Synopses & Reviews of Unpublished Freddy Manuscripts

(Manuscripts Sent in by Readers)

Since I finished up reviewing the unpublished Freddy manuscripts in my possession, I received a number of what contributors from my neck of the woods and the rest of the planet claim to be original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. In the interest of disclosing to Freddyites everywhere more information concerning the subset of The Truth™ containing Mr. Brooks's literary scribblings about the Bean farm and its citizenry, I now present to you my summaries and reviews of the manuscripts readers have sent to me--even though the effort causes me to question my mental health. Why I persist in presenting this rubbish, wasting valuable bandwidth and squandering what few mental resources I have left, is really quite beyond my ability to comprehend. Am I providing an invaluable service to the scholars of the Freddyite community? It beats me! Is anyone reading these synopses and ratings at all? It beats me!

In any case, be assured that Axon Spardoze (editor-in-chief of Mr. Eha's Place) and I have spared no little effort in an exhaustive examination and scrupulous analysis of every single document, measuring each against certain easily discerned aspects of style in the published canon, to determine its authenticity, and that the manuscripts reviewed below have passed muster and are the real McCoy. If I receive more manuscripts, I will undertake to review them, too, so it would be a good idea to keep checking back here now and then for future additions to this page.

Here for your consideration are my summaries and reviews of what readers from around the planet suggest are original treatments and drafts in various states of completion of Freddy titles which either did not make it to the desk of Mr. Brooks's editor at Knopf or, having made it, never took up space on bookstore shelves--in most cases for obvious reasons.

Rating Scale

    0 = If I were starving, I might 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 Scientist
    (Submitted by N.P. of South Pharisee, NY: Typewritten manuscript)

    Freddy's favorite class at Centerboro High School turns out to be a general science course, taught by a Mr. Burns, a stock character who mutters to himself and picks at his frayed sleeve ends. Before long, Freddy transforms his pigpen into a science laboratory of sorts. Amidst the bubbling retorts and fumes, Freddy, attired in a cut-down white lab coat from the Busy Bee, conducts experiments in biology, chemistry, and physics, one of which results in the blowing off of the pigpen's roof and another of which causes Jinx's tail to become frizzed out like a bottle brush until the last chapter. A practical result of Freddy's interest in scientific experimentation is his emergency reanimation of Theodore the frog who has been lethally savaged by a weasel. Freddy uses a modification of Galvani's apparatus to effect Theodore's resurrection, which also permanently relieves the lovable amphibian of the necessity of stuttering while collecting his thoughts.

Rating = 0. Although Freddy as a blubbery Mr. Wizard is not without its comic possibilities, this book fails to deliver on both the levels of entertainment and education. All the business about the scientific method probably would not have engaged the dim mentality of the average juvenile (or adult) reader, and the reanimation chapter with its sparks and twitchings is off-putting in its gruesome imagery.

    Freddy and the Badminton Team from Mars
    (Submitted by A. K. of Tushville, NY: A handful of fragmentary notes in the margins of the Saturday, December 18, 1954 issue of the Centerboro Guardian)

    The Martians first encountered in Freddy and the Men from Mars return to Earth with a mania for badminton. It seems that the Martians have a similar sport on their home planet involving the batting back and forth of the elastic eggs of some Martian reptilian species. Unable to get up a good game here on Earth, the disgruntled Martians vaporize the planet.

Rating = ???  I had a great deal of difficulty deciphering and sequencing these marginal notes, but it is clear that they suggest an initial attempt at a sequel to Men from Mars. However, the premise is so utterly preposterous that Mr. Brooks finished off the notes in an obvious fit of exasperation reflected in the obliteration of Earth. In my opinion, he would have done well to finish off the entire series about this time, too, and spared us the likes of Freddy and the Dragon.

    Freddy Runs a Restaurant
    (Submitted by J. S. of Centerboro, NY: Outline and notes on a Centerboro Hotel menu and several napkins)

    The bacon is sizzling and the coffee is steaming as Freddy and the other Bean Farm animals open a roadside restaurant just down the Centerboro Road from the First Animal Bank. The rolls are hot from the oven and the money is rolling in until good ol' Simon and his boys inject their noisome selves into the plot to resume their ongoing campaign against the Bean Farm animals. They mix plaster of Paris into the flour, for instance, and encourage the Oteseraga County birds to picket the restaurant and dive-bomb customers because there are no insect plates on the menu. The rats' machinations culminate with their spreading the vicious rumor among the human population of Centerboro that animals get preferential seating at "Freddy's Place."

