Frederick Lawrence Green (or Laurie to his friends) is today a lesser-known Anglo-Irish author of genre fiction from the middle years of the 20th century. Born in England, he spent his most productive time living in Belfast, publishing fourteen novels, as well as radio plays and short stories. He is probably best known for Odd Man Out, a novel about an Irish nationalist who flees police after a robbery goes south. In 1947, Green helped turn the book into a BAFTA-winning film, directed by Carol Reed and starring James Mason.
As a genre novelist, Green was a peculiarity, being far less interested in the sensationalism of plot than in the opportunities it afforded for introspection. For example, although it is implicit that Odd Man Out takes place in Belfast, and that the main character Johnny Murtah (Johnny McQueen in the film) is a member of the IRA, neither the place nor the organization is ever named. According to its on-screen prologue, the film was “not concerned with the struggle between the law and an illegal organisation [sic], but only with the conflict in the hearts of the people when they [became] unexpectedly involved.” Perhaps too early to be a true “Troubles Thriller,” Green’s novel nevertheless crosses something similar with a philosophical treatise, resulting in a perfect example of the innovative middle ground he often tried to capture.
Whether Green’s introspective tendency served him well seems up for debate. A review of his next novel, A Flask for the Journey, describes it as “a strangely conceived, honestly absorbing consideration of spiritual doctrine” as well as “recondite to the point where a flashlight for the journey would hugely enhance its influence” [italics added]. Nevertheless, other reviews are more positive: one describes his novel The Magician as “staged with a skill that compels the reader’s acceptance of every incident and character,” while another calls Green “one of the most competent and exciting novelists of the day.”
The F. L. Green papers at the John J. Burns Library consist of an intriguing and at times exciting array of materials. In addition to complete typeset drafts of two of Green’s novels, Odd Man Out and Ambush for the Hunter, the papers contain a number of the author’s unpublished works, including a completed draft of a never-published novel, A Finger in the Pie, and a never-produced screenplay, Round the Corner. One particular gem, indicative of Green’s unique imagination, is a script for a radio play called Triple Encounter, a chance meeting between literary notables Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary, and Hedda Gabler. Combined with sometimes colorful correspondence between Green, his agent, and his publishers, the F. L. Green papers make an excellent resource for the study of an under-researched and generally intriguing Anglo-Irish author.
- Richard Burley, Graduate Research Assistant & Doctoral Candidate in the Department of English
Crowther, Florence. “Two Importations from England.” Review of A Flask for the Journey, by F. L. Green. New York Times, January 18, 1948.
F. L. Green Papers, MS1990-16, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
N.N. “New Novel by the Author of Odd Man Out.” Review of The Magician, by F. L. Green. Irish Independent, March 17, 1951.
W.T. “Novel By F. L. Green.” Review of Clouds in the Sky, by F. L. Green. Irish Independent, May 13, 1950.