Friday, June 22, 2012

Crime Fiction Masters: Frederic Brown

 Frederic Brown's shortest short story, "The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door..."

Writer Fredric Brown.

 One of my favorite writers is Frederic Brown (1908-1972). He was also the very favorite of hardboiled writer Mickey Spillane, creator of Mike Hammer. Brown is celebrated for his whimsical science fiction classics, such as What Mad Universe and Martians, Go Home, but my favorites are his offbeat mystery novels. Brown's preferred method of creation was to hop on a bus in the middle of the night and write while "on the road."

Wikiquote, "One of Frederic Brown's most famous short stories, "Arena", was used as the basis for the episode of the same name in the original series of Star Trek. It was also the basis of a 1964 episode entitled "Fun and Games" of The Outer Limits, probably the Space: 1999 episode "The Rules of Luton", and possibly the Blake's 7 episode "Duel".

Brown's first mystery novel, The Fabulous Clipjoint, won the Edgar Award for outstanding first mystery novel. It began a series starring Ed and Ambrose Hunter, and is a depiction of how a young man gradually ripens into a detective under the tutelage of his uncle, an ex–private eye now working as a carnival barker.

The books make use of the threat of the supernatural or occult before the "straight" explanation at the end. Night of the Jabberwock is a bizarre and humorous narrative of an extraordinary day in the life of a small-town newspaper editor.

Also highly regarded are The Screaming Mimi (which became a 1958 movie starring Anita Ekberg and Gypsy Rose Lee, and directed by Gerd Oswald, who also directed the "Fun and Games" episode of The Outer Limits) and The Far Cry, powerful noir suspense novels reminiscent of the work of Cornell Woolrich, and The Lenient Beast, with its experiments in multiple first-person viewpoints, among them a gentle, deeply religious serial killer, and its unusual (for a book written in the 1950s) examination of racial tensions between whites and Latinos in Arizona.

Even more experimental was Here Comes a Candle, which is told in straight narrative sections alternating with a radio script, a screenplay, a sportscast, a teleplay, a stage play, and a newspaper article.

He wrote several short stories about Satan and his activities in Hell.

Many of his science fiction stories were shorter than 1,000 words, or even 500 words.
His shortest story is entitled The Shortest Horror Story. The story goes as follows: "The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door..."


The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947), Edgar Award winner for best first novel. "Eighteen-year-old Ed Hunter joins forces with his uncle, carnival-pitchman Ambrose Hunter, to track the person who bludgeoned Ed's father (Am's brother) to death in a dark Chicago alley. Later Ed and Am open their own detective agency and are involved regularly in murder."

The Dead Ringer (1948), second "Ed and Am Hunter" novel
Murder can be Fun (1948)
The Bloody Moonlight (1949), third "Ed and Am Hunter" novel
The Screaming Mimi (1949)
Compliments of a Fiend (1950), fourth "Ed and Am Hunter" novel
Here Comes a Candle (1950)
Night of the Jabberwock (1950)
Death Has Many Doors (1951), fifth "Ed and Am Hunter" novel
The Far Cry (1951)
The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches (1951), novella
We All Killed Grandma (1952)
The Deep End (1952)
Mostly Murder (1953), collection
Madball (1953)
His Name Was Death (1954)
The Wench Is Dead (1955)
The Lenient Beast (1956)

One for the Road (1958)
The Late Lamented (1959), sixth "Ed and Am Hunter" novel
Knock Three-One-Two (1959)
The Murderers (1961)
Five-Day Nightmare (1962)
Mrs. Murphy's Underpants (1963), seventh "Ed and Am Hunter" novel
The Shaggy Dog and Other Murders (1963), collection
Four Novels (1983), omnibus of The Fabulous Clipjoint, Knock Three-One-Two, Night of the
Jabberwock and The Screaming Mimi
Carnival of Crime (1985), collection
Hunter and Hunted: The Ed and Am Hunter Novels, Part One (2002), published by Stewart Masters Publishing, omnibus of The Fabulous Clipjoint, The Dead Ringer, The Bloody Moonlight and Compliments of a Fiend.

In 1984, Dennis McMillan Publications began a series of nineteen limited edition books under the title Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps, collecting most of Brown's uncollected mystery short stories, plus some uncollected science fiction, poetry, unfinished novels, and miscellaneous fiction:

Homicide Sanitarium (1984)
Before She Kills (1984)
Madman's Holiday (1984)
The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches (1985)
The Freak Show Murders (1985)
Thirty Corpses Every Thursday (1986)
Pardon My Ghoulish Laughter (1986)
Red is the Hue of Hell (1986)
Sex Life on the Planet Mars (1986)
Brother Monster (1987)
Nightmare in Darkness (1987)
Who was that Blonde I Saw You Kill Last Night? (1988)
Three-Corpse Parley (1988)
Selling Death Short (1988)
Whispering Death (1989)
Happy Ending (1990)
The Water-Walker (1990)
The Gibbering Night (1991)
The Pickled Punks (1991)