Rating = 0. Until I got a gander at these notes, I had always thought that a twenty-seventh volume with Freddy as a restaurateur would, if at least competently written, raise the overall score of the published series to "slightly below average." Now I wonder.

    The Stupendous Frederick
    (Submitted by 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 must be nothing less than 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, a Mr. Grabcoigne, and within a single month Freddy is rolling in dough. Before long, it is quite the dandy Frederick (as he now 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 partying. However, unbeknownst to Freddy, Mr. Grabcoigne has been under investigation for illegal stock market activities, 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 unnatural in its seriousness. Too serious, too, is the main theme of The Stupendous Frederick. It would be completely beyond the grasp of children or most adults. The ending is, of course, entirely bogus.

    Freddy on the Erie Canal
    (Submitted by L.H. of Plutarch Mills, NY: partial typewritten manuscript: chapters 3 through 7)

    It is not exactly clear what leads up to the action of the third through seventh chapters of this manuscript. As chapter 3 begins, Freddy, Jinx, Minx, Robert, Charles, and Hank are well into an excursion along the Erie Canal. Hank ambles along the towpath pulling their little packet boat westward toward Buffalo, and the animals are having a pleasant little vacation for themselves until they are hijacked by a family that makes the Winches seem almost decent. Threatening the hostage Minx with grave bodily harm, the Grubberts compel the others to assist them in a series of canalside scams, including an actually hilarious play that they stage for "womenfolk only" in Syracuse. Even though the rest of the manuscript is missing, we all know darn well that the Grubberts will get theirs and the animals will return once again to the Bean Farm haven, don't we.

    Rating = 0.5. I give it a 0.5 for the play performed in Syracuse, the only part of the story that delivers some lively, imaginative writing. Otherwise, I would have to rate it with a negative integer. But, isn't this a storyline we've heard before? Don't the Grubberts and their antics remind one of the King and the Duke in Huckleberry Finn? Yes, they certainly do! Also dragging the rating of Erie Canal down is the more than usual number of irritating "poetic" and "musical" intrusions into the storyline (such as it is), and particularly annoying is Freddy's rewrite of "Low Bridge, Everybody Down," the actual first verse of which vs. the Freddy-made abomination I present below:

Actual

I've got a mule, and her name is Sal.
Fif-teen miles on the Er-ie canal.
She's a good ol’ worker and a good ol’ pal.
Fif-teen miles on the Er-ie can-al.
We've hauled some barges in our day,
Filled with lum-ber, coal, and hay,
And ev'ry inch of the way we know
From Al-ba-ny to Buff-a-lo OH!

Freddy's Version

I've got a horse, and his name is Hank.
Fif-teen miles on the Er-ie canal.
He's a good old worker, like an army tank.
Fif-teen miles on the Er-ie canal.
We've hauled ourselves both north and south,
travelin' and livin' from hand to mouth.
It's been a long haul, yes, oh, don't you know
On all our travels from Cen-ter-bor-OH!

    Freddy and Simon the Red
    (Submitted by A. L. of Albany, NY: Partial manuscript, typewritten with lightly penciled annotations)

    This manuscript is a rough draft of what clearly must have evolved into 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 at times), and his viewpoint is even more clear in this unpublished document 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 is an inept attempt to promote our glorious republic and disparage the communist ideology for a small fry audience. Would juveniles ever have been interested in the serious civic and governmental issues involved in such a promotion? I doubt it, too. I give Simon the Red a "1" for its atmosphere which resembles that of an Italian neorealistic film, but the rest of it is pure propagandistic tripe of the most blatant sort on a par with, say, a People's Republic of China opera set in a tractor factory.

