The Dead Authors Society: Walter R. Brooks

Mark Twain

Mark TwainMark Twain had a marvelous line: “Ladies and gentlemen, I always hate to be introduced as one of the world’s great authors. Chaucer is dead. So is Milton and so is Shakespeare…and I’m not feelin’ very well myself.”
With that introduction, we move along to our discussion of the only author, to our knowledge, who has literary societies dedicated to not one, but two of his fictional creations. His name is Walter R. Brooks.
One of these two characters won undying fame via television. Mr. Ed first galloped into the public consciousness through some fun short stories, which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, among other magazines. In print, Ed was a bit saltier than on screen, as he and his owner would stop for the occasional brew after their rides and get in and out of various entanglements.
Brooks’ other character can best be described as a “Renaissance Pig” – a poet, banker, editor, and detective among other attributes. Freddy the Pig was but one of the Bean Farm animals that ventured to Florida on “vacation” in To and Again. When the sequel, More To and Again, was published, Freddy was still just part of the company of players. With the next book, Freddy the Detective, his importance as a character was established, despite the fact that the next two or three books did not feature his name in the titles.
Anthropomorphism can evidence itself as “cutesy” in children’s literature. That is not the case with the Freddy books. Brooks did not write down to his readers. The characters are written with all too human characteristics, yet remain believable animals. As such, the Bean Farm becomes one of those marvelously few literary habitats, such as 221-B Baker Street and Nero Wolfe’s old brownstone house on W 35th Street, which invite the reader comfortably back time and again even as adults. For example, one man we know filled his pack with Freddy books to help him through his tour of duty in Vietnam.
We are not familiar with any currently available collections of Mr. Ed stories, but they are still available to those willing to locate them through archived issues of magazines. All of the Freddy books were out of print until Overlook Press reissued all of them a few years ago.

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