Monday, January 24, 2011

Fredric Brown: Two Lost Stories by Guy Fredric Brown

by Jack Seabrook

Fredric Brown has been the subject of many bibliographies, both in print and online, from Newton Baird's earliest efforts in the 1970s in The Armchair Detective through recent and upcoming works by Frank Pacassi and Philip Stephensen-Payne.

Yet—totally by accident—I discovered two stories that never have been attributed to the late Mr. Brown, stories published in the late 1950s in men's magazines called Mr. and Caper.  While I cannot prove it, there are several reasons to think that Guy Fredric Brown, whose byline appears on the stories, is in fact Fredric Brown.

The first story by Guy Fredric Brown that I have found is "Sonnie's Canopy Bed," which runs about 1700 words in the November 1958 issue of Mr. Magazine.  Mr. features a full color cover on slick paper, but the interior pages are on newsprint.  It was published in New York City by Adrian B. Lopez.  Lopez died at age 97 in 2004 and published "magazines on a broad range of subjects," according to his obituary.  Mr. seems to have had a long run, from the 1950s to the 1970s, judging from the dates of various issues for sale on the internet.  The editor of both Mr. and Sir! was Everett Meyers; Sir! was another of the Lopez magazines.


The November 1958 issue of Mr. included fiction:
  • "No Worry GI" by Connie Sellers
  • "What Hid in the Fog?" by George Heinzman
  • "Case of the Torrid Letter" by John Jingle
  • "Sonnie's Canopy Bed" by Guy Fredric Brown
  • "The Double Harvest" by Al James
as well as non-fiction:
  • "Will Nudity Spoil Nona?" by Irving Cane
  • "The City Only Men Should Visit" by Clark Collins
  • "The Evil Lure of the Whip" by B.F. Shelton
  • "It's Easy to Snag a Rich Wife" by Alice _____
  • "Greenwich Village Bop Party" by Ed Corley
and a pictorial:
  • "Our Friend Irma"
There are no nude photos, but the ads are fantastic!  The magazine overall has a very sleazy, cheap appearance.


"Sonnie's Canopy Bed" tells the story of Sonnie, a mechanic who fixes cars and has two rooms and a bath behind his shop.  He calls these rooms "The Den," and his favorite part is "Canopy Cubicle," which features a "genuine cherry antique bed with a ceiling high canopy."  Labe Nichols, the all-night attendant at a nearby gas station, calls to tell Sonnie that a woman's car won't start.  Sonnie drives over and meets Irene, who is "built like most men wished their wives were built."

Sonnie brings her and the car back to his shop and lets Irene wait in The Den, where she showers while he checks her car.  He builds a fire and she comes out wearing his robe; he figures out that her car is stolen and they end up spending the night together:  "Her body flowed to his as pollen drifts on a light spring breeze to a budding flower."

After she leaves, Sonnie calls Labe and tells him not to pull the next pretty girl's distributor cap, since "Babes are getting smarter."

 While "Sonnie's Canopy Bed" is not a fantasy, Sonnie is a detective of sorts and the writing is not bad.  There is a twist ending, and the letters column in this issue of Mr. makes it clear that another contributor to the magazine was Mack Reynolds, Fredric Brown's friend, New Mexico neighbor, and sometime collaborator.  Fredric Brown's last collaboration with Mack Reynolds to be published was "Happy Ending," which appeared in the September 1957 Fantastic Universe.  If Brown did write "Sonnie's Canopy Bed," it would mark his first publication in a men's magazine, predating the December 1958 appearance of "Who Was That Blonde I Saw You Kill Last Night?" in Swank.

The second story I found credited to Guy Fredric Brown is "Term Paper," which runs about 1100 words in the January 1959 issue of Caper.  Formerly known as Good Humor, it was published by Charlton Publications in Derby, CT.  Edward Levy, co-founder of Charlton in 1940, is listed as publisher, and Douglas Allen is editor.  Caper is a more expensively-produced magazine than Mr., printed on slick paper, with some color inside, and featuring nude models.


Fiction in this issue includes:
  • "Love My Dog" by John Ruland
  • "The Girl on Channel X" by Lee Sheridan
  • "Love Letters" by Holly Springer
  • "Quick Bucks" by Theodore Pratt
  • "Term Paper" by Guy Fredric Brown
  • "The Odd Trout" by Nelson Hooven
Non-fiction includes:
  • "America's Best After Skiing Spots" by Stuart James
  • "The Solid Gold Bust" by Ted M. Levine
  • "8th Avenue is My Beat"
  • "How to Make Rum"
  • "Jazz: Cool All Over" by Gary A. Soucie
There are also several pictorials:
  • "Joy Ride"
  • "Jungle Girl"
  • "Artist and Model" (centerfold)
  • "Summer Souvenir"
  • "Girls for Special Events"
  • "Enjoying Hi-Fi"

The magazine has very few advertisements and is a blatant imitation of Playboy.  Like Mr., Caper seems to have run from about 1956 to some time in the 1970s.