    Freddy the Beatnik
    (Submitted by T. M. of Toronto, Ontario: Complete handwritten text)

    In this work, we are presented with a "story" which begins in a beat underworld set symbolically just off Main Street, Centerboro, continues on a cross-country road trip, and ends back 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 can be heard emanating from their 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 establishment of staid old Centerboro quickly determines that the coffee shop and its aberrant clientele must go, and a clash develops between Freddy and his "beatnik" buddies and Centerboro's self-appointed guardians of Western culture. Freddy gets fed up. He hops 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 postwar 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 and lifeless dreams of the postwar United States and the attempts of the hip to elude the squareness of it all, and rather than tackle the complex phenomenon of "beatness," Mr. Brooks produced nothing more than a episodic mishmash of stereotyped characters and situations. Of course, though, why would we expect much more given that this was to be just another Freddy book. I wonder if Mr. Brooks knew Jack Kerouac or read any of his insipid prose, because the second half of Freddy the Beatnik sounds suspiciously like Sal Paradise's first cross-country trip, but then it could all be just an amazing coincidence. Coincidence or not, Beatnik doesn't compare with Kerouac's literary achievement which itself doesn't obtain any great distinction in my opinion. 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.

    Once Again To and Again
    (Submitted by L.H. of Plutarch Mills, NY: Complete bound typewritten text)


    This time it's off to the Antarctic and an adventure among the penguins! I am nearly positive that this manuscript was inspired by Byrd's Penguin 1 "snow cruiser," a photograph of which I have published on Picture Page #19, but I have no way to prove this. Anyhow, L.H. provides us with another unpublished clunker from her store of manuscripts. Freddy and the old Florida and North Pole travelers (sans Ferdinand) depart for points farther south, ambling down through Central America and along the Pacific coast of South America until they reach the windswept regions of Patagonia from whence they embark on a voyage to the Antarctic on an abandoned whaling vessel which they find and repair. After a couple of adventures, the most notable of which involves the animals' nearly dying of exposure and their being kept alive by the body heat of hundreds of penguins which huddle around them, they find themselves stranded on an ice floe. Eventually they are deposited in Tierra del Fuego, but not before they are attacked by a giant squid which is driven off by a friendly sperm whale. The animals retrace their route back home, outrunning and outsmarting an assortment of hostile humans and animals. A helpful parrot joins them as they take a "shortcut" through the western regions of Brazil. He finds a new home in the Centerboro Hotel, where grandly perched in the lobby, he becomes quite a draw.

    Rating = 0.  This wretched sequel is even more abominable than the silly and inane North Pole. The sensation of trudging along a gradual upward incline while reading through this manuscript is unavoidable. One develops a mild headache in Mexico. It begins to throb in the Andes. By the time the animals reach the southernmost tip of Argentina one wants to hurl the book at a wall and take two 500 mg. ibuprofen tablets. But one plods on so as to render a fair judgment of the manuscript for the visitors to his site. The penguins are unbearably dull, completely lacking in individuality just as one would expect. The cheering prospect of finishing the book once the plot turns the corner and the animals reach Tierra del Fuego is quickly destroyed by the chatty parrot who becomes less and less charming and more and more grating and exasperating, even more so than Samuel Jackson who, in my opinion, reigns as the most disagreeable and gravelling character in the published series.

    Freddy's Son Freddy
    (Submitted by J. H. of Orenville, OH: Chapter notes on two wide-ruled lined pages, dated 1953)

    The storyline roughed out in these brief notes has Freddy having been married to Witherspoon's sow Ginger "a couple of years ago" and having become in the meanwhile the father of a son, Frederick, Jr. The "comic" misadventures owing to confusions between Freddy père and Freddy fils are not very comic at all. There's confusion when the Freddies are mistaken for each other at the movies, Dixon's, the Centerboro Hotel, and the circus. The simple expedient of calling the young Freddy "Junior" is raised early on as a solution to the problem, but it does not appeal to the little fellow who obstinately hangs onto "Freddy" for the pleasure of mixing people up. Freddy, Sr. and Mrs. Wiggins and her sisters do, however, come up with a plan to teach young Freddy a lesson and to eliminate all the confusion. The manuscript, however, does not provide the details of this plan.

