Fredric Brown

Fredric Brown (October 29, 1906, CincinnatiMarch 11, 1972) was an American science fiction and mystery writer.

Writing career

He is perhaps best known for his use of humor and for his mastery of the "short short" form—stories of 1 to 3 pages, often with ingenious plotting devices and surprise endings. Humor and a somewhat postmodern outlook carried over into his novels as well.

His classic science fiction novel What Mad Universe (1949) is a parody of pulp SF story conventions. The novel functions both as a critique of its genre and a superior example of it. It may have provided a model for Philip K. Dick when he later created his own stories set in alternate personal realities. Martians, Go Home (1955) is both a broad farce and a satire on human frailties as seen through the eyes of a billion jeering, invulnerable Martians who arrive not to conquer the world but to drive it crazy.

A more serious novel, The Lights in the Sky Are Stars (1952), tells the story of an aging astronaut who is trying to get his beloved space program back on track after Congress has cut off the funds for it.

One of his most famous short stories, "Arena", was used as the basis for an episode of Star Trek of the same name. It was also the basis of a 1964 Outer Limits episode entitled "Fun and Games," 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 an excellent 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 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 New Mexico.

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.

Brown claimed he wrote mysteries for money and science fiction for fun. Many of his science fiction stories were shorter than 1,000 words, or even 500 words. Apart from their excellence and powerful effect, these stories were also extremely popular among magazine editors: their extreme brevity made the stories useful for filling holes in a magazine's page layout.

Popularity and influence

Brown was very much a "writer's writer" who was always more esteemed by fellow practitioners than the general public. His short story "Arena" was voted by Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the top 20 SF stories ever written before 1965. His short story "The Waveries" was described by Philip K. Dick as "what may be the most significant—startlingly so—story SF has yet produced". "Knock" is well known for starting with a two-sentence short short story.

Ayn Rand singled out Brown for high praise in her book The Romantic Manifesto. The famous pulp writer Mickey Spillane called Brown "my favorite writer of all time".

Brown also had the honor of being one of three dedicatees of Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.


Short Stories

  • 1938

  • The Moon for a Nickel.

  • 1939

  • The Cheese on Stilts.
  • Blood of the Dragon.
  • There Are Bloodstains in the Alley.
  • Murder at 10:15.

  • 1940

  • Bloody Murder.
  • The Prehistoric Clue.
  • A Matter of Taste.
  • Trouble in a Teacup (alias "Teacup Trouble").
  • Murder Draws a Crowd.
  • Footprints on the Ceiling.
  • Town Wanted.
  • The Little Green Men.
  • Herbie Rides His Hunch.
  • The Stranger from Trouble Valley.
  • The Strange Sisters Strange.

  • 1941

  • Fugitive Impostor.
  • The King Comes Home.
  • Big-Top Doom.
  • The Discontented Cows.
  • Life and Fire.
  • Big-League Larceny.
  • Client Unknown.
  • Homicide Sanitarium.
  • Your Name in Gold.
  • Here Comes the Hearse.
  • Six-Gun Song.
  • Star-Spangled Night.
  • Wheels Across the Night.
  • Armageddon.
  • Little Boy Lost.
  • Bullet for Bullet.
  • Listen to the Mocking Bird.
  • You'll End Up Buming.
  • Selling Death Short.
  • Thirty Corpses Every Thursday.
  • Trouble Comes Double.
  • Not Yet the End.
  • Number Bug.

  • 1942

  • Clue in Blue.
  • Death is a White Rabbit.
  • Twenty Gets You Plenty.
  • Etaoin Shrdlu.
  • Little Apple Hard to Peel.
  • Pardon My Ghoulish Laughter.
  • Death in the Dark (alias "The Black Dark").
  • Handbook for Homicide.
  • The Incredible Bomber.
  • Twice-Killed Corpse.
  • Mad Dog!.
  • Moon Over Murder.
  • The Star Mouse.
  • A Cat Walks.
  • Who Did I Murder .
  • Murder in Furs.
  • Suite for Flute and Tommy Gun.
  • Three Corpse Parlay.
  • A Date to Die.
  • Red is the Hue of Hell.
  • Two Biers for Two.
  • You'll Die Before Dawn.
  • Get Out of Town.
  • A Little White Lye.
  • Nothing Sinister.
  • The Numberless Shadows.
  • Satan's Search Warrant.
  • Starvation (alias "Runaround").
  • Where There's Smoke.
  • Boner.
  • Legacy of Murder.
  • The New One.
  • The Santa Claus Murders (expanded into novel Murder Can be Fun alias A Plot for Murder).
  • Double Murder.
  • A Fine Night for Murder.
  • Heil, Werewolf.
  • I'll See You At Midnight.
  • The Monkey Angle.
  • Satan One-and-a-Half.
  • The Men Who Went Nowhere.

