Thursday, August 29, 2019

Book Review: 'Odell's Fall' by Norman Bacal

Odell's Fall by Norman Bacal

‘To the General! The paragon of thoughtful leadership’

Canadian author Norman Bacal stands tall as both an attorney and an entertainment world advisor. A graduate of McGill University’s Faculty of Law he joined the prestigious law firm of Heenan Blaikie, founding the Toronto office and propelling that firm as the national co-managing partner to become Canada’s most visible and respected law firms. His expertise as a tax attorney aided the financial foundations of Canadian films and television as well as his becoming an advisor for Warner Bros, MGM and Lions Gate Entertainment. Fortunately for the reading public, Norman has retired from these endeavors and devotes his time to writing first his superb BREAKDOWN, his account of the rise and fall of a major Canadian law firm. Now he uses his experience and expertise in coping with the innards of a major law firm in transposing his gut level story from Canada to New York. TGO law firm could easily be Heenan Blaikie. Bacal’s debut novel ODELL’S FALL is a stunning epic novel that embraces many important subjects as well as offering a vivid tale of love, deceit, murder and other crimes – with a fine trajectory that recalls Shakespeare’s OTHELLO! 

Bacal invests the readers attention from the opening paragraphs, setting a tone that will flow through the pages of this fine novel: ‘Odell Moore stood alone, back against the wall. His broad shoulders sagged, his eyelids drooped, and the champagne glass slipped out of his grip, triggering an electric shock. His long fingers grasped for the stem just before disaster struck, spilling a few drops on the beige boardroom carpet. He was not in much of a party mood. He studied the busy movements all around him. No one seemed to notice. Men and women of all sizes, ages, and colours, his army, reached for hors d’oeuvres from the floating silver trays offered by the wait staff. Some of the lawyers smiled on the way by, careful not to make too much direct eye contact. Odell nodded and tipped his flute. That was the Odell they’d come to expect. Alert to all contingencies. In control. This was home base—central command—the offices of TGO, on Sixth Avenue, the focal point of the business universe. A hundred-hour-plus workweek, minimum. No complaints. TGO fed you and, if necessary, se¬duced and bedded you in order to service the clients and their enormous deals. No question this was home, though this was not family. This was better than family. And Odell was their leader.’

Title character established, we gradually learn that Odell is African American, married to Dee Brabant, a Southern white woman whose father is a racist Alabama senator, in an atmosphere where ‘the men delivered the social status. The wives were supposed to shut up and keep the smile pasted on between affairs. Divorce led to excommunication. Showed a lack of backbone. You also didn’t marry out of class. And you certainly didn’t marry out of race. Not if you expected to keep those friends.’

The provided synopsis hints at the intrigue to come: ‘Where do you go once you've clawed your way from obscurity to the pinnacle of success? When you've finally found the woman of your dreams. When the ethical rules guiding your life need to be broken in order to have her. When you've eloped to avoid the stigma of an inter-racial marriage among Alabama's elite. If you're Odell Moore, one of New York’s most successful lawyers, the entire world is watching your inevitable descent. And two New York detectives will be waiting to greet you in hell. Love, jealousy, and deceit lead to murder in a penthouse apartment. But did Odell do it? Even he can’t be sure.’

A gripping legal novel with superbly crafted twists and turns that rivet attention up to the final page, this is one extraordinary debut novel by an author who gains leverage on the platform of the finest writers of the day. Highly Recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.