Rating = 0: The plot of this piece of junk could not possibly have been sustained for more than 20 large-print pages at best. Another strike against this story idea is the implied "manliness," let us say, of Freddy, who is, I think, much easier to tolerate as a merely male (if not rather androgynous) character.

By the way, while not a manuscript, this photograph on loan to me by J. H. does much more than suggest the connections between the bovine characters Mrs. Wiggins, Mrs. Wogus, and Mrs. Wurzburger to their real-life counterparts. J. H. informs me that he found this picture tucked in the envelope containing the notes for Freddy's Son Freddy. The farmers in the snapshot below are identified on the back as (from left to right) Wogus, Wiggins, and Wurzburger who are showing off some fine heifers at a livestock auction. You can find more information about these farmers and their wives by clicking here and reading the entry about Mrs. Millicent Wiggins (etc.) on the "What happened to ?" page.

Misters Wogus, Wiggins, and Wurzburger
Misters Wogus, Wiggins, and Wurzburger

 

    Freddy and the ?
    (Submitted by B. G. of Cooperstown, NY: handwritten outline on a standard business envelope)

    Yes, Freddy and the ?  is the title at the top of the outline which strongly suggests that these notes represent a glimpse into the very first moments of the birth of a Freddy (ahem) plot. Here is the entire outline exactly as it appears on the envelope.

Freddy and the ?

Ch.1. Uncle B. finishes spaceship &
F. hatches Celestial Tours plan.

Ch. 2. Grenville arrives @ Bean farm.
F. opens ticket booth at 1st AB.

Ch. 3. Trouble w Gr. & preparations
for 1st tour. Passenger list.

Ch. 4. Take off. Stowaway Gr. discovered
en route. Landing on Mars. Exploring desert.

Ch. 5: Martian city. Gr. steals
Martian jewels. Farewell to Martians.

Ch. 5. Next stop: Jupiter moon Europa.
Martians chase. Grenville confesses.

Ch. 6. Jewels returned. Martians join
tour. Two-Clicks introduced.

Ch. 7. Joint expedition to Pluto.
Plutonians attack & a narrow escape.
Near disaster in asteroid belt.

Ch. 8. Return to Mars for refueling.
Farewell to Two-Clicks &
back to Earth & home.


Rating = minus 5.  It's difficult to say whether this storyline revised became Spaceship or whether it was meant to be a separate story altogether. In either instance, it would not have been worth the paper necessary for a single printing run in my estimation. The published science fiction titles in the canon are transparent attempts to cash in on a growing market for juvenile science fiction novels as witnessed by the success of the Winston Science Fiction Classics series of hardcover novels published in the 1950s through the early 1960s and the popularity of radio and, later, television science fiction series. The outline of Freddy and the ? presents a simplistic storyline with cartoonish characters and contrived conflicts which may have worked as an artless Flash Gordon serial, but which would have bored any juvenile reader with a brain larger than a pencil eraser.

    Freddy and the Croquet Team from Mars
    (Submitted by A. P. of Gomorrah Center, NY.  Hastily scribbled multipage treatment on Centerboro Hotel stationery. Mr. P. informs me that he fished this manuscript out of a wastepaper basket in the lobby of the hotel when he worked there as a custodian many years ago.)


    Doesn't this title sound familiar? Of course! It is another altogether inept attempt to get the Martians back to Earth for another science fiction adventure following Freddy and the Men from Mars. As far as I have been able to determine, this title predates the manuscript of Freddy and the Badminton Team from Mars, and it is much worse in conception, if that is possible. Croquet is the sport of choice at the Centerboro jail--everyone who is the least bit familiar with the published canon knows this. But why croquet? As you no doubt already know, it was a demonstration sport in the 1900 Paris Olympics, but the silly game never became particularly popular in the U.S. until the 1960s, though your average backyard croquet game had been around for quite a while before then. Croquet actually became quite the rage in Centerboro in the '30s through the '50s, and its vogue may have inspired Brooks to entertain the idea of a croquet team from Mars. However, the absurdity of alien creatures no more than two feet tall swinging croquet mallets simply does not obtain any more than the preposterous notion of an interplanetary croquet competition sponsored by Centerboro businessmen. (Yes, I know that readers don't object to Brooks's diminutive Martians hefting standard baseball bats in Baseball Team from Mars, but for some reason unfathomable to me, they simply and typically overlook that implausibility.) I dislike this manuscript intensely, because I am once again trotted out as a felonious cad. From what I can make of these notes, I am supposed to steal the Martians' flying saucer and deliver it to the "Rooskis," as the repellent Mrs. Peppercorn calls them, and somehow in the process spoil the Centerboro croquet team's chances of winning their semi-final match on this planet before the finals on Mars.