  • 1943

  • A Lock of Satan's Hair.
  • The Spherical Ghoul.
  • The Wicked Flea.
  • The Angelic Angleworm.
  • Death is a Noise.
  • The Hat Trick.
  • Hound of Hell (alias "Beware of the Dog").
  • The Sleuth from Mars.
  • A Change for the Hearse.
  • Encore for a Killer.
  • Trial By Darkness.
  • Cadavers Don't Make a Fifth Column.
  • Death of a Vampire.
  • Death's Dark Angel.
  • The Freak Show Murders.
  • Market for Murder.
  • The Corpse and the Candle.
  • Madman's Holiday.
  • Blue Murder.
  • The Geezenstacks. .
  • Tell 'em, Pagliaccio.

  • Whispering Death.
  • Daymare.
  • Death Insurance Payment.
  • The Motive Goes Round and Round.
  • Paradox Lost.

  • 1944

  • The Djinn Murder.
  • Murder in Miniature.
  • The Ghost of Riley.
  • The Devil's Woodwinds.
  • And the Gods Laughed.
  • Nothing Sirius.
  • The Yehudi Principle.
  • Arena.
  • The Jabberwocky Murders (incorporated into novel Night of the Jabberwock).
  • The Ghost Breakers.
  • The Gibbering Night (incorporated into novel Night of the Jabberwock).
  • Murder While You Wait.
  • The Bucket of Gems Case (alias "Mr Smith Kicks the Bucket").
  • To Slay a Man About a Dog (alias "Shaggy Dog Murders").
  • A Matter of Death.

  • 1945

  • Pi in the Sky.
  • The Night the World Ended.
  • The Waveries.
  • No Sanctuary.
  • Compliments of a Fiend (expanded into novel The Bloody Moonlight).
  • Ten Tickets to Hades (alias "Murder in Ten Easy Lessons").
  • Murder-on-the-Hudson.

  • 1946

  • Dead Man's Indemnity (expanded into novel The Fabulous Clipjoint).
  • Placet is a Crazy Place.
  • Song of the Dead.
  • Obit for Obie (expanded into novel The Deep End).
  • Whistler's Murder.

  • 1947

  • A Voice Behind Him''.
  • Don't Look Behind You.
  • Miss Darkness.

  • 1948

  • I'll Cut Your Throat Again, Kathleen.
  • The Dead Ringer (expanded into novel The Dead Ringer).
  • Four Letter Word (alias "The Greatest Poem Ever Written").
  • The Four Blind Men.
  • What Mad Universe (expanded into novel What Mad Universe).
  • The Laughing Butcher.
  • If Looks Could Kill (alias "The Joke").
  • Cry Silence.
  • Red-Hot and Hunted.
  • Knock.

  • 1949

  • This Way Out.
  • All Good Bems.
  • Mouse.
  • Murder and Matilda.
  • Come and Go Mad. .
  • Last Curtain (alias "Cream of the Jest").
  • Crisis, 1999.
  • Each Night He Died (alias "Cain").
  • Letter to a Phoenix.
  • The Cat from Siam.
  • The Sinister Mr. Dexter (alias "House of Fear").
  • Deadly Weekend (expanded into novel The Screaming Mimi).
  • The Bloody Moonlight (condensed from novel The Bloody Moonlight).
  • Gateway to Darkness (alias "Small World," incorporated into novel Rogue in Space).

  • 1950

  • The Last Train.
  • Death and Nine Lives.
  • The Blind Lead.
  • The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches.
  • The Nose of Don Aristide.
  • Vengeance Unlimited (alias "Vengeance Fleet").
  • From These Ashes (alias "Entity Trap").
  • The Undying Ones (alias "Obedience").

  • Walk in the Shadows.
  • The Frownzly Florgels.
  • Gateway to Glory (incorporated into novel Rogue in Space).
  • The Last Martian.
  • Honeymoon in Hell.
  • Mitkey Rides Again.
  • Night of the Jabberwock
  • Device of the Turtle (alias "Six-Legged Swengali"; with Mack Reynolds).

