Still disturbing and spooky after all these years, Psycho is a horror novel unlike all the others, because the true horror does not stem from the typical gothic elements that are found in most books of this nature, although they are present here, especially the lone mansion and the wonderfully disturbing presence of Mother. The horrors are not spectral in nature, but rather, they come from the fractured mindset of a warped soul. Psycho could almost be an elongated, altered and Midwestern version of William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily, minus the morbid romance. In fact points, Norman Bates was culled from two historical sources: Ed Gein, the grave-robing murderer also known as The Plainfield Ghoul and Calvin Beck, publisher of Castle of Frankenstein, an American horror and science fiction/fantasy film magazine that delighted readers with in-depth and serious coverage of B-movie cheesiness.
Psycho is simply written and to-the point; it builds up slowly, layer-upon-layer, with Mary Crane, and attractive and young woman who has been hard-up in many respects; she yearns for the good life with a good and honorable man, whom she sees in Sam Loomis, a small town business owner who has his own problems to contend with, essentially a pool of debt which he inherited from his deceased father. But he vows to get it straightened out, honorably, and then he can turn his amorous attentions to his beloved Mary. However, he is on a payment plan, and it will be a couple of years before he can make Mary's wishes a reality. She, however, does not care to wait a couple of years. Hence, Mary decides to expedite the paying off of Sam's debts, unbeknownst to him. While working for the insurance firm of The Lowery Agency, she helps herself to a client's forty thousand dollars, which she promised she would deposit into the bank at the day's end. But she had other intentions and that was to pay off Sam's debts, get her sister Lila situated and live the life of splendor, romance and ease.
With money in hand, she flees, trading car after car and covering her tracks, concocting story after story until one sounds credible and air-tight. But in taking a wrong turn, she heads into the Bates Motel, for with the new highway, the roads split, and Mary Crane took the path less traveled. With the pelting rain, she knew she had to ride it out, and then she encountered Norman Bates, a meek and mild momma's boy with a weird fixation for taxidermy. Later invited up to the house for a light dinner, she and Norman have a chit-chat about life and all the problems contained therein. He sees that she is fleeing, but he stops her flat in her tracks by saying, in effect, that you can't evade your responsibilities, no matter how hard they may be to bear. He cites his dominating mother who represses his fun, his sexual development with the opposite sex and his manhood, in general. "But mother needs me." And that is his mantra, over and over again. She is old, feeble and has no one to look after her; he hates her, yet he needs her, too.
With the epiphany that everybody has a cross to bear, Mary gets a change of heart and decides to correct the error of her misdeeds. However, will mother allow her the chance? She sees women, with herself as the sole exception, as sinful temptresses with nothing good and wholesome to offer the world; she ingrained that off-the-mark philosophy into her son and allows Norman to roll-with-it when her essence dominates his meekness. Psycho is simply chilling, showcasing the duality of really off-the-wall human nature and psychotic development. Norman Bates will forever be the fictionalized poster boy of that unfortunate reality And yet, it was a great horror read.