Rating = 0. Another ridiculous storyline and another slander upon my reputation! I must say that I resent this miscalling of my character as I am as patriotic as any fellow American who served in WW II, and I would certainly never consider the idea of selling anything to the Russians-- except, perhaps, during one of my Internet Yard Sales, which, by the way, never contain anything that could possibly threaten national security or upset the Attorney General of the United States of America. Anyway, I surely would have sued everyone in sight and won handily had this clinker ever arrived on bookstores shelves. As far as its literary merits, it is hard to discern any at all since the manuscript is a mere treatment, but considering the artistic level of Baseball Team and  Saucer Plans (into which this storyline obviously bifurcated and evolved), it cannot rate more than a zero.

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

    A not-too-difficult to date manuscript, this, although rather hard to decipher. It must have 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 prestidigitator, 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 mole character Samuel Jackson, who is compact enough to fit the bill and accustomed to carrying on conversations in the dark. As it is, this subterranean character is not employed by Mr. Brooks until the last and most wretched book Dragon, and thank goodness for that, for is there a more irritating 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 fairly clear that Brooks had pretty much decided which scenario of several to pursue as he had underlined the last of these possibilities which I quote from the placemats: "Someone (?) notices that F's lips don't move at all? SJ falls asleep or becomes ill? Rats kidnap S. J. & Ezra takes his place & make (sic) rude comments about audience members!"  It looks as though Brooks liked that last one, doesn't it. That's about all that I can make out 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 tired as everyone else of the rats as villains, I would 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 Brooks would have cooked up--but it is pleasant to imagine all by oneself.

    Freddy and the Crazy Day
    (Submitted by Mrs. L. McK. of Toronto, Ontario. Complete typewritten manuscript)

Freddy and the Crazy Day

At last the text has emerged from limbo, but unfortunately it falls far short of expectations and rather flat on its face. Mrs. McK. came across the manuscript after having sent me the dustjacket some time ago. She cannot explain how her late husband came into possession of it or why he would have hidden it in a potato bin in their root cellar. In any case, this is the only unpublished manuscript to emerge so far for which an actual dustjacket exists. (For more on the jacket, click here.) In this tale, Freddy and the whole Bean menagerie face one misadventure after another in the space of twenty-four hours. It all begins with a horrendous rainfall which lasts for a week and swells all the streams and creeks in the vicinity of Centerboro. A deluge ensues and the "crazy day" begins. The animals and their Boomschmidt Circus friends have been rehearsing a play in the barn when a sudden torrent engulfs the farm and sends them sailing off in all directions. The main story concerns Mrs. Wiggins, resplendent in the role and robes of Queen Victoria, who winds up in Tushville, where a group of the Tushville toughs familiar to us from Freddy Plays Football telephone a ransom demand to the Bean farm. Freddy rides Jerry, the Boomschmidt rhinoceros, to her rescue, and together they give the bad boys more than they bargained for and rescue Mrs. Wiggins. A subplot involves Jinx, who has his paws full after having floated to Centerboro where he encounters a legion of rats including Simon and his offspring who have been forced from their hidey-holes in now-flooded basements. Jinx rallies the Centerboro cats, and the feline army vanquishes the rodents, rounding them up and forcing them onto a dislodged canal barge to float off to who knows where.

    Rating = 1. Though not exactly an awful read, this book is not exactly good enough to rise to the level of mediocrity. It leaves one with the sense of having wasted a couple of hours of one's life in the reading, but it is difficult to say precisely why. Is it the banal characterizations? Is it the thoroughly predictable plot? Is it the lack of an entertaining main conflict? Is the the lack of even a hint of a theme? Yes, that must be it. I have to rate the thing "1" rather than "0" because of the cover art which, though busy, is somewhat droll.

