Back in the late Cretaceous when I was thirteen, when you still found paperbacks priced at 35 cents and I was starting to use the deposit money from empty Pepsi bottles to buy paperback books instead of comics, one of the goodies that turned up on the racks at the local pharmacy was a wonderfully demented humor title by Jack Douglas called My Brother Was an Only Child. A slim volume of 47 chapters, most only a page or two in length, with titles like "The Boy Who Cried Dinosaur," "Six G-Strings in Search of an Old Violin Named Charlie (a Play by Tennessee Gleckle)," "The Year the Locusts Came," "How to Train an Aardvark," and "The Private Mitty of Walter Thurber." I laughed my kazoosis off all the way through it.
So what should turn up on the sale table yesterday afternoon? For a quarter? In hardcover with dust jacket? In very good condition? Yep -- a copy of My Brother Was an Only Child. And right next to it, a copy of the next book by Douglas, Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver. Need I say I grabbed 'em both?
The last time Douglas was prominently in print, if memory serves, was in the late 70s and early 80s, when Pocket Books reissued most of his titles within the space of a year. The two already mentioned along with Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes, The Neighbors Are Scaring My Wolf, A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Grave, and a few more. According to his Wikipedia entry, Douglas died in 1989; he'd worked in radio and television, writing for Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Jack Paar, Woody Allen, Laugh-In and others, and he took an Emmy for comedy writing in 1954. Not a bad list of credits at all.
Is My Brother Was an Only Child still funny? Yep; one Amazon reviewer noted that it's probably funnier if you're thirteen, and I think that's true, but as of yesterday, more than fifty years since I was that age, the book still does it for me. Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver, not so much -- but My Brother Was an Only Child is still a delight.
Naturally, I had baser motives than simple pleasure in buying those two volumes -- last time I ran across a copy of My Brother Was an Only Child (in much poorer condition than yesterday's catch), I bought it for half a buck and sold it on Amazon for $10. What did I find when I checked current availability to see what kind of obscene profit I could make? A publisher with the unlikely handle of Pickle Partners Publishing has brought out a Kindle edition of My Brother Was an Only Child and you can snag an ebook copy of your own for $5. Recommended for all you thirteen year old boys out there who never quite grew up.
And here's the link: My Brother Was an Only Child
(Pickle Partners has a lot of listings in the Kindle store, most of them military history and personal narratives (among them Robert Leckie's A Helmet for My Pillow and Heinz Guderian's Panzer Leader); their non-military offerings include Helene Hanff's Underfoot in Show Business, Manly Wade Wellman's fantasy classic Who Fears the Devil?, and more. Worth a look.)
Now if only somebody would do an ebook of another warped delight from my golden age, Max Rezwin's The Best of Sick Jokes. My copy's falling apart.