Reprint of an Article Published in the Winter 2005 Bean Home Newsletter

On Unpublished Freddy Manuscripts,
Synopses and Reviews of a Select Few,
and an Unpublishable Poem by Freddy

(Another Redaction from Mr. Eha's Place)

Have you ever had a dream, common among the friends of Freddy, in which you're browsing the shelves of a little out-of-the-way used-book store? To your utter amazement you spot a "Freddy" that you've never seen before--Freddy and the Oteseraga Lake Monster, maybe, or Freddy and the Pigasus. Sure, it might be a bit bumped and scruffy, or it might even be a lowly ex-lib copy with a Gibraltar library binding, but who cares! Your heart thumps at high speed as you take the book in your trembling hands and flip through it, hardly believing your good luck. Yes, somehow you have missed this one! And just look at those keen Kurt Wiese illustrations! Wow! But just before you can plunk down your dollar, for that's all any hardback in the little store costs, the radio alarm jerks you back to reality, and as your dream dissolves, you awake with a piercing pang of regret, knowing that the canon contains exactly twenty-six titles, and that's all, and that's that, gosh darn it! But, you wonder, could there be unpublished Freddy material awaiting your discovery in the real world? My friends, I assure you that yes, indeed, there is! Readers of my little site Mr. Eha's Place are already familiar with the synopses and reviews there of the forty-six unpublished Freddy manuscripts I have had an opportunity to examine, and in this article I will present some background information about their origins as well as reviews of the contents of a few of them.

Contrary to the silly and spiteful rumor that immediately began circulating and which was quickly proven false, I was nowhere near the place when the Bean homestead caught fire back in 1959. I was easily able to provide the authorities with the names of several witnesses who corroborated my account of having been at the Beachcomber up near Lakeville enjoying dinner when the blaze began, we all found out later, because of William's carelessness with his pipe. In fact, spotting the tree-high flames while driving home, I rushed straight over to the farm and helped to put the fire out. I personally rescued some of William and Martha's most valuable possessions including a number of picture albums, the family Bible, sundry silverware, antique lamps, a double-barreled shotgun, a sock full of gold coins, etc.--and a couple of hefty boxes wrapped up in heavy mailing paper. Most of the larger Bean belongings, like the picture of Washington crossing the Delaware, I simply piled up with the rest of the stuff that neighbors and firemen were bringing out of the burning house and barns, but I did put the albums and the boxes in the trunk of my auto and a number of smaller things on the back seat to keep it all from getting dirty or wet in the commotion.

Now, were I a common thief, I could have kept all the things I rescued and no one would have been the wiser. In the confusion, no one saw me take any particular thing out of the house, and if something hadn't turned up after the fire, say the Washington picture, for example, well, it would have been presumed lost in the flames or pinched by anybody there. But I returned the silverware, the Bible, the gold coins, and all the rest of the items I had thrown into the back of my auto for safekeeping. I simply forgot about the albums and boxes until several weeks later when I had to fetch my spare umbrella from the trunk. I always had the intention to return these items, but I just never seemed to get around to it, and since no one ever asked around about them...well, the intention just slipped my mind. It wasn't until some relatively recent housecleaning that I ran across the Beans' stuff again and discovered a number of Freddy's unpublishable "poems" (one of which I include as a "bonus" at the article's end) tucked away in an album and the unpublished manuscripts of a number of Freddy novels in the boxes.

You're probably wondering how these manuscripts could have wound up at the Beans' house to begin with. I don't blame you. It does sound improbable. But everyone knows that Walter R. Brooks was a regular vacationer in our area, and being the self-styled "historian" of the Bean farm and a great fan of Martha's cooking, he was a frequent visitor at the Beans'. They'd put him up in Byram and Adoniram's old room where I believe he did a great deal of writing. He must have left some of his manuscripts there, because that's where I found the boxes containing them the night of the big fire. I don't know if he intended to send these manuscripts to his publisher or not. Perhaps he had, and these were rejects, for I did find rejection slips among them. But, after all these years, what does it matter what Mr. Brooks's intentions were?

In addition to the unquestionably authentic Freddy manuscripts I saved from the blaze, I have also received a number of what contributors from far and wide claim to be original manuscripts and photocopies of drafts of entire Freddy novels or bits and pieces thereof which never (mercifully, in almost every single case) made it into print. Be assured that Axon Spardoze (editor-in-chief of Mr. Eha's Place) and I have spared no little effort in an exhaustive examination of every single one of these documents to determine its authenticity, measuring each against certain easily discerned aspects of style in the published canon. The manuscripts I have reviewed at my site have passed muster. They are beyond doubt the real McCoy. Unfortunately they are no more meritorious than your typical published Freddy, and in most cases, considerably less so. Purported Freddy documents which were obvious forgeries or far beyond our abilities to authenticate were consigned to the fires of the cheerful little Franklin stove in my tool shed.

