All Things Mysterious--Volume Six
Captain Kirk raced up the rocky crag, the alien in hot pursuit. Could the commander of the Starship Enterprise outsmart the lizardlike biped, which was bigger and stronger than he? Kirk had the advantage of quickness and hopefully ingenuity, for he would need every ounce of his resourcefulness to emerge victorious!
Sound familiar? From the original Star Trek episode ‘Arena,’ adapted from a short story of the same title by Fredric Brown, which first appeared in 1944 in Astounding Science Fiction magazine. In fact, Star Trek producer and writer Gene Coon wrote the 1966 teleplay over the course of one weekend without being aware of Brown’s story, but once it became known that there was a precursor to Coon’s script, Frederic Brown was contacted and permission to use the story was requested and happily granted.
It is certainly likely, dear reader, that you have read a novel or story, or seen a film adaptation, of Fredric Brown’s work. Highly prolific, he wrote dozens of short stories and twenty-nine novels. But paradoxically, he was said by his wife to hate writing! A world class procrastinator, he would do most anything to get out of the drudgery of sitting at his desk to create. According to Mrs. Brown, the author would practice his flute, challenge a neighbor to a chess game, play with the cat, or use any number of other diversions to avoid working. And if he was having trouble with his labyrinthine plots, he was known to take a long bus ride to nowhere in particular to ponder the solution.
But Brown crossed genre lines like they were invisible! Mystery, comedy, science fiction, fantasy and the just plain unclassifiable are all present in his work, ofttimes in the same book.
In the mid 1930s, Fredric Brown began contributing stories to pulp magazines such as Thrilling Detective, Detective Fiction Weekly and Street & Smith’s Detective Story. In 1947, he published ‘The Fabulous Clipjoint,’ the first of an eventual seven hard-boiled novels featuring Ed and Am Hunter, a teenager and his uncle, who are on the trail of Ed’s father’s murderer. Over the course of the investigation, Ed gets an education in the ways of the world--and in the ways of the Windy City.
He also wrote several well-received stand-alone novels, one of the better known being ‘The Far Cry,’ where a man in Taos, New Mexico becomes obsessed with a murder eight years in the past.
We All Killed Grandma is a good example of Brown’s way with a macabre tale laced with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humor. A man finds his granny murdered, then immediately develops a case of amnesia which leads to him investigating a crime of which he himself may be guilty!
You’ll enjoy Brown’s novels and stories if you like a good, O. Henry-esque twist ending along with some incredible, sometimes groan-inducing wordplay, tight plotting and memorable characters. And who doesn’t?
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