Synopses & Reviews of Unpublished Freddy Manuscripts

(Manuscripts I Rescued from the Big Bean Farm Fire)

I must respond to the profusion of negative press I have received regarding my disposal of unpublished Freddy material. Yes, I have thrown out a large number of ghastly so-called poems by that damnable Freddy Bean--scribblings that in their technical ineptitude and poverty of imagination were too horrible for the world to see. I have absolutely no regrets over my actions whatsoever, and I tender no apologies. Borrowing the words of those squid-like politicians and other assorted frauds, "I accept full responsibility" --except I really mean it. If those of you who have been filling my mailbox with your excoriations had actually seen the trashy hogwash Freddy churned out, you'd be thanking me instead of heaping your scorn and, yes, even threats upon me. I was so worried about some of the more menacing ones that I raced down to the Centerboro police, who once again dismissed me as a crank. Well, if I ever show up drawn and quartered in the middle of the town square, maybe then they'll start taking me seriously.

That said, I will now admit to being in possession of certain other manuscripts--just as some of you have long suspected. When the Bean farm burned down, I was there helping to put out the fires as I've already said. I did rescue some of their possessions from the house. I carried out some picture albums, several large boxes wrapped up in heavy mailing paper, the family Bible, silverware, antique lamps, the picture of Washington crossing the Delaware, etc., etc. Most of the stuff I simply piled up with the rest of the articles folks were bringing out of the burning house, but I did put the albums and the boxes in the trunk of my car and the rest of the small stuff on the seats to keep it all from getting dirty or wet in all the commotion.

Now, if I were a common thief, I could have kept all the stuff, and no one would have been the wiser. In all the commotion, no one saw me take any particular thing out of the house, and if something didn't turn up after the fire--say the Washington picture, for example--well, it would have been presumed lost in the flames or stolen by anybody there. But I returned the silverware, the Bible, and all the rest of the items I had put into my car for safekeeping. I simply forgot about the albums and boxes until several weeks later when I had to get my spare umbrella out of the trunk. Well, I always intended to return it, but I just never seemed to get around to it, and since no one ever asked around about it....  It wasn't until some relatively recent housecleaning that I ran across the stuff again and discovered Freddy's "poems" and the unpublished manuscripts of a number of Freddy novels.

How did these manuscripts ever wind up at the Beans' house to begin with, you ask? Well, now, everybody knows that Walter R. Brooks was a fairly regular seasonal vacationer around here and a frequent visitor at the Beans', being the self-styled "historian" of the Bean farm. The Beans 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 exactly where I found the boxes containing them. I don't know if he intended to send these manuscripts to his publisher or not. Perhaps he did and these were rejects. I did find a rejection slip for one of the manuscripts. But, after all these years, what does it matter what Mr. Brooks's intentions were? I kept the manuscripts by the chimney in my attic, where they became a bit moist and mildewed from having been stored beneath an intermittently leaky roof, now fixed.

Now that I have dried them out, I have wasted a good deal of my time reading the manuscripts, and I can report to you that they are at best no more meritorious than your typical Freddy story. Some are rather interesting, and some are not. If only you could see them you could judge for yourselves, but since that is quite impossible, you'll just have to rely upon my objectivity and good taste in literature to serve as your guide to their contents. To keep you from cluttering up my mailbox with inquiries, I will list them in the order in which they are piled up here on the floor next to me, give a short summary and rating of each. And to further demonstrate my fundamental honesty, I will entertain absolutely no requests to sell these manuscripts, which, no doubt, represent something like the Holy Grail to fanatic Freddyites and money-grubbing bookdealers. I have already asked Dougal to contact the Brooks estate and to make arrangements to transfer the manuscripts to their rightful owner or owners. In the meantime, they will be kept in a secure place--not my house, so don't bother breaking in--to minimize the possibility of theft.

For those who have accused me of writing spoilers here, you might be right--if there were ever anything worth spoiling or if the manuscripts were ever to be published.  But what are the chances of that? How about none.