I wonder if you and I share a hunch that even more unpublished Freddy material is "out there." Perhaps it is languishing in a trunk in someone's attic, as did the first half of Mark Twain's manuscript of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for over ninety years until its discovery in 1990 by somebody or other's granddaughter. Perhaps you yourself possess an unpublished Freddy manuscript. If so, you ought to find a way to let the world--at least that infinitesimal part of the world that would evince interest, if not actual gratitude--know about it. A presentation at the next Friends of Freddy convention in 2006 would be just the right venue, don't you agree?

And now to add a small bit to the body of research into Mr. Brooks's scribblings about the history of the Bean farm and its citizenry and their antics, I present you with a selection of summaries and reviews of some unpublished Freddy compositions in my possession.

My 0 - 5 Rating Scale

0 = If I were starving, I would eat my leather shoes and have this book for dessert, but I wouldn't read it to save my life.
5 = If published, it could possibly have sold out a first printing on the strength of the author's name.


Freddy and the Ghost
(Rescued from the great blaze of 1959)

As it turns out, the ghost of Grandfather Bezaliel is more than a figment of William Bean's imagination. Roused from his peaceful eternal slumber by the shenanigans in Freddy Goes Camping, Bezaliel rises up for real in this regrettably unpublished sequel to float about the Bean attic, the barns, the pigpen, the Big Woods, and Centerboro in a quest for a map to the fortune he had hidden in his pre-demise days. Initially frightened by the barnyard materializations of Bezaliel, the animals soon discover that he means no harm, and they enthusiastically join the hunt. Mr. Brooks's characters based on Herb Garble and me are the animals' antagonists once again. They discover Bezaliel's map in a trash-'n-treasure store in Tushville and plan to loot the fortune. What follows are a dramatic haunting of the Underdunk mansion, an ectoplasmic invasion of my real estate office, a midnight race to the location of the treasure deep in the most haunted part of the Big Woods, and the usual triumph of the animals in a rousing hullabaloo at the end. Of course Bezaliel turns the treasure over to his grandson who uses it to buy vacation property for himself and Martha and the animals on Oteseraga Lake.

Rating = 5. Good "spirited" fun, I'd say! Although Mr. Brooks does not feature "real" ghosts in the published Freddy series, I suspect he had no particular bias against doing so. After all, we do have, for better or worse, Jimmy Takes Vanishing Lessons. The action of Freddy and the Ghost moves along briskly, the tag-team villains are inspired, and we easily forgive the improbability that Bezaliel would have forgotten the location of his fortune.


Freddy and Simon the Red
(From A. L. of Albany, NY, a partial manuscript, typewritten, & with penciled annotations)

This manuscript is a rough draft of what clearly evolved into a toned-down Freddy and Simon the Dictator. It is evident from the published canon that Mr. Brooks had little use for the philosophical underpinnings and outward manifestations of collectivist life (even though the spirit of the Bean farm seems rather socialistic), and his viewpoint is even more clear in this manuscript in which Simon and his sons assume the leadership of a ruthless band of animal revolutionaries. The rats and their animal converts and conscripts establish a reign of terror, first subjugating the farmers and then the merchants and industrialists of Oteseraga County. The capitalists and their lackeys are tried in animal courts and sentenced to execution or exile. Freddy and the usual band of Bean farm loyalists fight against the oppressive rodent-led regime, but their forces are greatly outnumbered and outgunned, and things look pretty bleak. Since the air arm of the FAR army is dispensed with early on in the fighting, Jacob and his family are not around to save the day as usual. Who or what will intervene to pull the animal loyalists through? We'll never know, because this incomplete manuscript never arrives at the climax and conclusion.

Rating = 1. Uncharacteristically dark and foreboding, this ham-fisted diatribe seems an attempt to promote the values of our republic and disparage the communist ideology for a juvenile audience. But would juveniles ever have been interested in the issues involved in such a promotion? I doubt it. I give it a "1" for its atmosphere which resembles that of an Italian neorealist film, but the rest of it is pure propagandistic tripe of the most blatant and awful sort on a par with, say, a people's Republic of China opera set in a tractor factory.


