one block west of the light

the book:

Live to Regret by Terence Faherty

published 1995  chapter 19


“When she was eighteen, Brigid fell in love with a young man who worked for her father. An ivy-leaguer named Cyrus Oberting. My mother said she could remember them out rowing together on the lake, Cy Oberting in a striped jacket and straw hat and Brigid under a parasol. Everyone thought that he wanted to marry the boss’s daughter and expected that he would. But he didn’t. One fine day, Oberting moved out to California, lock, stock, and barrel. The accident occurred about a week later. Brigid’s drowning, I mean. She was found in the lake wearing a fancy gown, the one she’d worn to the Fourth of July ball, when she’d waltzed the night through with Cy Oberting.”

Mrs Dial’s pink face settled into a sweet smile as she stared over my shoulder at the twirling dancers. A fragment of my wasted education came to mind: the image of the doomed Ophelia from Hamlet, pulled down into the water by her clothes “heavy with their drink.”

 observations:   Terence Faherty wrote two series of detective stories between 1991 and 2005, and as they are being republished on kindle they are well worth a look – and isn’t that a great side-effect of the ebook reader, that lost gems can easily be relaunched at no financial risk? This one features Owen Keane – failed seminarian and amateur sleuth. The books are very hard to describe, they are not typical detective stories, they have a dream-like feel and are full of ideas and emotion. But they are very readable, and they do have secrets, mysteries and solutions. And they are funny – Owen, approaching a beautiful young woman, says

I was conscious of a feeling of suspense, due in part to the excitement of waiting to hear the stupid remark that would shortly pop from my mouth.

In this one, he is trying to watch over and help an old friend who has lost his wife, and dead and lost girls keep recurring, as above.

At one point someone gives Owen directions to a motel: “One block west of the light” – I feel this is a valuable phrase which I might steal for the title of a novel.

The astonishing picture is by the largely-forgotten fashion photographer Toni Frissell, and is part of the
Library of Congress collection. In the book, another character disputes that the dead Brigid was wearing a ballgown, says it was just a simple dress, and the fancy story was part of the myth.

Links up with: the
Three Men In a Boat take girls out on the river in happier circumstances. And being on the water is a way to hook up here. Lost girls are a big feature of this book.


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