About the Author
Fredric Brown (190672) was one of America's most innovative and experimental pulp authors. Brown's first mystery novel, The Fabulous Clipjoint, won the Edgar Award for outstanding first mystery novel. His novel The Screaming Mimi became a 1958 movie starring Anita Ekberg and Gypsy Rose Lee, and directed by Gerd Oswald.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Trouble and murder were just about the farthest things from my mind, right then. I was spieling, but my mouth did that for me without my mind having to tell it what to do, and while I talked I was staring out up the midway and thinking how swell it was to be back with the carney again. It felt good to be standing on a platform with a tip of marks out there looking up with their yaps open while I told them what we had for them inside the top. "Step right up close, folks! I told them. "That's it, right up to the edge of the platform. We're going to put on a free show, a big free show, right out here on the platform, and it isn't going to cost you one penny to see it. Not one single, solitary penny- And back over my shoulder I yelled, "Colonel bally. Bugs bally. I hit the bass drum a few thumping boomps while I waited for them to come out from the top. It was going to be a fair-sized tip, for the first one of the afternoon. Usual percentage of kids and suckers. I gave them the old Pete Gaynor smile and boomped the drum again. Some marks who'd been gawking at the girl-show front turned around and came over. "Right now, friends, right now, I'm going to call out on this platform a few of the strange people of the Wonderworld top! The most amazing and astounding people you have ever seen. Right out here on the platform to meet you! Here comes one now- There's nothing much to barking for a freak show if you've got the gift of gab. It doesn't matter much what you say, just so you keep saying it impressively. You don't even have to yell any more, because the loud-speaker system does that for you. Brass-lunged barkers are one with Ninevah and Tyre. "Yes, folks, here he is! The famous Colonel Toots! The smallest and one of the most brilliant men alive in the world today! Meet Colonel Toots, just thirty-four inches tall from his heels to the top of his head. A midget among midgets, folks, and a talented and versatile entertainer to boot. Inside the tent, Colonel Toots will show you, I can promise each and every one of you, the most amazing- I hadn't been looking at them because I'd turned to face Colonel Toots as he came on. But something in the way the Colonel was looking at the tip made me turn around to see what was wrong with them. What was wrong was that they weren't looking at Colonel Toots nor at me; they were gawking past us, over and around the platform. And I heard voices and excitement back there....