The Stupendous Frederick
(From G.M. of Gomorrah Center, NY, a holograph, complete and bound)

After returning home from a midsummer's horseback jaunt with Jinx, Freddy decides that the next frontier for him will be a complete reinvention of himself. While the Beans are visiting the Snedekers in Orenville, Ohio, he uses the money he has accumulated over the years in the detective business to outfit himself in gaudy splendor. Next, he obtains the services of a local stockbroker, one Mr. Grabcoigne, and within a few months is rolling in dough. Before long, it is quite the dandy Frederick (as he insists upon being called) who cruises about Centerboro in a brand-new Lincoln, orders caviar and escargot at the Centerboro Hotel, pilots a hydroplane on Oteseraga Lake, and throws lavish parties in the brightly-lit Bean barn--all in an attempt to lure the lovely Ginger, the most glamorous of Witherspoon's sows, to his dinner-jacketed side. In the process of his self-transformation, Freddy quite alienates his barnyard friends with his pretensions and late-night revelries. However, unbeknownst to Freddy, Mr. Grabcoigne has been making use of inside information, and when he goes down, so does our flamboyant protagonist with an ego-flattening thud. After the catastrophe, abandoned by the fickle Ginger, his lesson learned, the remorseful Freddy reintegrates himself into his circle of loyal and forgiving friends.

Rating = 2.5. Quite a derivative (if not nearly plagiaristic) manuscript, this effort rises in places to what is very nearly a quasi-literary state. The descriptions of the barn all decked out for one of Freddy's summer parties are almost poetic. Odd and jarring, though, is Mr. Brooks's narrator--not the usual third-person omniscient Brooksian voice, but a first-person participant--Jinx! It just doesn't work! Compared to the Jinx already completely familiar to the Freddy readers, this new characterization of an intelligent, self-conscious, and non-wisecracking Jinx seems downright spooky in its seriousness. Too serious, too, is the theme. It would be completely beyond the grasp of juvenile (and most adult) minds. The ending is, of course, entirely spurious.


Freddy the Ventriloquist
(From A. P. of Gomorrah Center, NY, notes on four Centerboro Hotel paper placemats)

A manuscript not too difficult to date, this, although it is rather hard to decipher. It must come hard on the heels of Freddy the Magician, as the magic showdown between Freddy and Zingo is referred to as having taken place "earlier this year." Following his stint as a magician, in this sequel Freddy is determined to master the art of ventriloquy. He struggles with "b," "p," "w," "m," and "f," which is particularly galling to him since he cannot refer to himself by name or species. Therefore, he asks Uncle Ben to fashion a dummy--a kind of cut-down version of Bertram--in which a small animal or bird might conceal itself and carry on a scripted conversation with Freddy. This story would have marked the first appearance of the character Samuel Jackson, who as a mole is compact enough to fit comfortably in the dummy and accustomed to carrying on conversations in the dark. As it turns out, though, this subterranean character is not employed by Mr. Brooks until the last published book Dragon, and thank goodness for that, for is there a more annoying creature in the series? I don't think so. The notes suggest some trouble at Freddy's stage debut at the Cinema Palace, and it is clear that Mr. Brooks had pretty much decided which scenario of several to pursue as he had underlined the last of three possibilities which I quote from the placemats: "1. Someone (?) notices that F's lips do not move at all? 2. S. J. falls asleep or becomes ill? 3. Rats kidnap S. J. & Ezra takes his place and make (sic) rude comments about audience members!" It looks as though Mr. Brooks liked that last one, doesn't it? That's about all that I can make of the notes, because much of them are obscured by dried ketchup, what appears to be petrified egg, and a coffee spill.

Rating = 3. Now I think that this title would have made for a dandy afternoon's reading on a rainy day. Although I'm as weary as everyone else of the rats as villains, I'd genuinely like to hear what Ezra would have said about Mr. Metacarpus or Ollie Groper or the Sheriff after tossing the script. Unfortunately, we'll never know exactly what Mr. Brooks would have cooked up--but it is pleasant to imagine all by oneself.