I wonder if you and I have the same suspicion--an inkling that there is a good likelihood that more unpublished Freddy material is "out there." Perhaps it is languishing in a forgotten trunk in someone's attic, as did the first half of Twain's Huckleberry Finn manuscript for over ninety years until its discovery in 1990 by somebody or other's granddaughter. I don't consider all the Freddy material in existence 1/1,000,000th as important as any one page of the first two-thirds of Huckleberry Finn, but I have come to understand (at least intellectually) its appeal to those pathetic, benighted Freddyites. Perhaps if you are in possession of Freddy manuscripts, you will find a way to let the world--well, at least that infinitesimal part of the world that would evince interest if not actual gratitude--know.

Rating Scale

    0 = If I were starving, I would eat this book and my leather shoes, but I wouldn't read it to save my life.
    1 = Wretchedly septic
    2 = Not worthy to wrap hamster droppings in
    3 =
    Endurable, but only if you hold your nose
    4 =
    I might have bought this book at a jumble sale for a nickel--but I would not have spent a dime.
    5 =
    Passable as nearly-competent juvenile fiction

    Freddy the Playwright
    William Shakespeare visits Freddy in a dream brought on by Freddy's overeating at a Bean farm Fourth of July picnic and gives him several ideas for popular dramas. Freddy proceeds to compose a five-act play in nearly iambic pentameter about food groups which the animals stage before an loudly unappreciative Centerboro audience in Sibney Memorial Park. In a snit, Freddy throws rotten tomatoes at the audience, is arrested for public mayhem, confined in the Centerboro jail where he eats cake and plays croquet, and composes another play about New York high society called Twinkletoes on the Town which is backed by Mrs. Church and which meets with some critical acclaim. Though tempted to move to the big city to begin a glamorous career in the theater, Freddy declines his calling in favor of a peaceful and humble existence with all his friends on the Bean farm. The final performance of Twinkletoes is of the hey-kids-let's-put-on-a-show variety performed by the Bean farm menagerie in the big barn before a very indulgent audience, and this is a quite satisfactory end to his career as a playwright as far as Freddy is concerned. A subplot involves the Bean Family Restaurant which Jinx, Mrs. Wiggins, and Mrs. Bean open about 100 yards down the Centerboro Road.

Rating = minus 5. This manuscript is not even good enough to begin to stink which would have earned it a rating of 3. A very tedious flop, believe me. The notion of a Bean Family restaurant, though, does strike me as an idea with possibilities. One wonders if Mrs. Bean would serve up any pork dishes. Would the smell of sizzling bacon waft upon the air currents of the Bean farm? There is no evidence in the manuscript one way or the other.

    Freddy and the Robot
    After all the trouble with the celebrated clockwork twin, Uncle Ben perfects a technologically more advanced robot, this one remote-controlled, to do Mrs. Bean's housework and Mr. Bean's farm chores. At first everything goes along just hunky-dory. The robot is equally proficient with a carpet sweeper and a pitchfork, and, virtually freed from the near-slavery running a farm entails farm, William and Martha contemplate taking a vacation. However, the robot is taken over by renegade Horribles who use it to rule over Centerboro. A full-scale invasion of locusts led by Zero the horsefly complicates the plot, as does the appearance of the now nearly-grown-up "dirty-faced boy" and the reappearance of Simon and his gang who battle the Horribles for supremacy. Herb Garble is cast as the villain behind both the Horribles and Simon's crew, playing one group against the other for his own evil purposes. Eventually the animals prevail as Jacob and his fellow wasps once more save the day, assisting the repentant Horribles and the Bean farm animals to overcome Simon, Zero, and Herb in a battle royal in the streets of Centerboro. Secondary plots concern an attempt by the four mice to get Uncle Ben to build them a tiny armored car to man (or is it "mouse") against the Horribles and the redemption of the former dirty-faced boy.

Rating = 2. Semi-amusing in parts, but way too busy, confusing, and disjointed. Too many familiar faces and situations cobbled together into a mishmash of unlikely occurrences. The idea of renegade Horribles really does not obtain, does it? Too many villains, too, I'd say.

    Freddy and Weedly at the Donner Pass
    The Bean animals decide to go to Florida again, but lose their bearings and wind up in a freakish blizzard that leaves them stranded in the infamous Donner Pass. Freddy fries up some bacon and saves the crew from starvation. Less several of the original party, they reach the Pacific Ocean, lounge about on a beach, flee from movie studio thugs who want to exploit them in low-budget films, and eventually find their way back to Centerboro after battling a puma gang on the way home. The rejection slip I mentioned above was tucked into this manuscript.

