The Fabulous Clipjoint

Cover image for


Author: Fredric Brown
Published: 1947
Language: English
Wordcount: 60,419 / 162 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 82.2
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 6,339
Added to site: 2009.06.12 24412

Vice and murder prowl Chicago--and one man hunts a killer through the glittering Gold Coast and seamy back alleys. (1948 winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.)

Show Excerpt

at must happen a dozen times a day in Chicago, I thought. They don't rate ink unless it's a big-shot gangster or somebody important. A drunk rolled in an alley, and the guy who slugged him was muggled up and hit too hard or didn't care how hard he hit.

It didn't rate ink. No gang angle. No love nest.

The morgue gets them by the hundred. Not all murders, of course. Bums who go to sleep on a bench in Bughouse Square and don't wake up. Guys who take ten-cent beds or two-bit partitioned rooms in flophouses and in the morning somebody shakes them to wake them up, and the guy's stiff, and the clerk quickly goes through his pockets to see if he's got two bits or four bits or a dollar left, and then he phones for the city to come and get him out. That's Chicago.

And there's the jig found carved with a shiv in an areaway on South Halsted Street and the girl who took laudanum in a cheap hotel room. And the printer who had too much to drink and had probably been followed out of the tavern because th


Average Rating of 4.6 from 11 reviews: *****
Rob Reader

As a child my grandfather told me stories of Fredric Brown. They were both from Cincinnati and knew each other in childhood. I do not remember a great deal of his childhood reminiscences but can recall that he said Brown was an assiduous reader but not a very good student. He was not interested in his lessons but rather in the sci-fi, travel and mystery paperbacks and magazines he purchased from the local drug store and voraciously consumed. He lost contact with Brown when they were both teenagers but later on began reading Brown's work when a friend brought several books by Brown into the family Jewelry store.

I first read this book almost forty years ago and liked it then as much as I like it now. One of the reviewers wrote that it reminded him/her of a previous time, for me this is doubly so as it brings back the hard boiled fast paced page turners I often read as a youth and thoughts of my grandparents now long departed. Perhaps not a great book but clearly an enjoyable read. I gave it four stars for the story and for the melancholy and family reminiscing which it engendered.


Not Brown's best book but certainly quite good.

There's actually an eighth Ed and Am Hunter, so far only available in an out-of-print limited edition: Before She Kills. This is composed of two novelettes.


Good detective novel - young Ed Hunter assisted by his more experienced uncle Ambrose investigate the death of Ed's father.

Old eyes

If you like Dashiell Hammett, you'll like this.

A good read.

Robin Upcroft

I loved this amateur detective story and the vision of a previous time and people it conjures up.


The Fabulous Clipjoint is also the first of seven detective novels featuring the nephew/uncle team of Ed and Am Hunter.

The subsequent novels in the series are:
The Dead Ringer,
The Bloody Moonlight,
Compliments of a Fiend,
Death Has Many Doors,
The Late Lamented,
Mrs Murphy's Underpants.

Linda Otto

Wonderful!! One of the most enjoyable reads I have experienced in a long time. This is the first in a series of seven books featuring Ed and his Uncle, Ambrose, Hunter. I must find the rest! This not enough about these two people. I want more. Enjoy.


Nice round complete detective novel. Highly recommended.


Delightful pulp fiction set in late 40s Chicago. This is not literary fiction, so expect lots of action.

It's also a coming of age story for a young man who loses his father in a mysterious murder (or was it random back alley bad luck?), getting a second chance to discover who his dad was through reuniting with his uncle in order to solve the case.

And for old typographers, the bits of linotype history scattered throughout is a fond tribute to that bygone era ... written when the era was very much alive.

And all this in a "first novel".


This is a very readable mystery novel.

The protagonist's father is murdered and over the course of the novel, he and his uncle hunt down the killer and unravel the reason for the murder. All the pieces fall into place, and there's an attractive woman who can't resist the narrator, so there's no lack of, uh, joie de vivre, either.

Not only is this nicely written, it's such a perfect example of the straight-ahead novel it could serve as a case study for James Frey's "How to Write a Damn Good Novel." Frey's best advice is probably that one must make characters the audience can care about and be interested in. Brown has created such characters.

Leah A. Zeldes

Excellent -- one of the best books I've read lately!

After Wally Hunter, a linotype operator, is found dead in a Chicago alley, his 18-year-old son, Ed, and his brother, Ambrose, a carny, try to find his killer. In the process, Ed learns things about his father he never knew and gets an education about life.

Fast-paced and well thought out, both as a mystery and a bildungsroman, the novel gives a colorful glimpse of the seamy side of 1940s Chicago.

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