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Fredric Brown – The Screaming MimiLet’s talk about Fredric Brown for a minute, just in case you have not heard of him before. Yes, it might have happened, even if he is, in my eyes, one of the great classic SF writers. Or maybe because of it - he might simply have been before your time, just as he was before mine. And I don’t know if/as/when I might have come across his oeuvre if I had not been given a copy of the marvellous short story collection Honeymoon in Hell to read.
He was a master of the short story, frequently holding up a mirror to humanity through his fantastic settings, and just as frequently leading his readers down the garden path, reversing everything with the final paragraph (or even sentence at times) and sending them back to the beginning, to re-read the story with the correct mind set this time.
He wrote Science Fiction, Mysteries, Farces, Detective stories, and, as a pulp writer frequently paid by volume and frequency, at a fantastic rate, which means that a full bibliography of novels, collections, never mind short publications is longer than mine and your arm together! And, just to go back to this, if you really have not heard of him before, then you really should have a look, now you know of him!

Most of his output is in print, or has a tendency to be re-printed occasionally, the edition of the book at hand comes from Blackmask, who, as far as I can establish, are a Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Press, and most likely POD (nothing wrong with that for such a large back-catalogue!)

The Screaming Mimi is a detective novel, following the investigative reporter Bill Sweeney, working for the Blade, as he follows the trail of The Ripper in a classic Chicago setting, and crosses path (and frequently more) with a number of classic characters whilst doing so - starting with the exceedingly good-looking (he’s seen her naked, accidentally) dancer Yolanda Lang, her agent/manager JJ ‘Doc’ Greene, her huge dog Satan (also part of her dance act. Don’t ask.), or a bum called God.
The ripper in question has slashed and killed 3 girls, all good-looking and blonde, and has only been deterred from doing the same to Yolanda by Satan.

Sweeney, as a crack newspaper reporter (like Brown was, for most of his life), has a bit of an esoteric drinking problem (like Brown did, apparently) which leads to him going on multi-week benders when the things he deals with get too much for him.
What he does not have of Brown is the occasional writer's block, which sounds an unusual problem to have for someone writing, for most of his life, pulp stories and newspaper copy by the volume for a living! Never mind the story, by his wife, that Brown did not really like writing…
But the familiarity clearly shows in the description of the newspaper and printing world (this is something I have seen in others of his stories) as well as the effects of drink, and of the process of coming back from an extended bender - his description of sobering up is interesting, to put it mildly.
The writing style here reminded my of Bukowski, at times (especially the fascination with drink), and much less than the usual ‘Tracer Bullet’ stuff I would expect from a detective story in this setting. Still, the soundtrack would be Jazzy, I reckon, even if Sweeney himself is into classical music, especially Mozart.

I’m usually not the greatest fan of detective stories, or of investigative reporters playing Gumshoe (never mind his ultimate aim of getting closer to the latest intended victim of the ripper), but Brown’s writing here is as entertaining as it is at times cliched.
The story has been turned into a film, with the same title, starring Anita Eckberg as the dancer (I’m intending to watch this at some point), whilst going after some of the conceipts and contemporary concepts brought up the writer Carter Brown (no relation to my knowledge) and his even more lurid topics and covers.

Overall entertaining, and worth your attention if you are a fan of the genre, or the writer!
Please note that the picture I used is not of this edition (that cover is very plain), but from an earlier, proper pulp one.

More Fredric Brown

Title: The Screaming Mimi
Author: Fredric Brown
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher: Blackmask
Publisher URL:
Publication Date: 2005(POD, originally 1949)
Review Date: 170429
ISBN: 1596540338
Pages: 168
Format: Large Format PB
Topic: Crime
Topic: Thriller


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