RARA-AVIS: William O'Farrell

From: Jim Beaver ( jumblejim@prodigy.net)
Date: 23 Jul 2001

I've just finished the O'Farrell book I mentioned previously, "Thin Edge of Violence." I really liked this book. I read it only because of research I'm doing on a biography of actor George Reeves, who appeared in an episode of the old "Suspense" TV show, an episode which was likewise entitled "Thin Edge of Violence." I presume, though I still don't know, that the TV show was an adaptation of O'Farrell's novel (even though it's a bit difficult to figure how they'd have done this in half an hour of air time).

At any rate, I came to the book knowing nothing of O'Farrell or his works, but, brother, am I a convert now. O'Farrell's story is about a nice enough guy who is breaking off an affair, and the not-so-nice guy who crosses his path by accident and by doing so really mixes up the stew. One of the things I liked is that each chapter (generally) is told from the viewpoint of one of the four main characters, so that there is a "Rashomon"-like air to the thing (not that disparity of interpretation of the events by the characters is in itself particularly important). It's quite fun to read a chapter revealing one character's thoughts and motivations, then pick up the timeline of another character as he or she interprets events entirely differently.

Although at first there seemed to be no hint of a hard-boiled quality to the book, after a couple of chapters it began to toughen up, until it got quite nasty, in a wonderful way. And what I liked most, I think, was the way O'Farrell occasionally dropped hints that something else was going on on the periphery of the story, something that had great weight and consequence, and that whatever that something was, however important it was, he wasn't going to hit his readers over the head with it. We find it out all in good time, and when we do, it's just placed there gently, subtly, creating great resonance in a story that could just as easily (but not as well) have been told without it.

I highly recommend "Thin Edge of Violence," and I'm going to start grabbing O'Farrells (and Grews--as someone noted, he occasionally wrote under the name William Grew). BTW, does anyone know if O'Farrell's tale called, IIRC,
"The Golden Key" is another title for "Thin Edge..."? A golden key is a prime prop in "Thin Edge..."

Jim Beaver

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