It would be wrong for me to focus on a good Fredric Brown mystery such as Murder Can Be Fun without also telling you about what I believe was Brown's masterpiece. It involves more than a little jabberwocky.
You remember the poem "Jabberwocky," from the second of Lewis Carroll's books about Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass. The Jabberwock was a monster to be reckoned with:
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
And what does this have to do with mystery? Let me introduce you to Doc Stoeger, the hero of Brown's wonderful Night of the Jabberwock. Doc is the editor of the local weekly newspaper. He complains - constantly - that he never has any news to report. As he puts the paper to bed one Thursday night before publishing, he thinks how great it would be to have some really sensational news for a change.
Be careful what you wish for.
Doc – who is, by the way, a huge fan of Lewis Carroll (and given to quoting him in bar rooms) – is approached by a mysterious little man, who tells him that the fantasies of Lewis Carroll, such as "Jabberwocky," are not fantasies at all. They are real, and very dangerous. And the man invites Doc Stoeger to a meeting late that night to demonstrate the truth of the story he’s telling.
That’s the beginning of what will be an incredible night for Doc Stoeger. Before it ends, there will be several murders and a run-in with some particularly brutal killers. And Doc will have more than enough news for his newspaper the next morning – if he can stay alive long enough to write it. Because, that survival is by no means guaranteed.
Let me stress one point: this is NOT a fantasy book. It's a murder mystery - a fairly hard-boiled one at that. It's also a traditional puzzle, for the reader is given the clues he (and Doc) need to make sense out of the story.
And a wonderful story it is. I am delighted to see that the Langtail Press has a paper edition out; it's also available (pretty inexpensively, too) as an e-book. Do yourself a favor - get it and read it. Lewis Carroll certainly would have approved.