Created by Fredric Brown
Chicago’s own ED and AM HUNTER are one of the best, and most endearing and beloved private eye teams in the genre, and Frederic Brown was one of the most imaginative writers to ever grace the genre, so what’s not to like?
Young, brash, ambitious, idealistic Ed Hunter and his uncle Ambrose, a cheerful, chubby, streetwise ex-carny with a taste for poker, run the Hunter and Hunter Detective Agency in Chicago, although it’s not always clear if Am is running some sort of scam or not. So it’s often young Ed, who usually ends up falling head over heels for some “skirt,” who does the legwork insome of the most entertaining, cockeyed capers in detective fiction. I particularly liked Death Has Many Doors (1951), where a young woman is convinced that Martians are out to get her.
And in the Browniverse, who’s to say they’re not?
All the Ed and Am books are like that– there’s a sort of windblown, carny sense of humour at work here; a playful shell game of sliding realities, like you known you’re being played somehow, but you keep on reading.
The undisputed highlight of the series and a stone-cold classic of the P.I. genre–and often, the only one in print– is definitely the one that kicked off the series: The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947), an alternately heart-warming and darkly grim meditation on obsession, coming-of-age and the ensuing weight of maturity. Bill Pronzin referred to it, in 1001 Midnights, as “unquestionably more than just another hard-boiled detective tale.”
And he’s right. It won an Edgar for Best First Novel, but awards seem trivial compared to the emotional punch that this book packs. Not that Brown was ever some literary joykill–he also possessed one of the hinkiest senses of humour in the genre. He once wrote a book called Murder Can Be Fun, and in the Ed and Am series, he went about proving it.
- The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Dead Ringer (1948) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
- The Bloody Moonlight (1949) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Compliments of a Fiend (1950) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Death Has Many Doors (1951) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Late Lamented (February 1959, SMM) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Mrs. Murphy’s Underpants (1963) | Buy this book
- “Before She Kills” (1961, Ed McBain’s Mystery Book) | Buy this book
- “The Missing Actor” (November 1963, The Saint Mystery Magazine)
- Hunter and Hunted: The Ed and Am Hunter Novels, Part One (2002) | Buy this book
An omnibus volume consisting of the first four novels: The Fabulous Clip Joint, The Dead Ringer, The Bloody Moonlight and Compliments of a Fiend. A second volume was planned, containing the remaining Ed and Am Hunter novels and stories. Unfortunately, the publisher seems to have abandoned the project after the first volume.
- The Complete Ed & Am Hunter Mysteries (2020; tentative)
Two-volumes, with an introduction by Jack Seabrook.
- The Thrill Of Discovering The Novels Of Fredric Brown
Lawrence Block remembers a world of books and an author whose unusual fiction stands the test of time. (from the Intro to the 2021 American Mystery Classic edition of The Fabulous Clipjoint)
THE DICK OF THE DAY
- December 17, 2021
THE BOTTOM LINE: This uncle/nephew team is one of the most beloved pair of PIs in the genre, and their Edgar-winning 1947 debut is a stone cold classic. Ed’s a eager young doofus, but Am is a shrewd ex-carny.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. And thanks, Graham.