In the decade that followed the 1949 publication of The Screaming Mimi, Fredric Brown published 15 mystery novels, two science fiction novels, a "straight" novel, and many short stories. The practice of serializing the novels continued, with varying results.
Night of the Jabberwock (1950) was expanded from two short stories—"The Gibbering Night" and "The Jabberwocky Murders." The Deep End was expanded from "Obit for Obie," a short story written in 1945 and published in the October 1946 Mystery Book Magazine, where "The Deadly Weekend" would appear three years later. The Wench is Dead was expanded from the brilliant novelette of the same title that had been written for Manhunt's July 1953 issue.
At the same time the digests were replacing the pulps, the market also saw the rise of men's magazines, both Playboy-style and men's adventure magazines. Fredric Brown's first appearance in a men's magazine was in the December 1958 issue of Swank, which featured "Who Was That Blonde I Saw You Kill Last Night?" the serialized version of the 1954 novel, His Name Was Death.
Short stories followed in 1959 in Playboy and Adam, before the June 1959 issue of High Adventure marked Brown's first appearance in a men's adventure magazine with "Night of the Psycho," the shortened version of that year's novel, Knock Three-One-Two. Although many Brown stories would appear over the next several years in men's magazines such as Dude and Gent, "Night of the Psycho" was the only time his fiction would appear in a magazine falling squarely in the men's adventure category.
High Adventure is one of the more scarce men's adventure magazines. Only three issues appear to have been published, in April, June, and October 1959. The June 1959 table of contents page says that it is a Friendly Publication, with Walter J. Fultz as editorial director. Bessie Little is listed as publisher.
The cover is a very good painting by John Leone, a well-known artist whose career began in the adventure magazines. The painting portrays a lone G.I. battling three Japanese soldiers and is a scene from "Slaughter on Maggot Beach," one of the stories contained in this issue. A green box in the top right-hand corner trumpets: "EXCLUSIVE BOOKLENGTH Night of the Psycho," which is not a very accurate description of what is found inside. The magazine's title has the subtitle, "For Men Who Dare"; this is not part of the title, but it may come in handy when searching online to distinguish this magazine from the currently-published magazine, also titled High Adventure, which replaced Pulp Review in late 1995.
- "Night of the Psycho" by Fredric Brown
- "Slaughter on Maggot Beach" by George B. Walters
- "Rice and Milk and High Heeled Shoes" by Leonard Bishop
- "Take One Drunk Baboon" by John Stuyvesant
- "City of 5000 Spies" by B.W. von Block
- "Is the U.S. Expecting Invaders From Space?" by Ray Palmer
- "This Grave for Rent" by James Collier
"Night of the Psycho" spans 16 pages in the middle of the magazine (44-59), hardly "BOOKLENGTH" as the cover promises. Reading it is a very different experience than is reading the novel, Knock Three-One-Two, and it is clear that the story was considerably cut for serialization using a hatchet rather than a scalpel.
The chapter headed "7:25 p.m." also suffers from considerable cutting and condensing. Descriptive passages are removed, Ruth's interaction with a customer and the cook is gone, and most of her conversation with George is nowhere to be found.
The most troubling deletions in the magazine version have to do with the backgrounds of the various characters. This is not done at random—virtually every time the book goes into detail about a character's history, it is taken out of the magazine. In addition to the cuts regarding George Mikos in "5:20 p.m.," the story of Dolly Mason's younger years is cut (342) depriving the reader of her entertaining past as a nymphomaniac. Worst of all is the loss of Brown's psychological study of Benny Knox, the mentally challenged newsstand owner whose childhood was warped by the teachings of his fire-and-brimstone preacher/father. Benny's confusion between his "Heavenly Father" and his "father in Heaven," as well as his confused belief in a literal Heaven and Hell, lead him to murder Ray Fleck at the conclusion of the novel. Without the details of Benny's psychological profile, his actions carry much less weight and are less easy to understand.
The chapter headed "9:32 P.M." is entirely cut, as is the wonderful "11:16 P.M." chapter, which begins:
This is the transcript of a conversation that might possibly have happened. If you believe in such things you'll come to see that it could have happened. If you do not believe, it doesn't matter. (400)
The rest of this one-page chapter consists of a dialogue between the devil and one of his minions as they discuss Ray Fleck's preparation for murder: "he has committed every other sin . . ." This fantasy sequence broadens the scope of the novel, making Ray's plight more universal and soul-damaging than the simple crime story that is the shortened version.