    Freddy the Ringmaster
    (Submitted by D. C. of Plutarch Mills, NY. Handwritten outline and notes in pencil on the first twenty-nine pages of a Big Chief writing tablet.)

It doesn't take long for a major complication in the peaceful life of Centerboro to surface in this story in the form of Phineas Bile, a well-to-do ne'er-do-well who has recently moved to Centerboro. He is a joyless spoilsport who cannot resist any opportunity to drizzle upon or completely ruin anyone else's contentment or good time. At first, Bile confines himself to complaining about everything in sight in editorials to the Guardian, which is being run by Herb Garble. He gripes, for example, about the Centerboro Hotel manager's predilection for verbosity, the lack of efficient service at the Busy Bee, the choice of first-run movies at the theater, the permissive atmosphere at the jail, animals freely walking about downtown Centerboro, etc. When Boomschmidt's retinue comes to town, we learn that Bile has a particular and intense dislike of circuses, owing to his having been frightened by a lion act as a child. Bile secretly conspires with Herb Garble, who has his own reasons to dislike Mr. Boomschmidt and his operation, to ruin the circus. They start by inventing rumors sure to keep the paying public away. For example, they secretly plant stories about Centerboro of Leo's having clawed inquisitive children who stood too close to his cage while the circus wintered in down South. Mr. Boomschmidt loses his usual equanimity and suffers a bout of nervous prostration as the usual crowds dwindle to nothing, and Freddy volunteers to replace him as ringmaster until the source of the stories is discovered and the perpetrators' hash settled. Their girth is about the same, and with Mrs. Bean's taking a nip and tuck here and there, Freddy slips into Orestes' outfit and role as ringmaster of the "Stupendous and Unexcelled Circus." Of course, Freddy and his usual cohorts do their usual peeping and prying--and blah, blah, blah, you know all the rest.

Rating = 1. How tiresome! Too much like every other completely average Freddy story! But this is not to say that Freddy the Ringmaster would have been an average children's story, for the average Freddy story is significantly below any known measure of literary ordinariness. However, I find the antisocial and bitter Phineas Bile to be a somewhat interesting character, since he does not display the usual flatness of affect of the other Brooksian villains, and for this reason, I cannot rate this otherwise miserable manuscript a zero. Here we have an antagonist who is not motivated by money, greed, or mere vindictiveness, as are most of the canon's bad guys. This story might have become a semi-interesting psychological study if it did not immediately descend into the utterly familiar and formulaic ruts of the published titles.

    Bannister Saves the Day
    (Submitted by G.W. of Albany: Four typewritten chapters: #1, 2, 4, and 5)

A spin-off story only loosely related to the Freddy canon, Bannister Saves the Day would have been a tale of detection somewhat in the vein of the Sherlock Holmes stories. C. Jimson Camphor plays Watson to Bannister's Holmes as they delve into a series of burglaries about Centerboro which seem to lack a common thread, but nonetheless suggest an underlying connection in their seeming unrelatedness. First there is the disappearance of Mrs. Peppercorn's bicycle. Then the high school is broken into, and the business teacher's typewriter is missing from its place at the front of the classroom. Next, three potted palm trees are taken from the Centerboro Hotel lobby. The Busy Bee is ransacked, but the only items missing from inventory are a gardener's dibble and a package of scouring pads. Mrs. Church reports missing an ornate handle in the shape of a toad's head from an outdoor water spigot, and a pair of Dr. Wintersip's braces are snatched from his clothesline. What is the meaning of the sudden onset of such mysterious thefts? The sheriff is baffled and calls upon the citizenry of Centerboro for assistance. Bannister, a fan of detection fiction and student of crime, steps in to save the day, and by the end of Chapter 5, he and Mr. Camphor are hot on the trail of a new lead. A bewildering clue has been found at the sight of the latest theft: Mr. Weezer's glasses have been stolen from his dresser, a button from an old frock coat is found on Mr. Weezer's windowsill, and a figure dressed in a black top hat has been spotted leaving the scene of the crime on a pair of stilts.