  • 1951

  • Dark Interlude (with Mack Reynolds).
  • Man of Distinction.
  • The Switcheroo.
  • The Weapon - published in the anthology The War Book (edited by James Sallis, 1969).
  • Cartoonist (alias "Garrigan's Bems"; with Mack Reynolds).
  • Something Green.
  • The Dome.
  • A Word from Our Sponsor.
  • The Gamblers (with Mack Reynolds).
  • The Hatchetman (with Mack Reynolds).

  • 1952

  • Me and Flapjack and the Martians (with Mack Reynolds).

  • 1953

  • Witness in the Dark.
  • The Pickled Punks (expanded into novel Madball).
  • The Wench is Dead (expanded into novel The Wench is Dead).
  • The Little Lamb.
  • Rustle of Wings.
  • Hall of Mirrors.

  • 1954

  • Experiment.
  • Sentry.
  • Keep Out.
  • Martians, Go Home (expanded into novel Martians, Go Home).
  • Naturally.
  • Voodoo.
  • Answer
  • Daisies.
  • Pattern.
  • Politeness.
  • Preposterous.
  • Reconciliation.
  • Search.
  • Sentence.
  • Solipsist.

  • 1955

  • Blood.
  • Millennium.
  • Premiere of Murder.
  • The Perfect Crime (alias "Fatal Error").
  • The Letter (alias "Dead Letter").
  • The First Time Machine.
  • Too Far.
  • Imagine.

  • 1956

  • Line of Duty (expanded into novel The Lenient Beast).

  • 1957

  • Murder Set to Music.
  • Expedition.
  • Happy Ending (with Mack Reynolds).

  • 1958

  • The Amy Waggoner Murder Case (expanded into novel One for the Road).
  • Jaycee.
  • Unfortunately.
  • Who Was That Blonde I Saw You Kill Last Night? (expanded into novel His Name was Death) .

  • 1959

  • The Late Lamented (expanded into novel The Late Lamented).
  • Nasty.
  • Rope Trick.
  • Night of the Psycho (expanded into novel Knock Three-One-Two).

  • 1960

  • Abominable.
  • Bear Possibility.
  • The Mind Thing (never completed serialization later published as novel The Mind Thing).
  • Recessional.
  • The Power (alias "Rebound").
  • Earthmen Bearing Gifts.
  • Granny's Birthday.
  • The House.

  • 1961

  • Great Lost Discoveries I - Invisibility.
  • Great Lost Discoveries II - Invulnerability.
  • Great Lost Discoveries III - Immortality.
  • The Hobbyist.
  • Nightmare in Blue.
  • Nightmare in Gray.
  • Nightmare in Red.
  • Nightmare in Time (alias "The End").
  • Nightmare in Yellow.
  • Of Time and Eustace Weaver ("The Short Happy Lives of E. Weaver I-II-III")
  • Bright Beard.

  • Cat Burglar.
  • Death on the Mountain.
  • Fish Story.
  • Horse Race.
  • Nightmare in Green.
  • Nightmare in White.
  • The Ring of Hans Carvel.
  • Second Chance.
  • Three Little Owls.
  • Before She Kills.

  • 1962

  • Aelurophobe.
  • Puppet Show.
  • Fatal Facsimile .

  • 1963

  • Double Standard.
  • Instant Novellas (alias "20 Stories in 60 Lines").
  • It Didn't Happen.
  • Tale of the Flesh Monger (alias "Ten Percenter").
  • The Missing Actor.

  • 1964

  • Why, Benny, Why.

  • 1965

  • Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (with Carl Onspaugh).

General Fiction

  • The Office (1958)


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

Science fiction

His first science fiction story, "Not Yet the End", was published in Captain Future in 1941.

A more recent collection of his short science fiction and fantasy is:

  • From These Ashes: The Complete Short SF of Fredric Brown (2001), ISBN 1-886778-18-3

His science fiction novels are collected in:

  • Martians and Madness (2002), ISBN 1-886778-17-5

A more recent collection of his mystery fiction is Hunter and Hunted: The Ed and Am Hunter Novels, Part One (2002), ISBN 0-9718185-1-7, published by Stewart Masters Publishing. It includes his Edgar Award-winning novel The Fabulous Clipjoint.

A more obscure and diverse collection of Brown's science fiction, mystery, and general fiction stories is titled Nightmares and Geezenstacks (1961).

External links

See also

  • Martians and Misplaced Clues: The Life and Work of Fredric Brown by Jack Seabrook, ISBN 978-0879725914


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