Friday 23 November 2018

Forgotten Book - Here Comes a Candle

I've written before about my enthusiasm for the American post-war crime writer Fredric Brown, and I'm surprised his work in the crime field isn't better known - certainly in the UK, and perhaps even in his home country. He was a successful science fiction writer, and this may account for a tendency to under-estimate his mysteries, but they are intriguing and sometimes innovative.

A prime example is Here Comes a Candle. This is a book I'd been searching for over the years, with no success, until I came across a cheapish paperback edition while attending Bouchercon in Florida. It's described on the back cover as "Fredric Brown's BIG novel", and this is a reference to its ambition rather than its size - like all his books, it's not especially lengthy.

The story is interesting in itself.  We know that young, handsome Joe Bailey is destined to kill someone, and Brown cleverly ensures that we have empathy for Joe despite the fact that he's got himself mixed up with a gangster called Mitch who is grooming him to become a partner in crime. And we also know that something serious happened in Joe's youth. But at first the details aren't clear.

Brown offers an in-depth psychological portrait, and cunningly intersperses a straightforward narrative with a number of sections which take a variety of forms - a radio programme, a stage play, a sportscast, and so on. Yes, this is a gimmick, but he uses it to cast light on the events that took Joe down a path that seems likely to end in his doom. I found it highly readable, and the ironic finale is extremely poignant. Definitely worth a read - if you can find a copy!


Jack Seabrook said...

There's a 2006 paperback reprint that's cheap and easy to find online.

Clothes In Books said...

My Frederic Browns books are piling up! Chrissie recommended The Far Cry to me recently, and I have The Screaming Mimi too. and now I have to add this one...