Comparing the short versions of the first five novels to the published books shows how Brown either mined old stories or simply sold the serial rights to his original novels. The Fabulous Clipjoint was written in 1944. A slightly edited version was published in Mystery Book Magazine's April 1946 issue, and the book was published in March 1947.
The Dead Ringer was written in 1946; the short version, which is virtually identical to the book, appeared in the spring 1948 Mystery Book Magazine. The book was published in March 1948. Murder Can Be Fun was expanded from a story called "The Santa Claus Murders" that was written in 1941 and published in the October 1942 issue of Detective Story Magazine. Brown expanded it to novel length in 1947 and the book was published in October 1948. Unlike the serialized versions of his first two books, Murder Can Be Fun is twice as long as "The Santa Claus Murders" and fleshes out the story by adding new details and characters.
The Bloody Moonlight was based on the story "Compliments of a Fiend," which was published in the May 1945 Thrilling Detective. The book came out in March 1949, making it the third year in a row that E.P. Dutton had published a novel in Brown's Ed and Am Hunter series. The original story does not feature the Hunters and is actually better than the novel; Brown changed the characters and the story to fit the Hunter format. To make matters even more confusing, a slightly edited version of the book was published in the November 1949 issue of Two Detective Mystery Novels magazine.
Brown's fifth novel was the classic science fiction satire, What Mad Universe. It was written in 1947 and first published in the September 1948 Startling Stories. The book came out in October 1949, expanded from the pulp version with added scenes.
"The Deadly Weekend" appeared in the fall 1949 issue of Mystery Book Magazine. This periodical had begun as a monthly digest whose first issue was dated July 1945. By 1949 it had grown in size but decreased in frequency, having become a quarterly pulp. Brown wrote The Screaming Mimi in 1948, while he was living in New York City. The novel was published in about November 1949, a few months after the serialized version appeared.
The cover promises "The Best in New Detective Fiction" and, in addition to "The Deadly Weekend," it features:
- "The Dog Died First" by Bruno Fischer
- "Swift Flows the River" by Brett Halliday
- "Payoff" by Will Oursler
- "Devil's Cherry" by O.B. Myers
- "Blackmail in Three Acts" by Tom Parsons
- "Buzzard's Wings" by Frank Richardson Pierce
- "Date With the Warden" by Robert Thomas Allen
- as well as a handful of "Features," such as "A Bargain in Crime" by Sam Sleuth.
The cumulative effect of all of this cutting is to weaken the novel. The experience of reading "The Deadly Weekend" is much less rewarding than that of reading The Screaming Mimi, mostly due to what is omitted. I like to think that it is the fault of the magazine's editor, Leo Margulies, or of some unnamed copy desk worker at Best Publications, though it is possible that Brown himself, or even his agent, Harry Altshuler, did the cutting. However, since many evocative passages in the book are absent from the magazine, I doubt it was Fredric Brown's doing.
In chapter two, page 29 of the book, the following passage appears:
Why did anyone in his right mind live in Chicago in a summer heat wave? Why did anyone live in Chicago at all? Why, for that matter, did anyone live?
If you know the Mozart 40, the dark restlessness of it, the macabre drive behind its graceful counterpoint, then you know Sweeney. And if the Mozart 40 sounds to you like a gay but slightly boring minuet, background for a conversation, then to you Sweeney is just another damn reporter who happens, too, to be a periodic drunk.
As he finished, he watched the last of the water gurgle out of the tub, and he wondered—had he just committed a murder? Isn't a tub of water, once drawn, an entity? A thing-in-itself that has existence, if not life? But then life, in a human body, may be analogous to water in a tub; through the sewerage of veins and arteries may it not flow back into some Lake Michigan, eventually into some ocean, when the plug is pulled? Yet even so, it is murder; that particular tub of water will never exist again, though the water itself will.
He removed the evidence of the crime by rinsing out the tub . . .
Even a seemingly innocent passage about Stella Gaylord, another murdered girl, is cut when Sweeney is told that Stella might have met a man "'at the restaurant instead of at his hotel room or whatever'" (95).
These cuts regarding language and sex are surprising, and I think they demonstrate that, at least for the editor of Mystery Book Magazine, certain words and sexual situations were not appropriate reading material.
Even more interesting are some things that the magazine's editors chose not to cut, even though they might strike today's readers as awkward or offensive. Among these are passages, themes, or remarks that suggest stereotypes (at best) or racist attitudes (at worst). Bill Sweeney, the novel's protagonist, is a drunken Irishman, and the book and magazine open with an entertaining bit of musing on the many things "a drunken Irishman will do." The most unlikely: "He might make a resolution and stick to it" (7). Sweeney is a classic Irish name and his prodigious capacity for imbibing alcohol goes along with the classic stereotype of men from the Emerald Isle.
Most jarring to today's sensibilities is a throwaway passage in the first chapter, as Sweeney recalls:
In his days as a legman, he'd seen enough blood to last him. Like the time he was right after the cops going into the pool hall on Townsend Street where the four reefered-up jigs had had the razor party— (12-13)
I must admit that increased sensitivity in recent decades has affected me as well. While I was struck by the reference to "jigs" when I wrote my book on Fredric Brown nearly twenty years ago, I do not think that I blinked at the extensive homophobic remarks in the book. True to form, the anti-gay passages made the cut and appear intact in "The Deadly Weekend."
Someone was coming toward him on the sidewalk. A pretty boy in a bright checked sport jacket. Sweeney's fists clenched. What would be his chances if he slugged the fairy, grabbed his wallet and ran into the alley? (11)
All of these terms and passages are included in "The Deadly Weekend," suggesting that anti-gay slurs and a flamboyantly gay character were not thought to be worth editing out. I don't mean to judge Fredric Brown or his editors for writing this; it was commonplace in popular fiction of the time (for other examples, read some of Mickey Spillane's late 1940s Mike Hammer novels).
The park is still there, park benches intact, and people still sleep on the grass in the middle of the day (I can't say what goes on in the middle of the night).