In "Term Paper," a pretty co-ed does research for a term paper in economics at a high-class brothel, eventually deciding that the career of an expensive call-girl is more lucrative than that of a teacher.  In a twist ending, we learn that the professor refers girls to the brothel's owner from time to time, knowing that their exposure to the high-income lifestyle is likely to tempt them away from academia.


Like "Sonnie's Canopy Bed," "Term Paper" is well-written, suspenseful, and features a twist ending.  Fredric Brown wrote more short-shorts for men's magazines in the months that followed, such as "Nasty" (Playboy, April 1959) and "Rope Trick" (Adam, May 1959).  Other short stories were published in Dude, Gent, and Rogue between 1960 and 1963.  It seems very likely to me that the two stories published under the name of Guy Fredric Brown were by Fredric Brown himself.  If anyone comes across other stories with this byline, I would love to hear about them.

Caper  5.1 (Jan. 1959).
"Charlton Comics." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
Martin, Douglas. "Adrian Lopez, 97; Published Niche Magazines." New York Times 16 Feb. 2004. Web. 9 Jan. 2011.
Mr. Magazine 3.2 (Nov. 1958).
Seabrook, Jack. Martians and Misplaced Clues: the Life and Work of Fredric Brown. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.


Cullen Gallagher said...

Wow! Those are exciting discoveries. I'm a big Fredric Brown fan, so the thought that there might be more stories out there is wonderful to think about.

Will Errickson said...

Not too long ago I got a couple of Brown's collections for cheap: HONEYMOON IN HELL and SPACE ON MY HANDS. Haven't gotten around to reading 'em yet, but I know he's highly respected in that sort of "writer's writer" way.

Anonymous said...

Interesting and fascinating find -- sure sounds to me like they're Brown's work from the evidence cited (Mack Reynolds, etc.). Nice detective work, Jack -- let us know if you find any others.

~ Ron C.

Anonymous said...

Btw, anyone who hasn't read Jack's bio of Brown, MARTIANS AND MISPLACED CLUES: THE LIFE AND WORK OF FREDRIC BROWN, needs to remedy that asap. It's a terrific work that I reference frequently.

~ Ron C.

David Flanders said...

SPREE magazine 1959, Vol. 1, #9 features another "Guy Fredric Brown" story called NIGHT OF PASSION. It's only a couple of pages long, and seems either heavily edited or nothing like standard Fredric Brown style. (Or both.) It's not a very GOOD story, but certainly yet another collectible in my hunt for everything Brown wrote (or MAY have written...)

Jack Seabrook said...

David, "may" have written is the operative term. Barry Malzberg, the current agent for the Brown estate, told me that Brown did not write these stories, but when I asked him how he knew that, he did not reply. The fact that Brown started placing stories in men's magazines right around the same time that these stories appeared, the fact that Mack Reynolds also placed at least one story in one of the same magazines, and the fact that at least the two stories I've read have twist endings suggests to me that it's possible that they are Brown's work. But there's no way to prove it either way, as far as I can tell.

David Flanders said...

Just picked up the March 1959 issue of SIR! magazine, with a "Guy Fredric Brown" story called ONE DOLLAR BRIBE. This one is much better than the last one I mentioned - and I am fairly convinced by the plotting and writing style that this is indeed "our" Fredric Brown. Still wanna track down those issues of Caper and Mr. for the two I don't have. The quest to complete the Brown collection continues...

Unknown said...

4/3/13 -
CAPER magazine January 1959 (story "Term Paper")is presently available for sale on Ebay here:
Don't know how long this will last - but it's a reasonable price for a possible Brown rarity!
Best luck to any buyer (have a copy myself or I would've scooped this up!)
If you're a Brown fanatic like I am, grab this.
- David Flanders

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, David!

David Flanders said...

Been on the hunt again during the past couple of years, and found 2 more little oddities on the Guy Brown front:
Mr. Magazine, August 1960, very short story titled GETTING EVEN, under the byline "Guy F. Brown." Not a great story by any means, but certainly has elements of Fred Brown to it - short length, twist end, that certain style.
ALSO found (and purchased, but do not yet have) a NOVEL by "Guy F. Brown," SILENT OUTRAGE. (Brandon Books 1965 paperback original.) Hmm... sex-crazed killer stalks beautiful women... doesn't sound at ALL like Knock Three-One-Two, does it?
Here are links to the latest finds, if they become available again:
That's the news for now!
David Flanders
(PS - sorry for the mis-posting under my wife's name back in 2013. Didn't mean to be confusing!

Jack Seabrook said...

Fascinating! I can accept that the short stories might be by Fredric Brown, but the thought of an unknown novel out there--mind blowing.

David Flanders said...

Jack -
After I posted the above, I saw that there was a copy of the novel on Alibris, but it's gone now. Did you grab it?

Jack Seabrook said...

Wasn't me! It might have been the copy you bought, just mirrored on another site.