01 September 2009
Fredric Brown: PARDON MY GHOULISH LAUGHTER
Two things about Fredric Brown, author of (amongst many other things) the short-story collection Pardon My Ghoulish Laughter: he was quite possibly the most creative writer of the twentieth century, and undoubtedly one of its best titlers--right up there, I would hazard, with the great editor Maxwell Perkins (you thought Hemingway thought up "The Sun Also Rises" all by himself?). This particular short story collection makes the latter fairly obvious; and the former, too, once you've sat down to read it. My favorite? The story in which an otherwise-convinced skeptic decides that it's worth the one-in-a-million chance of success to create a wax voodoo doll of Adolf Hitler. Brown, like Robert Bloch and a number of other pulp writers, mastered the twist ending. In fact, rarely if ever can even the smartest reader anticipate a Brown ending (sometimes this is because he's a genius, sometimes it's because he was also a hack who occasionally held out on some important detail until the very last second...but hey, he was writing to live, so let's give it to him). These stories, which should be awfully dated by now, read about as fresh as they must've in 1940-whenever, when they were initially published. If that's not reason enough to give Fredric Brown a try (this and his totally mind-bending science fiction; my favorite Brown works are the detective story Night of the Jabberwock and the sci-fi mindfuck What Mad Universe?), then perhaps the A+ I assign this book will be.