RARA-AVIS: Howard Browne and Roy Huggins

From: Mark Sullivan ( DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net)
Date: 06 Jun 2001

I just finished reading Man in the Dark in Browne's Incredible Ink, the story Browne wrote as Roy Huggins. As Browne explains in the Memoirs essay, Huggins had said he would write a story for Fantastic, but had to back out after his name was already on the cover, so Browne wrote a story, but credited it to his friend.

Now I don't know a whole lot about the individual pulp magazines, pretty much all of my reading in that area has been in later anthologies, but I'm not quite sure why this was a "Fantastic" story. When Browne originally approached Huggins to write it, he asked, "if he could do a detective story with fantasy elements in it." So I would guess that when Browne set out to fill the gap he wrote to the same formula. So where was the "fantasy element" in this story?

Now please don't take this as a criticism. I prefer my detective stories without fantasy and this is a pretty good little mystery story about a man trying to convince everyone his wife is not dead as everyone else thinks, but I was wondering if anyone could tell me exactly what
"fantasy" means in this context.

On a related note, Browne's Memoirs tells how he met Huggins, when the latter sent Browne "The Double Take" along with a note saying "You like the hardboiled style -- here's one I've written. You can send me the check. PS -- My grandmother didn't like the book."

Browne thought the book was good, but fell apart at the end. It seems Huggins didn't know how to end it himself, so he asked a real PI friend of his to solve the case. Anyway, Browne offered his suggestions, Huggins rewrote the ending using them, Browne published it and Huggins' career was off to a start.

Anyway, I recently read Double Take featuring Stuart Bailey, later of 77 Sunset Strip. It is a very nice, very Chandleresque LA private eye novel. It's easy to see why Huggins and "John Evans" got along so well, they clearly liked the same things.


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