapter that’s pointless and wasn’t really needed though it does very slightly play a part in the finale it could have been edited since honestly not only a pace killer, but very boring as well.
There is also a passage about Connie who is a bit player who is mostly just mentioned with a brief scene where she has dialogue. Jan is the actress hired to play Mary Crane and Connie is her roommate. Like Jan, Connie is also an actress only she isn’t attractive enough to be a star so she mostly just stands in for certain shots where her face isn’t seen. But there is a brief scene of her working on a porn flick where she feels empowered cause she’s the star. Seeing as Connie was such a minor player I have no idea why Bloch felt compelled to write this brief scene. Not only again is Connie mostly just mentioned with only a tiny bit of dialogue, but this scene has no impact on the story and I have no idea why Bloch wrote it and why it wasn’t edited out.
The twist at the end was smart and creative, but the downside is its a little sloppy in how it’s handled and also felt rushed. It’s almost as if Bloch was getting too close to his word count and needed to wrap it up quickly. While some people felt it was obvious I thought the twist was smart just could have been handled better.
As I brought up in terms of mixed reviews I’m just gonna assume most people read this book after seeing the film and in my case I saw all the Psycho films as well as the remake and first season of the Bates Motel (haven’t seen the failed TV pilot Bates Motel from 1987) all before I read a single page of any of the Psycho novels so in the case of Psycho II the fact Norman is so different than the film version I get why some may not like this, but again as much as Norman was the same in the original novel and film with the slight differences this Norman in the Psycho II novel very much fits better than the film version and the film version of Norman in Psycho II fits better than he would in the novel. Just keep all that in mind. It’s totally understandable to favor the films if you saw those first, but I did as well and could easily accept the differences for reasons stated.
Psycho II in my opinion is a great book as for 95% of the book I couldn’t put it down and couldn’t wait to read what happened next, but the final 60 or so pages it does get very sloppy and does slightly hinder the novel. However everything before that was great and Robert Bloch writes another winner and Psycho II is very much on par with the original novel as well as the film version of Psycho II. But keep in my mind the plot and Norman are totally different than the film.