Fredric Brown Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

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.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Baird, Newton. A Key to Fredric Brown’s Wonderland. Georgetown, Calif.: Talisman Literary Research, 1981. Contains both a critical study and an annotated bibliography of Brown’s work.

Baird, Newton. “Paradox and Plot: The Fiction of Fredric Brown.” The Armchair Detective 9-11 (June, 1976-January, 1978). Serialized study of the narrative structure of Brown’s fiction.

Haining, Peter. The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2000. Discusses Brown’s work in the pulps and the role of pulp fiction in American culture.

Horsley, Lee. The Noir Thriller. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Scholarly, theoretically informed study of the thriller genre. Examine’s Brown’s The Fabulous Clipjoint, The Screaming Mimi, and The Lenient Beast.

Seabrook, Jack. Martians and Misplaced Clues: The Life and Work of Fredric Brown. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993. Detailed critical biography discussing the relationship between Brown’s personal experiences and his fiction.