One odd section of the book involves a conversation between Ray Fleck and Sam, a black waiter (324-27). While the book was published in 1959, years after the Civil Rights movement had begun, Fredric Brown's dialect choices seem stuck in a prior decade. One example of Sam's speech is enough:
"Yes, suh, Mist' Fleck. Medjum rare, like allus. An' Ah'll tell th' chef to pick out a nice big one." (324)
Sadly, there are also some unintentional errors in the magazine version. The novel eschews chapter titles in favor of times; the first chapter is titled "5:00 P.M.," and subsequent chapters trace the events of one evening, ending at "2:45 A.M." Keeping track of these times seems to have been difficult for the magazine's editors, however, and the magazine version shows some changes. "6:15 P.M." in the book is split into two sections in the magazine, with "6:40 p.m." added as the heading of the second part. "8:03 P.M." disappears, but its events are folded into "8:17 p.m." Things get really confusing as "8:17 P.M." becomes "8:24 p.m.," and is followed by "8:03 p.m.," which corresponds to the book's "8:24 P.M." "9:32 P.M." is cut entirely, and "9:59 P.M." becomes "9:56 p.m." "11:16 P.M." is cut as well. There is no good reason for these changes, and the mixing up of the times makes a very clear story a bit more confusing.
Worst of all is the layout problem on pp. 54 and 55 of the magazine. About three column inches switch places, making the beginning and end of this chapter rather hard to follow.
Location, which had been such a central part of Brown's earlier novels, is not specified in either the long or the short version of Knock Three-One-Two. The story takes place in a city, a suburb, or both, and the various street names used are generic. There is a reference to Aqueduct Racetrack (325), when Ray gives a tip on the next day's race to Sam, the waiter. This reference places the story somewhere in or near New York City. Fredric Brown had been living in Tucson, Arizona, for many years at the time he wrote this book, so presumably he was unaware that Aqueduct had been closed for renovations since 1956 and would not reopen until mid-September 1959, after both "Night of the Psycho" and Knock Three-One-Two had been published!
Based on its June 1959 issue, High Adventure was a relatively tame men's magazine. There is a three-page pictorial featuring "Girl-of-the-Month" Lynn Wittmann, "the jauntiest gunslinger New York's Greenwich Village has seen since Prohibition gurgled down the drain" (41). Other than loosening the top button of her white shirt, she remains staunchly clothed. Her upbringing in Munich, Germany, surely led to the tone of her quotations: "'You hokay, hey honey?'" and "'American drinker, he crazy but nice. Says he haff one fast beer, then sit down and haff eleven or twelve. Crazy. But I like—American man good fun.'" These coquettish remarks were surely like catnip to the male reader of 1959.
Most fun of all are the advertisements in High Adventure. Tired husbands could write away for Vitasafe, so their wives would not complain that "He Didn't Even Kiss Me Goodnight" (2). Auto repair, crime detection, and operating heavy equipment were all within the reader's grasp as valuable careers. While some of the ads recall those that might have been in a comic book, overall they are aimed at adult male readers.
This was the last Fredric Brown story that I had never read, in a pleasurable journey that began in the 1970s when I bought the paperback, The Best of Fredric Brown. Or was it the last? Stay tuned!
"Aqueduct Racetrack." Wikipedia. Web. 29 Dec. 2010.
Brown, Fredric. Knock Three-One-Two. Black Box Thrillers: 4 Novels By Fredric Brown. London: Zomba, 1983. 303-427.
Brown, Fredric. "Night of the Psycho." High Adventure June 1959. 44-59.
Eisner, Will. "Back to School." Comic strip. The Spirit Apr. 1985: 35-41.
Galactic Central. Web. 31 Dec. 2010.
Gunning, Tom. The Films of Fritz Lang. London: British Film Institute, 2000.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 30 Dec. 2010.
"Knock Three-One-Two." Thriller. 13 Dec. 1960. Television.
"Merry Christmas--Men's Adventure Magazine Style." 21 Dec. 2010. Web. 31 Dec. 2010. http://www.menspulpmags.com.
Seabrook, Jack. Martians and Misplaced Clues: The Life & Work of Fredric Brown. Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993.