Wednesday, May 22, 2024

From Ed Gorman's Desk: "Fredric Brown"


from ED GORMAN’S Desk

Fredric Brown

from Nov. 1, 2008


Yes, I had an epiphany last night. Honest. I was re-reading one of my favorite Fredric Brown novels, The Deep End, and I realized suddenly why I’ve always felt such a spiritual closeness to his crime fiction.
     I had a paper route when I was twelve and thirteen. I delivered in the neighborhood where I lived, a working class quadrant of the small city packed with bars. The men and women in the bars always liked to treat to me a bottle of pop or a game of shuffleboard or pool. We were all Micks from the same parish.
     I can’t say I got to know any but a few of them personally. But I did have an understanding of them as an aggregate, especially the men who were in their twenties, their fates already sealed by families, lack of college education and, in most cases, a compliance with the wishes of the gods (Lovecraft’s gods to my mind).
     The bar was their escape. My favorite bar was part of a seedy hotel. The owner liked hillbilly music and he put all of Elvis’ Sun records on it as early as 1955 before Elvis was widely known. Same with Johnny Cash. A very cool place.
     I overheard stories. Men fighting with their wives; men stepping out on their wives; men who couldn’t pay their bills and were heavy into loan companies already. Some of the men blue collar, some of the men lower-echelon white collar. There were fights sometimes; wives occasionally appeared and hauled their humiliated husbands out of the places. The great tragedy was the much-decorated Marine who’d fought in Korea. Popular high school basketball player, happy hard-working good-looking guy who was crazy about his wife and brought her in frequently, lovely frail Irish girl-woman. He got killed in a highway accident and his wife (true facts) set herself on fire in grief.
     Lives significant only to them and their kind (my kind).
     And while I was reading The Deep End last night (a novel so redolent of Fifties morality it could be used in a sociology text book, even though it takes enormous liberties with the sexual mores of the time, the love affair here is a knockout) I realized that I like Brown so much (I was already reading him back then) because he wrote about my neighborhood and my people. Most of his crime novels, I know now, are filled with the men and women in the bars on my old paper route.
     I keep hearing about how Brown’s Coming Back. I sure hope that’s true.

Click here to purchase the trade paperback.

This article originally appeared on Ed Gorman’s blog, New Improved Gorman, on Nov. 1, 2008. It is reprinted here by permission. Ed wrote dozens of novels in a variety of genres, but his most popular work (and my favorite of his work) was in the crime and western genres. His ten Sam McCain mysteries—set in the fictional Iowa town of Black River Falls during the 1950s, ’60, and ’70s—are suspenseful, mysterious, and often funny excursions into small town America. The New York Times called Sam McCain, “The kind of hero any small town could take to its heart” and The Seattle Times called McCain “an intriguing mix of knight errant and realist…”

     But Ed was also a tireless reader and promoter of other writers’ work. His blogs—there were three, none of them operating at the same time—are treasure troves for readers of crime, horror, and western fiction both old and new. Ed died Oct. 14, 2016.


Click here to check out Ed Gorman’s Sam McCain novels on Amazon.

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