Friday, February 27, 2009

Book: Night of the Jabberwock, by Fredric Brown (1950)

More goodies from my pilgrimage to San Francisco’s Kayo Books, where if I do say so myself I made quite the haul.

Fredric Brown was a fiendishly inventive writer who could plot like nobody else. (The ending of his short story ‘Knock,’ which I have never forgotten since I read it as a kid: “The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door ...”) He may have outdone himself with Night of the Jabberwock. Doc Stoeger is a small town newspaper editor, heroic imbiber, and Lewis Carroll enthusiast. All he wants is a decent story to run in the Carmel City Clarion. Come one Thursday night he gets his wish and then some in the form of a traffic accident, a bank robbery, an escaped lunatic, and the appearance of two wanted fugitives. Then there’s the mysterious man who turns up at Doc’s house with a theory about Lewis Carroll that beggars belief.

It’s odd that on the same trip I picked up Joel Townsley Rogers’ The Red Right Hand, because the books are similar. Both feature potentially unreliable protagonists recounting singularly bizarre evenings, and both uncork dazzling denouements to make sense of all that’s gone before. Brown’s explanation is more earthbound than Rogers’ tour-de-force, but his book is also looser and funnier. It’s a wild ride.

An earlier post partly about the adaptation of Brown’s Screaming Mimi is one of the most read in this site’s history. I credit my incisive observations. It certainly couldn’t be the accompanying photo of Anita Ekberg.

Miscellaneous: Links

Ed Gorman on authors adapting to the times - or not - as they age.

John August and his assistant recap a WGA panel on the state of the movie industry. Lots of sobering information.

Some movies are trapped on VHS.

Whatever happened to the femme fatale?