Re: RARA-AVIS: Fredric Brown

Bob Toomey (
Wed, 01 Dec 1999 00:24:57 -0500

hugh wrote:

> Hi:
> I just finished reading my first story by Fredric Brown, "Obit for
> Obie," in the anthology "Pure Pulp." I loved the story for several
> reasons, partly because it's about a newspaper reporter, which is my day
> job. Does anyone know if Brown's short stories have been anthologized?
> He has a wonderful ear for dialogue, and his prose is lean and hard. The
> intro mentions three novels, "The Fabulous Clipjoint," "The Screaming
> Mimi" and "The Far Cry," which I plan to seek out. Any others worthy of
> mention?

Fredric Brown was the first adult writer I ever read. When I was around nine, I found a copy of "Angels and Spaceships," a science fiction collection, in a box in my uncle's basement. My uncle was mainly into religion and flying saucers, and he probably thought the book combined his interests. He must have been very disappointed, but I thought Brown's stuff was great, even if I didn't understand every word.

Don't skip Brown's fantasy and science fiction. It's the same writer, the same style, but a lot looser. "What Mad Universe," is a classic, maybe his best book, and special fun for pulp fans. The hero is the editor of a science fiction adventure mag, who gets blown into a universe as wild and absurd as anything he's ever published. Brown manages to parody the entire superscience genre and simultaneously write a superior and very convincing superscience adventure story of his own. "Martians Go Home," is roughly a thousand times better and funnier than the movie version. The short stories are also excellent, better on average than his mysteries. Nearly all have been collected. Brown said he enjoyed writing science fiction than mysteries and it shows.

Of his mysteries, "The Dead Ringer," the immediate sequal to "Clipjoint," is a very good novel. It's a carnival story, a background Brown knew something about, and it suits his taste for the grotesque. It's also a lot lighter than
"Clipjoint." His other carnival novel, "Madball," is good but grim. My own favorite, after "The Screaming Mimi," is "Night of the Jabberwock," also a sort of carnival in the way it puts logic through the hoops. Brown's mystery short fiction has all been collected and the collections are expensive. None are currently in print. Two came out during Brown's lifetime and the rest were assembled in, I think, nineteen volumes by Dennis McMillan. There's also a university press "best of" collection. All worth having.

Fredric Brown was an iconoclast with a warped imagination, a strong sense of humor and a common touch. He was one of the best.


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