Rating = 4. Now this story had some possibilities! We'll never know, of course, "whodunit" or why, but the writing is lively, the strangeness level of the plot arouses an agreeable degree of cogitation on the part of the reader, and the complete absence (at least from these four chapters) of any talking animals is most refreshing, although there is a passing reference to the detective firm of Frederick and Wiggins early on.

    Freddy Goes to School
    (Submitted by P. J. of Centerboro.  38 leaves of crumpled, wide-ruled notebook paper.)

    Freddy goes to high school in the published Freddy Plays Football, the only instance of his having been on the receiving end of a formal education in the entire series--at least as far as I know. In Football, Mr. Brooks has little to say about the institution of public schooling. One gets the sense, though, that Principal Gridley, who holds the game of football in low regard (i.e., "...a game only fit for wild animals..."), is not meant by Brooks to be seen in a sympathetic light until he throws his support behind the team at the book's conclusion, and that is the extent of any commentary on public education and academics in the book. This suggests that Brooks might have seen the manly man's sport of football as a means for character development rather than the terrific bore that it in fact is. In Freddy Goes to School, Brooks does comment more overtly upon school and schooling. A pronounced and pervasive satiric tone informs the text, such as it is. We have a librarian, Miss Vetch, who refuses to allow "...an ignorant animal, and a pig to boot!" to borrow books from the school library. Freddy's English teacher, Mrs. Primly, insists that the class spend day after day diagramming sentences and reading "old stuff that isn't very interesting," according to Freddy. His history teacher Mr. Fuddle buries himself in a newspaper as his students outline chapter after chapter of the textbook in their notebooks. The science teacher, Mr. Numdunder, is so disorganized and ignorant of his own subject matter that the mere act of entering his room poses a serious threat to a student's life--physical and intellectual. For example, Numdunder confuses two liquid chemicals in an experiment, and the clouds of noxious vapors which billow forth send the students home for a week. The heroes of Goes to School feature a mathematics teacher, Mr. Lemma (a keenly intelligent master of both mathematics and pedagogy); Freddy, of course; and good old Mrs. Peppercorn who is called out of retirement to help Lemma and Freddy start a first-rate progressive academic institution, the Centerboro Free Academy. There are two subplots mentioned in the notes. One concerns Mr. Bean's failing to have gone beyond the eighth grade and his enrollment in the newly formed CFA to finish up his education. The second subplot features the tyrant Uncle Wesley who insists that Alice and Emma not attend the CFA (which is open to all creatures) because, as he puts it, "Ladies of good breeding should not mix with riffraff." The resolution of all the plot threads is not to be found in the notes.

Rating = 3. Well, this is not at all your typical creation of Mr. Brooks, now is it? I have a hard time disagreeing with his assumptions about public schools and the dunces who run them, but Freddy Goes to School is a rather too heavy-handed treatment of the subject, in my opinion. It is like throwing a brick to kill ants--large carpenter ants that may well dismantle one's house, but ants nonetheless.

    Freddy Goes West
    (Submitted by Rev. H. L. of Orenville, Ohio. Notes on the inside of a matchbook, three unfolded gum wrappers, and the back of a 10'' X 13'' December 1949 calendar page.)

    These notes are a most interesting submission from Rev. H. L. who claims that the five items containing them were found together in an envelope addressed to his stepfather who had something or other to do in the editing department at Knopf in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I have no way of verifying this claim. It is quite easy to get the drift of the plot of Freddy Goes West despite the paucity of information in the notes, which seem to be no more than some random ideas for a book that eventually did became Freddy the Cowboy. In the notes, Herb Garble manages to nail Freddy in a crate and ship him off to his uncle Orville's stock farm in Twin Buttes, Montana. Freddy escapes Uncle Orville and makes his way home back East on a horse named Tornado. There is a pursuit to the Montana state line by Orville's ranchhands. Of course, there are adventures on the way home mentioned (but not developed to any extent) in the skimpy notes, to wit: a run-in with a horse trader who tries to con Freddy into selling Tornado to him cheaply, Tornado's being horsenapped by a wealthy Buffalo family named Hitz who plan to turn him into a polo pony, and both Freddy and Tornado's narrow escape from being turned into sausage by a butcher who pretends to befriend them while they are hiding from Hitz in some place called the Broadway Market. The ending of the story is not described, but I'd imagine that it would have been happy--naturally. No subplots are indicated.

