Fredric Brown – Master of Mystery (Night of the Jabberwock, The Screaming Mimi and The Far Cry)

Why don’t more people know about Fredric Brown? I think this is one of life’s greatest mysteries. A master of short stories, ingenious plot devices and twist endings, Brown has been all but forgotten in recent years.

For most of his writing career Brown survived by publishing in pulp magazines, inexpensive fiction publications that mainly specialized in genre short fiction throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s. His two areas of focus were science fiction and mystery stories. He proved to be an excellent author in both of these genres, but is probably best known for his mystery work. Oddly enough, he is purported to have strongly disliked writing mysteries and only wrote these short stories and novels to pay the bills. Science fiction, his true love, was not in as high demand as stories starring deadly poison, bloody knives and smoking guns. It can be argued that this difference in demand forged much of his career. Fortunately, Brown’s personal opinion of mystery writing did not negatively affect the quality of his mystery stories. They are fabulous!

It seems like the twist ending has become the standard in the past decade or so and more often than not readers or viewers will feel cheated at the conclusion of a mystery because the twist has not been built up with care or believability. This is not the case with Brown’s work and I find it personally shocking that a writer was so adept with the twist ending in the 40’s and 50’s and has since fallen off the face of the publication world. Some publishers such as NESFA Press and Stewart Masters Publishing, LTD. have tried to keep Brown’s legacy alive, but he is still not a regular staple on book store shelves or websites.

We need more Freddy Brown!

If you’re interested in checking out some of Fredric Brown’s work, Amazon or Abebooks are your best bet, as I have essentially lived in used book stores for the past decade and rarely find a Brown book. I would highly recommend one of the titles depicted above if you can find them, although I should mention that I am partial to Night of the Jabberwock and The Far Cry.

The Far Cry in particular will rock your world. Don’t read the synopsis or skim through the pages, just start at page one and enjoy the ride.

Sleuth (1972) – Probably My Favourite Film

Where to begin?

Before 1972, there was not a film like this. Now that it’s 2011, there is not another film like this. Sleuth is unique.

Some big guns were hired to make this film, as Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine took on the two principal roles of Andrew Wyke and Milo Tindle, two men locked in a battle of wits. While behind the camera director Joseph L. Mankiewicz and writer Anthony Shaffer take on the difficult task of turning a play, Sleuth also by Shaffer, into a successful feature film.

I don’t want to summarize the plot, because I don’t want to ruin the film and I also don’t want to comprehensively review it. I don’t find it very enjoyable to pick apart a creative work, unless of course it really deserves it. However, I will briefly say why I am so smitten by Sleuth.

There is mystery at every turn and the viewer never knows what to expect. Also, the dialogue is so rich and varied that even though I have watched the film over ten times, I am still noticing funny and significant pieces of dialogue that I missed during my other viewings.

This is a thinking person’s film. Hails of bullets and chase scenes are replaced by a rapier-like battle of wits and the uncomfortable silences experienced by chess players as one of their most important pieces is placed in jeopardy. That is to say, there is no shortage of excitement in Sleuth, it just takes on a different form that is not very commonplace in Hollywood films.

If you can’t fall asleep at night unless you can hear Matt Damon as Jason Bourne playing in the background or if you’ve called Tom Cruise’s agent a few dozen times to try to secure Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol premiere tickets, then maybe Sleuth isn’t for you. If you don’t fit this description, then check it out.

I doubt you will be disappointed.

BEWARE: There was a remake of Sleuth in 2007, I couldn’t get through the movie. Leonard Maltin called it “unbelievably bad” and he had called the original “A tour-de-force. Delicious from start to finish!” If you are still intent on watching the remake, please do yourself a favour and watch the original first.

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