The Cranky Old Reader

I'm a Goodreads refugee, looking for a new home. Old books for children, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and humor are my main areas of interest. I've little interest in books that were written after 1975 or so, and prefer books that are older still. There are, however, a few still-living authors that I respect.

The Fabulous Clipjoint

The Fabulous Clipjoint - Fredric Brown The Fabulous Clipjoint is the Catcher In The Rye of mystery novels - or at least, it is for me.While I read it, I'm living the life of Ed Hunter, a bright but bitter 18-year-old living in the Chicago slums of the 1940s. And the funny thing is that just like Catcher In The Rye, it doesn't feel a bit dated; Ed loves jazz and wants to play the trombone, but that feels exactly the same as a kid wanting to play the electric guitar would today. Ed's thoughts, as Brown writes them, feel just as fresh and "now" as anything written last week - and are a lot more engaging and real-feeling than 99% of the fiction being written these days.That's probably why the novel won Fredric Brown the Edger for the best first mystery novel of the year*. You'll like Ed, I think. You'll like his uncle Ambrose, "Am" for short, too. Am has been a lot of things, including a "carny", which is slang for a carnival worker. Brown spent some time as a carny himself, and knew the business well. Although only a little of the novel takes place at a carnival (the main action takes place in the seedier parts of 1940s Chicago) Brown's details ring true. If you're interested, Brown set a number of short mystery stories in carnivals too.When Ed and Am Hunter team up to find out who murdered Ed's father, it doesn't feel anything like the traditional mystery novel. There are noir elements of course, but there's an immediacy and realism to the book that - well, I keep trying to explain what makes the book different, and I keep coming back to the same comparison. Just as some readers almost feel as if Holden Caulfield was a friend, someone they knew, so you may well feel about Ed Hunter - and through him, Fredric Brown. Or at least, I do.It's really an exceptional and unique book, and I can't recommend it highly enough.Ed and Am Hunter are one of mystery's outstanding teams, and Brown wrote six more novels about them. The Fabulous Clipjoint remains the best in the series, but the rest are also outstanding novels. Not all are currently being published, unfortunately. Small mystery publishing houses keep bringing Brown's mysteries back into print, and then inevitably go out of business. In any case, all of Brown's mystery novels are beautifully written and well worth the effort of finding them. Although he never achieved the general recognition that he deserved, Fredric Brown is highly respected by authors and those who've read his work.Brown also wrote many short noir detective stories for the pulps - but unlike many such stories, his have heart and a gentleness, a sort of intellectual and thoughtful quality, that make them special. They, too, have been collected and published by several small companies.Lastly, I have to note that Brown was also highly regarded for his science fiction stories and novels, of which there are many. If you like his work in either genre, you'll almost certainly like his work in the other genre - even if you don't normally like that sort of book.If you like Brown, Anthony Boucher's writing style is in many ways similar. It may not be a coincidence that Boucher, too, worked both in mystery and SF.--------------------------------* - Unlike other genres, mystery writers only give awards to first novels.

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