& Reviews of Unpublished Freddy Manuscripts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up reviewing the unpublished Freddy manuscripts in my possession,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.
= 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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
(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.
on the Erie Canal
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.
(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
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!
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!
and Simon the Red
by A. L. of Albany, NY: Partial manuscript, typewritten with lightly
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.
= 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.
(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.
= 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.
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.
by J. H. of Orenville, OH: Chapter notes on two wide-ruled lined pages,
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.
= 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.
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
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.
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.
= 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.
and the Croquet Team from Mars
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.
= 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.
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
= 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.
and the Crazy Day
(Submitted by Mrs. L. McK. of Toronto,
Ontario. Complete typewritten manuscript)
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
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.
(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.
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.
Goes to School
by P. J. of Centerboro. 38 leaves of crumpled, wide-ruled notebook
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.
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.
(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.
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
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.
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.
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.