16 May 2011

Horace Brown: From Penthouse to Pavement

The Penthouse Killings
Horace Brown
Toronto: News Stand Library, 1950
157 pages

This review now appears, revised and rewritten, in my new book:
The Dusty Bookcase:
A Journey Through Canada's
Forgotten, Neglected, and Suppressed Writing
Available at the very best bookstores and through


  1. This is the kind of writing that reminds me of quirky Robert Leslie Bellem and even Harry Stephen Keeler. Both of them masters in creating fantastic characters, mangling the English language and presenting detectives who arae guided by confounding illogic. BTW, I've known a few guys noted for their "–". I tell no lies.

  2. Bellem I don't know, but Keeler has stayed with me since stumbling upon William Poundstone's site devoted to the man. Poundstone's descriptions of Keeler's novels are unforgettable.

    X. Jones of Scotland Yard: "A man is found strangled to death in the middle of a lawn, yet there are no footprints other than his own. Police suspect the 'Flying Strangler-Baby,' a killer midget who disguises himself as a baby and stalks victims by helicopter."


    Those guys you mention - surely they weren't also known for their "—".

  3. John has just pointed out to me an amazing coincidence, or we're channeling the same Book Gods. On Tuesday on my blog, the day after you wrote this one, I posted a review of Brown's MURDER IN THE ROUGH, which he wrote as Leslie Allen:


    If something as synchronistic as this happened in fiction, we'd never believe it.

  4. We'd never believe it, though that wouldn't have stopped Harry Stephen Keeler.

    There'll be one final Horace Brown post tomorrow, if you can stand it. After that, I'm content to let the man rest in peace.

  5. Brian: Horace Brown was my father. I've been enjoying all your comments. I have a copy of each of his books so I guess you can add my name to the (small) list of people and organizations that have a copy of one or some of my father's work. And thank you for your kind words about my father re your review of Whispering City. Although young, I remember when he wrote it - we lived at the time in Dunbarton, Ontario, out in the country. Money always seemed to be short as the writer's life was a precarious one but there were so many more outlets for stories, radio plays, etc. then. Going over my dad's papers after he died, I was amazed at the number of small anecdotes he could turn into a story that sold - Saturday Night magazine was one, in particular, that remains in my memory. You're right about the Globe and Mail not printing an obituary. But The Star did one and phoned me for a quote. I provided a photo of him as Toronto alderman. Regards, Myrna (Brown) Foley

    1. My thanks for the kind words, Myrna. I've been keeping my out out for more Horace Brown. It was indeed an interesting time to be a writer with all sorts of avenues that have side been closed off. I can't help but admire the energy, flexibility and ingenuity of folks such as your father. I can't help but feel there are a few lessons to be learned here.

    2. Hello - I have 2 copies of his books - Penthouse Killings and Tenderfoot Trail. My mother gave them to me - Horace was her uncle. Connect with me (Kelly Walker Lawes)

    3. Hello, I'm researching Horace Brown, specifically his radio work from the 1930s/40s. Brian, your write-ups on his novels have been informative and entertaining. Info about his time in radio has been harder to come by, so if any of Brown's family members happen to read this, and can provide details about this period, please connect with me. Best regards, Brad Middleton contact@bradmiddleton.ca

    4. Thanks for the kind words, Brad. I'd also like to hear from any members of Horace Brown's family. I'm interested in reissuing his adaptation of Whispering City. My email: brianjohnbusby@gmail.com

    5. Hi, Mr. Horace Brown is my father-in-law. Unfortunately, I have never met him (married to his son in 2009 - now my ex.). I have three of his books: Encore, Hilary Randall - The Story of the Town, and A Penthouse Killing. I think my son, Seth Brown (10 years) is his only grandson.

  6. Hello,
    A correction to my previous post: My son, Seth David Brown is one of Mr. Horace Brown's grandchildren.