The Fabulous Clipjoint is my first novel, and I gave it five stars because I'm a sucker for old-school private eye yarns like this one is. If I ever find more time to read, I'd move on in the series and find out just what the heck happens to Ed and Uncle Am.
Brown does a good done, keeping the reader guessing who killed Ed's father and why.
By the time Fredric Brown wrote this, his first full novel, he had already been a prolific contributor to the pulp mags of the 1930s & 40s, turning in works across multiple genres from Sci-fi to Noir. It's both a crime story and a coming of age story as Ed follows what leads they have, while discovering how little he really knew about his own father from the stories Am tells.
The Fabulous Clipjoint is the Catcher In The Rye of mystery novels - or at least, it is for me. If you're interested, Brown set a number of short mystery stories in carnivals too. When Ed and Am Hunter team up to find out who murdered Ed's father, it doesn't feel anything like the traditional mystery novel. Ed and Am Hunter are one of mystery's outstanding teams, and Brown wrote six more novels about them. Brown also wrote many short noir detective stories for the pulps - but unlike many such stories, his have heart and a gentleness, a sort of intellectual and thoughtful quality, that make them special.
I had always thought of Frederic Brown as a science fiction writer, for that was how he was presented to me when I first discovered him in the Sixties. In those stories, I discovered Frederic Brown a second time, this time a far edgier writer, one who walked on the noir side of the street, created grifters and gun molls, and employed a vocabulary steeped in violence and slang. Ed Hunter tells the story of The Fabulous Clipjoint, how his father, Wally, was murdered in a dark Chicago alley, an event devastating to Ed for many reasons, but which to his step-mother and step-sister was merely the end of a meal ticket. Reading The Fabulous Clipjoint, you wonder why Frederic Brown ever bothered with science fiction.
Never financially secure, Brown - like many other pulp writers - often wrote at a furious pace in order to pay bills. A newspaperman by profession, Brown was only able to devote 14 years of his life as a full-time fiction writer.