Rating = 0. Almost good enough to reach the level of wretchedly septic. I guess you could call this title one of Brooks's darker fictions. There is a noticeable lack of humor in the manuscript. Mercifully, we are spared even the most offhand reference to actual cannibalism (with the exception of the title and the chapter in which the animals struggle through the Donner Pass). The animals who do not push on to California simply return home to Centerboro. I cannot understand why, with all the possible settings Mr. Brooks could have employed, he chose the Donner Pass. Was he in a saturnine mood the day he sat down at his typewriter to rough out the plot?

    Freddy and the Yeti
    A Himalayan yeti escapes from a traveling circus (a competitor of Boomschmidt's run by a thoroughly reprehensible miscreant named Mr. Gouger). The creature terrorizes Oteseraga County, knocking over hayricks, stealing from gardens, downing clothespoles, and overturning cars. After kidnapping the Bean ducks and holing up in the Grimby house, the yeti is confronted by the F.A.R. army, and several of the smaller animals suffer minor injuries in the fray. Jacob the wasp comes to the rescue as usual. The yeti, humbled, reveals a softer side, and rather than return to its bad-tempered ways or to Tibet, it agrees to join Boomschmidt's circus. A subplot involves Jinx's attempts to make the world's largest ball of twine.

Rating = 1.5. All in all, this could have been one of Brooks's finest efforts: there's classic good versus evil in the competing circuses and their owners; there's a typical, yet always interesting Brooksian subtext of redemption; there's an exotic, misunderstood antagonist; there's the familiar, completely understood Bean farm entourage. And yet it all collapses for lack of strong characterization and a patent ending.

    Freddy the Public Health Officer (A very partial manuscript)
    A mysterious parasitic skin infection plagues the Bean farm. The symptoms include blotchiness and severe itching. Freddy assumes the role of a public health officer. There are only two complete chapters in this manuscript and a third unfinished, so one assumes that Mr. Brooks thought better of continuing this bizarre narration.

Rating = ???  The less said, the better. What was he thinking?

    Freddy Conquers the World
    Freddy joins with the Martians to help defend the United States against the Soviet Bloc countries and their new, powerful confederates, the evil purple Venusians. There are pitched flying saucer battles over Moscow and Washington, and Freddy becomes the first interplanetary saucer pilot ace. Uncle Ben figures prominently as the inventor of a disintegrator ray (The Benjamin Bean Molecular Frazzler) and William Bean puts on his World War I U. S. Army uniform and joins the F.A.R. troops as they fight back an expeditionary force from occupied Canada. A new villain appears in this book, a Mr. Smurk, who attempts to convince Centerboro that it's "Better purple or red than dead."

Rating = 4.  I rather liked this one for its nicely unified plot and interesting complications. Smurk (not based, as far as I know, on anyone from Centerboro) would have been one of Mr. Brooks's best villains. The working title is a bit misleading, though. Also, the writing style Mr. Books adopts in Conquers reminds one strongly of the bland, algorithmic sketchiness of any of the Tom Swift, Jr. books.

    Freddy and Ginger
    Freddy becomes a judge for the first Annual Animal Beauty and Talent Contest ever held at the Oteseraga County Fair. As a prank, Jinx leads the winner, Ginger, one of Witherspoon's pigs, to believe that Freddy had been instrumental in convincing the rest of the panel that she should wear the crown, and, much to Freddy's dismay, she pursues him romantically for the next 150 pages. When Jinx's jest is discovered, Ginger and Freddy conspire to take their revenge. Two subplots concern a crop failure that threatens the existence of the Bean farm and the return of the freeloading Bismuths.

Rating = 1.5. Revenge is served most satisfyingly cold, but the rest of the book--Ho, ho hum!

Freddy and the Pigasus
Freddy, Mr. Camphor, and Bannister are once again discussing platitudes, old chestnuts, maxims, proverbs, and catch-phrases. Freddy becomes fixated on the old rejoinder "When pigs can fly," and it isn't long before he, Jinx, and Freddy's cousin Ernest's son Ernest, Jr. begin experimenting with flight. A bruised nose and a sprained tail later, and they haven't managed to do much better than jump out of the hayloft door and land hard. With Uncle Ben's help, an atomic-powered flying machine resembling a dirigible in the shape of a pig, the "Pigasus," is constructed. Freddy, Jinx, and Ernest, Jr. then zoom around the countryside dusting crops, delivering the mail, and barnstorming. Mr. Gnash, an airshow promoter, attempts to steal the Pigasus. There's a spectacular crash in the Adirondacks and cameo appearances by Baldy and Breckenridge.

