From: Graham Powell ( bleekerbooks@hotmail.com)
Date: 02 Dec 2002

This weekend I finished off Fredric Brown's first two Ed and Am Hunter mystery novels, THE FABULOUS CLIPJOINT and THE DEAD RINGER. In CLIPJOINT, published in 1947, Ed Hunter is 18 years old and living in Chicago, working a menial job and hoping he doesn't end up like his father, a linotype operator and a drunk. Then his father is murdered, hit over the head in an alley, and Ed's whole perspective changes, especially after he looks up his uncle Ambrose, a carney and former detective. Together they set out to solve the murder. Ambrose knows his way around and teaches Ed a lot about the way the world works, and Ed manages to find out quite a bit on his own.

In THE DEAD RINGER Ed is working with his uncle when a series of strange murders strikes the carnival they're with. To begin with, a midget is found naked with a knife sticking out of his back. But he's not with the carnival, and no one knows who he is. A series of strange episodes follows, with Ed and Am eventually figuring it all out.

I've been a fan of Brown's short fiction for a long time, and these two books are really good. They're not as laugh-out-loud funny some of his shorter works. The mood is generally serious, although there are some light moments. Both are narrated in the first person by Ed, and Brown gives him a full life, of which these mysteries are only a part. Both books manage to be dark without falling into the stylized toughness of some hardboiled fiction.

Even better, I read them in a collection called HUNTER AND HUNTED, which collects the first 4 Ed and Am books, so I still have THE BLOODY MOONLIGHT and COMPLIMENTS OF A FIEND to go.

Graham Powell http://www.BleekerBooks.com

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