Saturday, January 13, 2007

Night of the Jabberwock -- Fredric Brown

Several things made me decide to re-read Night of the Jabberwock, and I'm glad I did. I liked it even better this time than when I read it long ago.

It's the story of Doc Stoeger, a fan of the Alice books, and what happens to him on one very busy night. (Contrary to the cover, there are no women involved. Well, hardly any. And where as the cover says that "it was a hot murderous night," Doc tells us at one point that it was "moderately cool." But never mind that.)

Doc is the editor of his small local paper, and he gets any number of good stories for his latest edition, only to have to pull all of them for one reason or another. Then a man comes to his house, and Doc believes the guy's an escaped lunatic. But lunatic or not, he has an interesting proposition for Doc, who in short order finds himself kidnapped by gangsters and framed for murder. And during the course of the book Doc consumes what must be about fifteen gallons of whiskey. Maybe a beer or two as well. Some gin, too.

I don't think I need to tell you any more because that would spoil the fun and the surprises. It's odd, the things I remembered about the book as I read it. I'd forgotten many of the major points while recalling some of the really minor ones.

Brown's a fine storyteller with a fine, straightforward style that seems a lot more simple than it really is. Night of the Jabberwock is good reading all the way. Check it out.

12 comments:

Todd Mason said...

Brown at novel length particularly seems remarkably un-dated, in examples I've read over the last several years (THE MIND THING and THE FAR CRY).

If Mr. Ardai is still reading here...

Richard said...

As I remember NIGHT OF THE JABBERWOCK, it's one of Brown's books (like MARTIANS, GO HOME) that blur the line between "novel" and "shaggy dog story." I think his masterpiece is THE FABULOUS CLIPJOINT, mostly for the scene at the end of the book in which the meaning of the title is explained. Some his his later novels (THE MURDERERS, FIVE DAY NIGHTMARE) seemed to be half-hearted, as if he were losing some steam. Brown's remarkable power (in addition to his equally remarkable sense of fun) is in the art of compression; I misremembered "Letter To A Phoenix" as being a good solid 25 pages long. It's only six!

Bill Crider said...

There's no question of the "shaggy dog" aspects of the book, but they're all part of that fun you mention.

Ethan Iverson said...

Great book from an underrated writer. I'm going to reread that today! Like Todd Mason, I admire THE FAR CRY, which along with JABBERWOCK and THE SCREAMING MIMI should make the list of best 1950's crime novels.


Thanks for all the blogging, Bill.

Bill Crider said...

You're welcome, Ethan. I'm a fan of The Wench is Dead, in addition to those named already.

Graham said...

I'm a big fan of Brown's, although mostly through short stories. In fact the first story of his I ever read was a science fiction story called "Jay Score", and I also read WHAT MAD UNIVERSE and MARTIANS, GO HOME.

Duane Swierczynski said...

Brown's the man. (I'm not surprised that Ethan digs him too...) He's been a huge influence on my own goofy crime novels.

One of my Brown favorites is HIS NAME WAS DEATH. Just brilliant, along with KNOCK THREE ONE TWO.

Bill Crider said...

Let's face it. Except for those later ones that someone mentions above, they're pretty much all top drawer. The SF two, with one maybe one exception.

Todd Mason said...

Which of his SF novels didn't do much for you, Bill? I've been meaning to read THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE STARS and WHAT MAD UNIVERSE for quite some time, now...

Bill Crider said...

I like those two. Rogue in Space is the one I didn't care for, as I (dimly) recall.

Peter said...

I found this post by accident, but I'm happy to put in a word for Fredric Brown. I've read six of the Ed and Am Hunter novels plus Night of the Jabberwock, The Screaming Mimi, Murder Can be Fun and The Freak Show Murders. At least three of the books are classics.

I agree that many of his novels are fresh today. If they're dated at all, its in period details. But in frankness dealing with sex, for one thing, they are open without bring prurient.
===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Peter said...

Todd, a great suggestion ... If Mr. Ardai is still reading. Fredric Brown would look good under one of those fine Hard Case Crime covers, wouldn't he?
===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/