Rating = 1. Obviously pre-Freddy the Pilot material, this book never gets off the ground. Its villain is not convincing and its plot is incoherent at times and boring throughout. Tepid dialogue. No real adventure.

Freddy and the Oteseraga Lake Monster
A mysterious creature rises in the gloaming from the depths of Oteseraga Lake and pursues fishermen, recreational boaters, and lakeside campers. After some detecting, Freddy discovers that the "monster" is fashioned out of rubber and is being employed by some businessmen to attract tourists and their money to Centerboro. Herb Garble is cast as the ringleader. The businessmen attempt to suppress Freddy's discovery and almost succeed in nailing him in that crate and shipping him to Montana. All the commotion at the lake arouses the genuine monster, an American cousin of the Loch Ness Monster, who helps Freddy thwart the businessmen. Its once peaceful existence completely disturbed, the monster is spirited away to Lake Placid by the rebuilt Pigasus.

Rating = 0.5. Way too much like Freddy and the Dragon, which was pretty much a hack job itself.

Freddy the Inventor (Partial Manuscript)
Uncle Ben takes a vacation and fails to lock up his blueprints which are discovered by the foraging mice who tell Freddy. He puts on the hat of inventor and uses Uncle Ben's plans to construct several of the inventions. Among other things, there's a helmet with flip-down X-ray goggles which Mrs. Wiggins uses to find the lost heirloom nose ring given to her long ago by her father Percy. There's a contraption for mucking out stalls in a matter of seconds. There's also a mysterious sealed envelope marked "Top Secret," and Freddy is sorely tempted to take a peek. Unfortunately we never discover what's in the envelope as this is one of Brooks's incomplete drafts. One suspects, though, that it will have an anti-rat application as there are suggestions that Simon's gang has once again returned to the Bean farm.

Rating = 1. This plot does have some possibilities, but there is really nothing novel in it. The inventions are not inspired and the stall mucker is a bit too realistic for this type of literature. The rats are old hat.

Freddy Goes to Mars
The Martians stick around for a while and enjoy their hero status after the First Interplanetary War with the Soviets and the Venusians in this, a sequel to Freddy Conquers the World. They rejoin Boomschmidt's circus for a while, but decide to return home after receiving some disturbing news: there is a newly discovered Venusian Air Force outpost on Mars. They propose that their former comrades-in-arms Freddy, Jinx, Charles, Georgie, and the mice return with them to help battle the menace. Freddy and the others agree, and it's off to Mars and a series of adventures in the ancient canyons, caves, and cities of the red planet. Amusing episodes are interspersed throughout, one particularly funny one being the first meeting between the Bean animals and the Martian Supreme Ruler during which Jinx mistakes one of the Ruler's dorsal appendages for a snake and pounces on it.

Rating = 4. Almost mediocre! Adventure, humor, not-weak plot. Martian-related stories are Mr. Brooks's forte. Unusual in that human characters appear in only the first and last chapters.

Freddy and the Bean Farm Olympics (Partial Manuscript)
Things get boring on the Bean farm again, and the animals decide to have an all-animal Olympic competition. Animal teams from Centerboro and the surrounding farms train hard for such events as the 100-yard waddle, the as-the-crow-flies-cross-country-free-for-all dash, the staying- underwater-in-the-duckpond-holding-your-breath competition, and the hay-wagon pulling contest. Boomschmidt's Circus happens to be passing through Centerboro at the time, so the circus animals join in the fun.

Rating = 0.  Terrible! It took Brooks only two chapters to realize that this one was going nowhere.

Freddy and the Time Machine (Notes)
For this title there are just a few scanty notes on one side of a single sheet of paper. Evidently Mr. Brooks envisioned a story wherein Freddy travels back and forth in the past, meeting various luminaries (such as Shakespeare, Napoleon, and Leonardo da Vinci) and witnessing famous historical events. The last words on the sheet are "5000 AD?" which suggests that Brooks intended Freddy to venture into the future as well. The origin of the time machine is not explained, nor can one imagine how Brooks would have dealt with the paradoxes of time travel.

