Thursday, 6 January 2011

Fredric Brown: The Fabulous Clipjoint

Fredric Brown (1906-1972) was one of the great pulp writers, of both crime and science-fiction. The copyright status of his work is a confusing mess, depending on who published what and when. Some of his best work, though, has fallen into the public domain, and that includes The Fabulous Clipjoint, the first Ed and Am Hunter novel about an uncle/nephew private eye team. You can find free online versions of the book here and here, among other places.

For the cover, I wanted to use something appropriately pulpy and dramatic. Old crime comics seemed a good place to start (and if you're looking for something along those lines, the huge (if sometimes erratic) archive of public domain comics at the Digital Comic Museum is a good place to start).

Some characteristically dynamic, pulpy and primitive comic pages from 1940s crime comics
A much-enlarged detail from a comics panel

I took panels from three different comics, rearranged and fiddled with them until they looked as though they shared the same source, and then combined them into a page that seems to show the murder that launches the book's plot. For the author and title I wanted something that could have been a sign from an old film noir bar sign.

If you get hooked on Brown, you're in luck--he was pretty prolific, and a number of his books (both public domain and otherwise) are available in print and online. Other gateway drugs to his crime fiction might be Black Mask's edition of The Screaming Mimi, or Centipede Press's Here Comes a Candle.

For his science-fiction, try the excellent What Mad Universe, which plays cleverly with the conventions of pulp SF, which Brown knew inside-out, by having its hero accidentally transported into a parallel universe in which those same conventions are laws. It doesn't seem to be in print, but you can track down one of the old pulp editions pretty cheaply, and they're worth it for the cover art. (Because of said laws, all women in this parallel universe wear clothes like these...)

No comments:

Post a Comment