Editor's Note: Thanks to Howard Browne's flippant remark upon reading Richard Shaver's "letter to the editor" at Amazing Stories, Ray Palmer dove into that fabled trash basket to retrieve it. Thus began the Shaver Mystery.
Copyright 1999 Newspaper Publishing PLC The Independent (London) November 15, 1999By Jack Adrian
HOWARD BROWNE was that unusual beast, a writer who not only succeeded on both sides of the editorial desk, but who was equally at home in two quite disparate genres, hardboiled detective fiction and SF/ Fantasy. His fantasy, in particular, was of the swashbuckling kind, a million miles - or rather, bowing to the genre, a million light years - from his tales of mean streets, mainly written under his pseudonym John Evans (one of many: others included Lawrence Chandler and Lee Francis).
He successfully jumped media, too, as well as genres, turning, when the pulp magazines began to wither and die in the early 1950s, from writing punchy, riveting prose to creating compelling screen- and tele-plays. And, like all able fictioneers, even at an advanced age he could still turn disaster into triumph - two rejected screenplays, "The Violent World of Jake Lingle" and "A Bowl of Cherries", upon which he had lavished much care and attention, he transformed into a brace of fine late (very late: he was then in his mid-eighties) novels, Pork City (1988) and the hilarious Scotch on the Rocks (1991).
Howard Browne was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of a baker, in 1908, and began his education in Lincoln, Nebraska. However, he dropped out of high school and rode the rails (i.e., hid in the boxcar) to Chicago to seek his fortune. He worked as a legman, or stringer, for a local newspaper before, at the age of 21, securing a post as department-store credit manager, a position he held for over a decade and which gave him an unparalleled insight into the psyche of his fellow men.
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