Rating = ???  Not much to go on here. Seems likely that if this work had ever been published, it wouldn't have met with much commercial success as Mr. Brooks may have had an "educational" or "serious" intent.

Freddy and the Giant Rat of Centerboro
Freddy dons his deerstalker once again and employs his Sherlockian skills to solve the mystery of the Giant Rat of Centerboro, a mysterious and immense rat-like inhabitant of the alleyways and shadowy corners of town who has been kidnapping household pets and holding them for ransom, breaking into stores, and generally disrupting the peaceful Centerboro milieu. On a tip from a group of "city" mice, Freddy tracks the creature to the furnace room beneath the Grand Palace Motion Picture Theatre. We discover that the "Giant Rat" is actually the long-absent Freginald who is being forced by Simon's gang (which threatens to sabotage Boomschmidt's Circus which Freginald manages) to
carry out their criminal activities. It's the F.A.R. to the rescue and battles rage again on the streets of Centerboro.  Of course, the rats are vanquished.

Rating = 0.5. Implausible. Dumb, even. All-too-familiar plotting and characters. And what a great story it could have been, even with Freginald as a main character!

    Freddy the Submariner (Multipage Detailed Outline)
    More hijinks beneath the surface of Oteseraga Lake as Uncle Ben builds a miniature submarine to explore its depths. In Freddy and the Oteseraga Lake Monster it is revealed that the centuries-old creature had been living in an extensive system of interconnecting submarine and subterranean caves and tunnels which lead to the Hudson River. Freddy, Jinx, Charles, Georgie, and a stowaway--Ezra--now explore the passageways all the way to the mouth of the Hudson River and back. Among their discoveries: pirate treasure, phosphorescent fungus, an empire of rats and their woodchuck slaves, and a cache of Revolutionary War relics and weapons. Despite Ezra's best attempts to sabotage the animals' efforts to liberate the woodchucks, the rats are overthrown with the help of one of the cannons. The fungus comes in handy.

Rating: 1.5.  Formulaic. Too busy. Same old crew from the farm. Simon is unaccountably a no-show. The most commendable part of the narrative is that Ezra becomes a rounded character, which isn't saying a heck of a lot. I'm surprised Jacob doesn't show up to save the day.

    Freddy Goes to College (Authorship is uncertain.)
    Freddy finishes high school and enrolls in nearby Hamilton College where he becomes a liberal arts major and football team mascot. When he tries to join a snooty fraternity, an anti-animal faction blackballs him, causing a campus-wide split between those in favor of higher education for animals and those against. The president of the college, one Professor Abitwahr, conspires with the anti-animal element to rid the campus of Freddy by having him framed and then expelled for cheating on an English literature test. Mr. Camphor, an alumnus, forces Abitwahr to back down by threatening to withhold his generous annual contribution to the endowment fund. Interesting episodes involve an old-fashioned panty raid, minor hazing incidents, and a march on the dining hall where roast pork is being served up at the annual meeting of the college's trustees and where Freddy delivers a fiery peroration. Freddy turns down a hastily proffered scholarship from the chastened trustees and returns to the farm without a degree.

Rating = 1.5. Borrrrrring! Preachy. Moralistic. Teeeedious. This seems to be a flimsy attempt by Mr. Brooks (if indeed he is the author) to combine juvenile fiction and socially conscious literature. The panty raid incident is so uncharacteristic of Brooks's other works, published and unpublished, that it casts serious doubt on the authorship of this title.

    Wiggins for Mayor
    When the mayor of Centerboro decides not to run for reelection, two candidates emerge from the body politic. One is Herb Garble, former school board member of Centerboro and prosecuting attorney of Oteseraga County. The other is a superannuated former mayor, one Major Sibney (US Army ret.), who has been brought out of retirement by what appears to be a "nice people's party" of some sort to defeat Herb Garble. When Mr. Sibney falls off a ladder (had a rung been sawn through by Garble's election team?) while putting up a campaign poster, the animals and all decent people of Centerboro prevail upon Mrs. Wiggins, President of the F.A.R., to run for mayor. What follows is exactly what you would expect--chicanery and conniving on the part of Garble, justifiable counterpunching on the part of the animals and their human allies, and the eventual defeat of Garble. The story ends with an amusing inaugural celebration (during which Garble is put in stocks) which raises the overall rating from a 1 to...