Rating = Hard to Say. 2, maybe?. Sounds like a pretty average Freddy plot, and it's difficult to miss the foundations of Freddy the Cowboy here, and that published volume is not terribly interesting.

    Freddy Goes to War
    (Submitted by B. T. of Liverpool, England. Approximately 5,000 uncapitalized and unpunctuated words in a single paragraph on part of a roll of butcher's paper cut to fit a typewriter.)

    It is my opinion that Mr. Brooks must have written the notes for this title just before sitting down to compose Freddy and the Bean Home News instead. From what I can make of them, the notes indicate that Mr. Brooks took a leave from his usual lambasting of officialdom to cast Freddy and the Bean Farm bunch as true red-white-&-blue patriots even though, as we know, Mr. Brooks did not hesitate to satirize politicians, army personnel, the police, etc., in other of his volumes. However, this book would have been a tribute to those who were contributing to the Allied effort in the mid-1940s, and so the reversal of Mr. Brooks's usual bent is understandable. Freddy, Jinx, Robert, Georgie, Peter the bear, and the Horribles try to enlist in the army. A minor subplot involves Jinx's teasing of Charles who declines to enlist, saying that his responsibilities to his large family (14 children are mentioned) and his duty to get everyone on the farm up and working every morning preclude his joining up.

Rating = Quite the 0. More to be admired is the unusual method employed by Mr. Brooks to enroll his thoughts on paper-- though it is not unique. The story itself would no doubt have turned out to be mere wretched propaganda printed on a grade of paper conforming to wartime standards.

    Freddy and the Bean Farm Atomic Reactor
    (Submitted by 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 examples of unpublished Freddy material in his possession in addition to this title and the next 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. (Freddy and the ? (q.v.)) 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 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 an argument 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 wrung out of a depleted imagination word by word. Simply awful.

    Freddy and His Atomic Telescope
    (Submitted by D. C. of Plutarch Mills, NY. A complete typed manuscript, including a dedication to Kurt Wiese.)

This must be Mr. Brooks's attempt to horn in on the success of Eleanor Cameron's The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (1954). The original title of this manuscript was Freddy and His Atomic Retroscope, which sounds very much like one of the old hack-written Tom Swift titles. This title and the first few pages following the text's two-page exposition are scribbled out, and a new title and story line substituted. In the revamped version of this book-that-never-was, Atomic Telescope, Uncle Ben invents a filter that when applied to the objective lens of any telescope enables the viewer to see objects invisible to the otherwise unaided eye. It certainly sounds like Mr. Bass's "Stroboscopic Polarizing Filter" of Mrs. Cameron's series, but in this manuscript it is called "The Benjamin Bean Diffracting Oculator." With it, Freddy discovers a new planet "directly overhead where no one would think to look for one," and begins receiving signals almost immediately from the inhabitants of this 10th planet who are described as a cross between giant golden garden spiders and dog ticks. What follows is pure claptrap, of course. The ETs are revealed to be the common ancestors of the Martians and the arachnids of Earth. The unusual (and likewise scribbled-out) dedication reads as follows: "To Kurt Wiese, who draws such excellent illustrations of people with their feet flying out from under them."

Rating = 3. In my opinion, the "Retroscope" plot, even in its extremely undeveloped form, seems far more interesting than the "Telescope" plot. From what I can make of it, the retroscope is conceived by Freddy after he reads H.G. Wells's The Time Machine. In the notes, Freddy exclaims to Uncle Ben, "Wouldn't it be better to see where you're going in your time machine before you got there?" Uncle Ben agrees and replies, "Wells wrong. Only past. No future," which I take to mean that he believes that since the future hasn't happened yet, one cannot visit there, but that one can visit the past which has some kind of existence. Again, Mr. Brooks quails before the difficulties in writing a credible time travel story just as he had in Freddy and the Time Machine, and he opts for an easier go of it with Atomic Telescope. While not a perfectly awful read, neither is it terribly good, so I guess it deserves exactly what I gave it for a score.

.

Quick Link

TOC