Fredric Brown’s contribution to the detective novel lies in his inventive plots and his realistic portrayals of life at the bottom. In The Screaming Mimi (1949), he draws a grim picture, at the novel’s beginning, of an alcoholic reporter on a binge—a veritable slice of life. A specialist in the trick ending and the clever title, Brown was not much of a stylist and showed in many ways his early training in the pulp-magazine field. He liked the hard-boiled style but preferred to avoid strict adherence to its conventions. In the mid-1950’s and later, when he tailored his fiction to the new men’s magazines such as Playboy and Dude, Brown’s style became more polished and sophisticated.
Brown’s detective and mystery fiction was professional and clever. His characters borrowed much from the Black Mask school of writing (he contributed one story to the magazine). Unfortunately, few of his characters are memorable; most are one-dimensional. His main contribution to the field lies in his original plots and ingenious endings.