WILLIAM O’FARRELL – Gypsy, Go Home. Gold Medal s1175, paperback original, December 1961. Cover art by Barye Phillips

   Nothing to see here, folks. Just a tightly-written and forgettable tale of murder and detection, with a great cover. In other words, a typical Gold Medal of its time. Move along now.

   Author William O’Farrell debuted with Repeat Performance in 1942, and over the next twenty years he turned out about a dozen books, until his death in 1962 (none afterwards) with occasional forays into television writing for Perry Mason and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It’s perhaps this last that provided background for Gypsy, Go Home and its milieu of small-screen scribes, producers and wanna-bes — and murder.

   The lady on the cover is Gypsy O’Brien: loud, grasping, crudely manipulative and usually drunk. I went out with a girl like that in college, but after a couple of dates she dumped me. And after a couple of chapters, Gypsy puts the squeeze on a no-talent writer trying to lever himself into a job on a TV show, and ends up the subject of a murder investigation.

   O’Farrell does a competent if unremarkable job of setting up two protagonists: Ken Morse, a television writer with a proven track record, lined up for a job on new series, and Alan Procter, the guy on the cover playing “guess what I got for you” with a poker. When Alan kills Gypsy and (mostly) covers his tracks, he decides the best way to get Ken’s job is to frame him for murder – even if the frame slips, it’ll muddy Ken’s reputation, and besides, Ken’s ex-girlfriend happens to be the daughter of the show’s creator, so if he can insinuate himself with her….

   About this time I started seeing similarities between this and the book (not the movie) In a Lonely Place, by Dorothy B. Hughes, which also featured a murderous would-be writer. But where Hughes focused on her deadly dramatist, O’Farrell skips nimbly between his rivals in love and television, with frequent stops in between to sketch out the characters of Gypsy’s complaisant cuckold husband, her confused nine-year-old daughter, and a smart cop who realizes the case goes considerably deeper than Gypsy’s shallow grave.

   If anything lifts Gypsy, Go Home out of the ordinary — and I’m not sure it does — it’s the Police, refusing to act according to type by arresting Ken and needlessly prolonging the action. Instead, O’Farrell keeps the story moving fast and in a straight line to a pat solution. In all, there’s nothing very memorable here, except as a relic of the kind of light, compact and easily-enjoyable book they just don’t make anymore.