Re: RARA-AVIS: Frederic Brown

From: Bob Toomey (
Date: 23 Nov 2000 wrote:

> I am trying to track down a title called 'The Santa Claus Murders' by
> Frederic Brown - and I am slowly discovering that
> it was published under different names at different times. I belive a couple
> of the names are 'Murder Can Be Fun' and 'A
> Plot For Murder', and that one of them may be condensed... Can anyone offer
> me a little information on the history of this
> story?

Sure. "The Santa Claus Murders" was a novella of 25-30 thousand words published in the October 1942 edition of *Street & Smith Detective Story Magazine* It was expanded to novel length and published in hardcover by Dutton, Brown's usual HC publisher, in 1948 as MURDER CAN BE FUN. In 1949 Bantam Books reprinted it in paperback under the title A PLOT FOR MURDER. I believe this was the only paberback edition, making it a pretty rare find. It was also reprinted by the Unicorn Mystery Book Club in 1948 as MURDER CAN BE FUN along with FOUNTAIN OF DEATH by Hugh Lawrence Nelson, UNEASY STREET by Wade Miller, and ECHO MY TEARS by Jan Foster. The Miller novel, a Max Thursday mystery, is more fun than FUN, which is one of Brown's minor efforts. Under whichever title, the novel starts off well with a cute impossible situation -- someone is committing murders based on a series of plots dreamed up by the protagonist for a radio show that was never broadcast; plots that nobody, in fact, but the protagonist has seen. This probably worked better in the original novella, which I haven't seen. The expansion adds nothing to the situation and feels exactly like what it is -- padding. Being by Fredric Brown, it's still worth reading, but it's no masterpiece.

Hope this helps.


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