The Posthumous Fredric Brown, Part 1: The 1970s

Fredric Brown’s first short-story, “The Moon for a Nickel”, was published in Street & Smith Detective Story in 1938. He’d go on to publish around two-hundred and fifty short stories, mainly published between 1940 and 1960. He relied on this voluminous output for ideas to expand into novels, of which he wrote twenty-nine. For a writer who claimed to hate writing, and who delayed typing as long as possible, this output is astounding.

Brown doesn’t tend to be the type of author readers have only a passing interest in reading. Most people who discover him begin to dig deeply into his bibliography, both the mystery and science fiction sides. While he had plenty of misses, and some stories are outdated to the point of irrelevance, the largest part of his writing is readable to an addictive degree.

Fredric Brown died on March 11, 1972, and he left behind a legacy of work ripe for reprints. Indeed, at least one Brown title has been released nearly every year for the past decade.

So where does a reader start? That depends on the type of reader. Collectors might elect to seek out the limited edition prints in the Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps series published by Dennis McMillan, but they should be prepared to pay prettier and prettier pennies more deeply they dive into the series. Something cheap? There are plenty of small anthologies with even smaller price tags. Perhaps a tome to cover as much of his work as possible? NESFA Press released the complete science fiction short stories and novels in the early 2000s, and Haffner Press is currently doing the same for his mysteries.

This series of posts will provide information on all publications released after Brown’s death. The list covers the availability of the publication, including general cost range. Each post will cover a decade, starting with the 1970s, and will culminate with Makeshift Press’ 2018 release of The Office: 60th Anniversary Edition.

At the time of this release, these stories had not been printed in book form, so they were new to many readers. Of particular note here is the introduction by Brown’s second wife, Elizabeth Charlier Brown, written shortly after Brown’s death. It’s a touching piece which gives insight into Brown’s writing process. This intro is interesting to read in conjunction with Chad Calkin’s recent release of her memoir, Oh, for the Life of an Author’s Wife (2018), as Fredric Brown was still alive at the conclusion of the memoir and had recently passed when this collection was released. Paradox Lost is a one-sitting read, containing one of Brown’s most-remembered sci-fi shorts, “Knock.” Very affordable and easy to find, you could pick one up on Abebooks for under five bucks, but you’re just as likely to find it in a used paperback shop.

There’s another notable introduction here, this one by Robert Bloch. It’s the best primer on Brown’s short science fiction, but there aren’t any mysteries to be found, despite the misleading title. It starts with “Arena,” which served as the basis for the iconic Star Trek episode, and it ends, of course, with “The End.” This one is also still widely available, and if you pay more than ten bucks for it in paperback or hardcover, you’ve paid to much. It’s another one to spot at the paperback shop.

So much for the scant releases of the 1970s. The 80s, however, were ripe with Brown releases, as the bulk of Denis McMillan’s Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps were printed then. Some of these are affordable, and the rest might require a second mortgage in order to get a hold of them. Stay tuned!

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