Freddy and the Bean Farm Atomic Reactor

(From D. C. of Plutarch Mills, NY, two hundred thirty-four lightly penciled pages of notes, dated, in several old stenographer's pads bound together with frayed baling twine)

D. C. claims to have several other unpublished Freddy texts in his possession in addition to this title and Freddy and His Atomic Telescope (reviewed on my site) which are a couple of examples, evidently, of other of Mr. Brooks's attempts to cash in on the popularity of science fiction among boys back in the 1940s and 1950s. In this dud, Uncle Ben and the usual barnyard crew dream up a plan to build the "Bean Farm Self-Adjusting Atomic Reactor" in order to provide cheap electrical power for the farm and for subscribers throughout Oteseraga County. Perhaps Mr. Brooks envisioned this use of atomic power in the same way that Arthur Clarke envisioned communications satellites, but not much authentic science is evident in the notes for this title. It's pretty clear that presenting a case for the usefulness of atomic power would not have been the main concern of the book. Instead, we get a plot that very closely resembles that of Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans. There are even characters named Penobsky, Smirnoff, Ilya, Franz, and Rendell who conspire to steal the schematics for the reactor and put them up for sale.

Rating = 0. This is a plot tedious in both conception and execution, featuring several predictable reversals, deadly dialogue, mechanical characters, and an excruciating sense of having been produced word by word. Simply awful.


Freddy the Beatnik
(From T. M. of Toronto, Ontario, a complete handwritten text)

In this work, we are presented with a plot which begins in a beat underworld set symbolically just off Main Street, Centerboro, continues on a cross-country road trip, and ends on the Bean farm. Putting on berets and world-weary attitudes, Freddy and Jinx open a coffee house, and soon the sounds of bongos, snapping fingers, and bad verse--most of it Freddy's--can be heard emanating from the cafe. It is not long before Mrs. Peppercorn makes an appearance to try her hand at "some of that beatnik P-U-etry," with some fairly comic results. The conservative Republican establishment of staid old Centerboro quickly determines that the coffee shop and its aberrant clientele must go, and there develops a clash between Freddy and his "beatnik" buddies and the self-appointed guardians of Western culture. Freddy gets fed up. He takes a bus to Chicago and then hitchhikes to Denver where he hangs out for a time before moving on to San Francisco and Los Angeles. He returns home to the farm after realizing the pointlessness of his wandering about the American post-war urban wilderness and having learned that one can't simply run from one adventure to another indefinitely. "There's no place like home" and "All's well that ends well" seem to be the rather obvious themes of this beat odyssey.

Rating = 2. According to my research, the phrase "beat generation" has been around since 1948, and it was more or less formally introduced to the more or less literate population in 1952 in a New York Times Magazine article, allowing us, therefore, to fix the composition of this unpublished stinker between Camping and Dragon. Rather than explore the bland, lifeless dreams of the post-war United States and the attempts of the hip to elude the squareness of it all, and rather than tackle the complex phenomenon of "beatness," this work is nothing more than a episodic mishmash of stereotyped characters and situations. I wonder if Mr. Brooks read much of Jack Kerouac's flavorless prose, because the second half of Freddy the Beatnik sounds suspiciously like Sal Paradise's first cross-country trip in On the Road--but that could be just an amazing coincidence. Coincidence or not, Beatnik doesn't compare with Kerouac's literary achievement which itself doesn't obtain, in my opinion, any great distinction. However, I award Beatnik a "2" because it doesn't pretend to be great literature and because the chapter containing the poetry contest at the coffee house is ever so slightly amusing.

In conclusion, I wish to make clear that though they certainly must represent something like the Holy Grail to fanatic Freddyites and money-grubbing book dealers, I will entertain absolutely no requests to sell the unpublished Freddy manuscripts which are in my safekeeping or to loan them out to any Freddyite scholar. Furthermore, I have already retained my cousin Dougal Anderson, Esq. to contact the appropriate parties to make arrangements to transfer the manuscripts to their rightful owner or owners. In the interim, they have been secured in a safe deposit box to discourage the light-fingered.

I hope you have enjoyed this little elucidation, and I leave you for now with the bonus I promised. "Thoughts on Teeth" is a poem by Frederick Bean, which his "Uncle" Walter incorporated in Freddy and Simon the Dictator. I came across this earlier unpublished version entitled "The Teeth" in one of the Beans' picture albums along with a rather uncomplimentary rejection note. The reason for its rejection is no mystery.

The Teeth

Fangs, tusks, bicuspids, molars--
Call them what you will...
Sans teeth, choppers, eater-uppers
you couldn't eat your fill.

Toss in oatmeal, toss in porridge,
shovel in hominy grits.
Throw in farina and other forage!
Teeth grind 'em quickly to bits.

And now to tougher foods we venture,
like steak and hard little peas.
Your pearly whites, your gnashing denture-
-s handle them with ease.

So brush your teeth with daily vigor.
Don't neglect them, if you please.
The cavities in them'll only get bigger,
and hurt more than the sting of bees.

 

 

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