Fletcher Knebel Marion Armstrong - Essay

Marion Armstrong

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

George Orwell's 1984 is still a relaxing 14 years away [note date of this essay]; if in the interval we refuse to be shunted into its inhuman and insane approaches, we may yet avoid our indicated psychic and political annihilation. But 1973, the year of Fletcher Knebel's new novel [Trespass], will be with us in another 36 months, and the book is so perfectly credible that one can imagine reading it as faintly fictionalized history in—say—1978. Rapidly paced, absorbing in the adventure-story mode and rather gaudily written, Trespass hypothesizes a sample and small-scale but tightly plotted thrust against white money and white power by a dedicated group of black militants known as the B.O.F.—Blacks of February 21st (the date of Malcolm X's assassination)…. All the characters are well developed, all momentarily fascinating….

As the word trespass cuts two ways it it clear that in the given context neither white landowner nor black assailant has a lien on righteousness; nor is either quite guiltless of bad faith. Trespass's strength lies in its unwelcome plausibility, its assumption that our racial troubles are just beginning. I should like to find it melodramatic, but I don't….

Marion Armstrong, "Perfectly Credible," in The Christian Century (copyright 1969 Christian Century Foundation; reprinted by permission from the December 24, 1969 issue of The Christian Century), Vol. LXXXVI, No. 52, December 24, 1969, p. 1646.