Rating = 2. I concede that Wiggins for President (Freddy the Politician in its later incarnations) is possibly a good read. However, this manuscript is way too derivative. Doesn't it seem too, too familiar to you? Don't they all?   

    Freddy the Salesman (Partial Outline)
    Freddy and the animals dream up a home industry--the production and sale of well-rotted manure for home gardening. Hank and the cows are enlisted to work on the production end, and Freddy takes on the job of selling "Bean Farm Deluxe" to discerning individuals and garden clubs. That's about it. Notes suggest a rivalry between the Bean farm animals and those from the Macy, Witherspoon, and Schermerhorn farms that develops into a merger and then a manure monopoly.

Rating = 0.5. What a buncha "crap"! Although, if you think about it, it does have some comic possibilities.  But who wants to think about it? Almost as bad in its conception as the "Public Health Officer" storyline. Yecccchhh!

    Freddy Goes Mountain Climbing
    The peaks of the springtime Adirondacks beckon and soon there is another Bean Farm expedition that wends its way north, this time not quite so far north. In what appears to be a coincidental anticipation of Deliverance, there is a disastrous canoe spill in the treacherous rapids of the Ausable River and an ugly encounter with some backwoods types. Stumbling across Freddy who is alone in camp making pancakes while the other animals cavort in the nearby river, they mistake him for a camper at first, but upon hearing him squeal like a pig when stung by a yellow jacket, they determine to turn him and the more edible members of the farm band into dinner, and the chase is on. It's over the mountains and through the wood--until, of course, the animals make it back safely to the farm.

Rating = 1. Disappointing given the dramatic possibilities. Predictable. Hackneyed. Conventional villains. A bust.   

    Freddy and the Secret Mission
    Upon hearing of the of the A.B.I.'s  investigative potency and Freddy's prowess as a detective, the F.B.I. enlists Freddy's assistance in tracking down a gang of bank robbers rumored to be hiding out in the vicinity of Centerboro. Freddy infiltrates the gang disguised as an Irish thug and affecting his usual terrible brogue. Mr. Pomeroy, Horace, Jacob and his crew, and Sniffy Wilson and his family join together to find and defeat the robbers in their secret lair--an old favorite, the Grimby house. There's an air attack by Jacob, chemical warfare, a siege, and a massive frontal assault. Freddy chips a tooth. Of course, the action ends with the rout and arrest of the no-goodniks. Brook's chief villain in this one is "Murderer" O'Toole, named not for his crimes against humanity, but against the English language. Many humorous malapropisms and neologisms, which are, however, not enough to lift this dud to any whole-number rating level.

Rating = 0.25. All the usual folderol and gimcrackery. Ho, hum. Reminds me of the bland, lifeless plotting of children's television. Offensive stereotyping of the Irish.  

    Freddy at the Center of the Earth (Fragmentary Notes)
    The caves described in Freddy and the Dragon are explored by the animals who soon find themselves lost in an ever-descending maze of passageways. It is difficult to make sense of the notes which are scrawled on one side of a 3" X 5" water-spotted, mouse-chewed index card, but they seem to suggest a hollow earth, an ancient, thriving civilization of superintelligent ants, a prominent role for Jerry Peters and the Webbs, a connection to the Martians, and imminent apocalyptic events.

Rating = ??? This one is impossible to call. It sounds like a mishmash of Jules Verne, Wells, and Burroughs. I wonder where he was going with this one. Could this have been conceived as the last book of the Freddy series? It's impossible to date, but Mr. Brooks's demise shortly after publication of Dragon suggests that it might have been.

    Freddy and the Ghost
    As it turns out, the ghost of Grandfather Bezaliel is more than a figment of the 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 barn, the pigpen, the Big Woods, and Centerboro in a quest for the map to the fortune he had hidden in his pre-demise days. Initially frightened by the barnyard materializations of Bezaliel, the animals discover that he means no harm, and they enthusiastically join the hunt. The Brooks characters based on Herb Garble and me are the antagonists once again. They discover Bezaliel's map in a trash-'n-treasure store and plan to loot the fortune. There is a dramatic haunting of the Underdunk mansion, an ectoplasmic invasion of "my" real estate office, a midnight race to the location of the treasure in 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 the Beans, who use it to buy vacation property for themselves and the animals on Oteseraga Lake.

