Sunday, June 12, 2011
Fredric Brown Lost Stories - Part Two: “Fatal Facsimile”
by Jack Seabrook
In the first part of this three-part series, I discussed “Compliments of a Fiend,” the recently-discovered condensed version of the novel of the same name featuring Fredric Brown's detective team of Ed and Am Hunter. This time, I will discuss another unreprinted story that features Brown's lesser-known series character, insurance salesman/detective Henry Smith.
Henry Smith was quite an ordinary man, who sold insurance as an agent of the Phalanx Insurance Company. He was skilled at observation and deduction, and he solved crimes in six short stories published in a variety of detective pulps in the 1940s. He was the consummate company man, whose every move was calculated toward selling insurance policies. When he solved a crime, he usually ended up selling a policy to a policeman or to someone else he had met along the way.
He first appeared in “Life and Fire,” published in the March 22, 1941 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly. This story was reprinted in the 1963 collection, The Shaggy Dog and Other Murders.
Next came “The Incredible Bomber,” in the March 1942 issue of G-Men Detective. It was reprinted in the 1986 collection, Pardon My Ghoulish Laughter.
Third was “Murder Without Mustard,” in the March 1943 issue of New Detective. It was reprinted in the 1986 collection, Sex Life on the Planet Mars as “A Change for the Hearse.”
Then came “Anecdote for Poison,” in the October 1943 issue of Ten Detective Aces. It was reprinted as “Death Insurance Payment” in the 1986 collection, Thirty Corpses Every Thursday.
The fifth Henry Smith story was “The Bucket of Gems Case,” published in the August 1944 issue of Detective Story Magazine and reprinted as “Mr. Smith Kicks the Bucket” in the 1985 collection, Carnival of Crime.
The sixth and last Henry Smith story (or so I thought) was “Whistler's Murder,” published in the December 1946 issue of Detective Story Magazine. It was reprinted in The Shaggy Dog and Other Murders.
Earlier this year, I learned from Phil Stephenson-Payne that there was another Henry Smith story, one that had been in some bibliographies and absent from others (including mine), probably because it was thought to have been a reprint and retitling of another story, “Fatal Error.” The seventh Henry Smith story, which has never been reprinted, was titled “Fatal Facsimile” and was published in the September 1962 issue of The Saint Mystery Magazine.
In this story, Smith calls on James Brock, a fellow coin collector, to try to sell him an insurance policy. After learning that Brock is also an insurance salesman and thus would never buy a policy from Smith, our intrepid salesman targets Brock's brother, also a coin collector. When the second man is murdered by a burglar, Smith uses his powers of deduction to solve the crime. Will his success allow him to sell insurance to his rival?
If you are interested in reading this story, help is on the way! Phil Stephenson-Payne, who discovered it, plans to reprint it in his upcoming collection of Brown rarities. Also in the collection will be a complete run of Brown's columns for The American Proofreader from the late 1930s and early 1940s, as well as previously unreprinted fiction that Brown wrote for trade magazines around that time.
I also highly recommend Phil's website, Galactic Central, which is the source of many of the cover pictures of old magazines that illustrate my articles. The website is a treasure trove of information on old pulps, among many other magazines, and the collection of cover scans online is worth perusing.
Brown, Fredric. “Fatal Facsimile.” The Saint Mystery Magazine September (1962): 53-62.
Brown, Fredric, Francis M. Nevins, and Martin Harry Greenberg. Carnival of Crime: the Best Mystery Stories of Fredric Brown. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1985.
Seabrook, Jack. Martians and Misplaced Clues: the Life and Work of Fredric Brown. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993.
Stephens, Christopher P. A Checklist of Fredric Brown. Hastings-On-Hudson, NY: Ultramarine, 1992.