Accomplished American mystery and science fiction author Fredric Brown, who died in 1972 at age 65, penned more than 30 books, 300 short stories and vignettes, and television plays for shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
His novel, Madball, reissued this month as a mass-market paperback by Black Gat Books, was originally published in 1953 by Dell Books and in condensed form, earlier that same year, under the title ‘The Pickled Punks’ in The Saint Detective Magazine.
It was the novel that began the pocket-size paperback revolution by Dell Publications – a project that revolutionized the publishing industry by offering, without a prior hardcover edition, original paperback novels for 25 cents.
According to The Fresno Bee, the author travelled with a carnival to get material for this story. You can tell as much from the carney slang, the interesting titbits of carnival lore, and the vivid descriptions of shooting galleries, fortune wheels, merry-go-rounds, and the strident selling spiel of barkers over p.a. systems.
It’s not surprising that authors like Aryn Rand and Robert Bloch spoke highly of Brown, an ingenious writer with an abundance of bright story ideas. Purportedly, Mickey Spillane named him as his all-time favourite author and Anthony Boucher of The New York Times hailed him as a successor to the late Cornell Woolrich.
Madball is a fun, exciting, and extremely enjoyable screwball story that is full of dark and devious humour and numerous surprising twists. A wise investment in time and money, it’s guaranteed to be a novel you will read multiple times.
My full review of Brown’s terrific novel is published today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 newspapers in the UK. You can read the review here.