Rating: 5. Good "spirited" fun! Although Brooks does not feature "real" ghosts in the published Freddy series, I suspect he had no bias against doing so. After all, we do have, for better or worse, Jimmy Takes Vanishing Lessons. The action 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 the Musician
    Frustrated in his attempts at fingerpicking, Freddy lays his guitar down and, for a time, takes up the steam calliope in Boomschmidt's Circus. Not satisfied with the simple tunes he is limited to by the nature of the calliope, Freddy prevails upon Uncle Ben to invent an ingenious contraption which enables him to produce chords, glissandi, and all sorts of other effects by pressing single keys with his trotters. At this point, there are about ninety pages of water-damaged manuscript that I simply could not tease apart. The next section of readable text concerns the attempts of Freddy's agent, Mr. Quaver, to cheat him out of his earnings as the "Piano-Pounding Porker," as Freddy is known on stage. The rest of the book resolves this conflict as Freddy and Quaver travel from venue to venue. The only semi-entertaining episode in this plodder involves a bunch of heckling local yokels who steadfastly refuse to be impressed by a porcine pianist.. At the conclusion of the story, Freddy gets booked for New Year's Eve at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Rating:  Zero. <Yawn! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz....hummmmm...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz>

    Freddy vs. Goliath (Marginal Notes on a New York Central Train Schedule)
    All I can make out of this one is that Goliath, a gorilla who has escaped from a zoo, is discovered hiding in the Bean hayloft. There's a Mr. Gnasher on Goliath's trail. Freddy and Whibley are somehow going to be instrumental in Goliath's obtaining his freedom. The Pigasus is mentioned. The "vs." suggests some initial conflict among the animals, but what it might be remains unknown.

Rating: ??? Another hard-to-call one. Doesn't seem very promising. Evidently Brooks, too, recognized the hopelessness of it. An animal so closely resembling a human being seems somehow out of place in the Freddy canon, doesn't it?

    To and Fro
    I believe this to be an early version of To and Again which Brooks had rejected, but could not bring himself to discard. It starts out with "Charles, the rooster,..." and ends with the same doggerel: "And however they wander, both pigs and men/Are always glad to get home again." But there are significant differences between this manuscript and To and Again. The animals never reach Florida. Instead they bog down in Georgia. There are no alligators, no gold, no burglars, no dirty-faced boy, and no man with a black mustache. There are diamondback rattlesnakes, quicksand, a hurricane, and poachers. There is a lot of chasing around. There are narrow escapes. Freddy's tail comes completely uncurled for perhaps the first time. There is a return home in a brougham.

Rating: 0. The plot bogs down. It lurches and limps along as though on a wooden leg. It's just "blah, blah, and more blah." The characters are wooden, too. As banal as To and Again is, it is much more compelling than this foundering flop. Do you know how you'll read almost anything to wile away the time when you're stuck in the bathroom? Believe me, you'd choose the back of the Dixie Cup box over this.

    The Life and Times of Freddy the Pig (Two Volumes)
    The first volume of this magnum opus is evidently an Encyclopedia Freddiana of sorts, complete with his lineage, accounts of his early and late childhood adventures and misadventures, the circumstances of his arrival at the Bean farm, and a look into his "private life."  We are also given information on all the rest of the Bean farm animal entourage. The second volume is nonfiction and includes a collection of many critical reviews of the books and some congratulatory essays contributed by various literary acquaintances of Mr. Brooks. There is also an entire chapter devoted to the cryptographic system Brooks employed to conceal humorous messages and philosophical speculations throughout the series up to the year 1956 and the publication of Freddy and Simon the Dictator. Another chapter is a complete list of all the human characters in the series and Brooks's commentaries on his inspirational sources and his characterizations. A number of black and white photographs of Centerboro landmarks accompany this manuscript. Brooks had written extensive notes on the backs of those photos and clearly meant to include them in a chapter devoted to the real-life Centerboro. Mention is made of a final chapter which was to have included many of the Wiese illustrations that hadn't passed muster for the published series, but there are no such illustrations included with this manuscript.

Rating: 2. I suppose this work would have been of interest to some Freddyite scholar; however, it seems little more to me than much more than the little anyone would want to know about the Freddy series and its foundations. I mean, who cares? I gave it a "2" instead of a "1" because I find the encryption code both interesting and useful! I may even use it myself....

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