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review 2018-02-28 23:39
THE FRONT RUNNER Review
The Front Runner - Patricia Nell Warren

“The angel of death had cruised him. Death, that hustler, that last lover.”

 

Published between the era of Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best, and the AIDS crisis, The Front Runner is a very blunt and honest look at homosexuality in the world of American sports, circa 1975. By its time’s standards — as well as the current day — this book is progressive; the ideas are daring, the revelations unflinching. The front cover calls it “controversial” and “unusual” and “as moving as any love story ever written.” I would agree with all those descriptors. What is this novel? It is a tragedy.

 

The first person narrator is a college track coach quickly entering middle age. In the fall of ‘74 he received three candidates for his team — three boys kicked out of their previous school for their homosexuality. He, the coach, being gay himself, takes them under his wing; a romantic relationship between he and one of the boys soon develops.

 

This book is almost certain to make any reader a little uncomfortable; good literature does that. This challenges every societal norm of its time and even some that are still in place today. While a bit excessively dated at times (some of the male characters are a bit too chauvinistic for my tastes), this story can be enjoyed by modern audiences. The pacing, too, is an issue — the middle is a bit of a slog, at times — but the noteworthy beginning and extraordinarily written finale more than make up for it.

 

Recommended!

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text 2016-04-23 21:53
Reading progress update: I've read 200 out of 384 pages.
Front Runner: A Dick Francis Novel - Felix Francis

Body count:  Jockeys: 1

                      Horses: 0

                     Attempted murders: 3 

                      Suspicious rich people: at least 2

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text 2016-04-23 17:56
Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 384 pages.
Front Runner: A Dick Francis Novel - Felix Francis
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review 2013-11-13 22:01
The Front Runner
The Front Runner - Patricia Nell Warren

I loved this beautiful and heartbreaking love story when I read it in my 20's. It is now time for a re-read to see if this book lives up to my fond memories.

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review 2013-08-30 00:00
The Front Runner - Patricia Nell Warren I read this book on the recommendation of my brother, he says it is his favourite book and I can see why. The first thing I would say is don't read this if you want an easy read - though beautifully written, nothing about this book is easy. It is however heartbreaking.

This book reads so like an actual auto-biography I had to check that it was indeed fiction. Written from the first person perspective of Harlan Brown, it tells us of his uneasy acknowledgement and eventual acceptance of his sexuality in the late 50's to 70's.
Brought up as a man of strict religion and 'high moral code' this ex-marine has a hard time accepting that he is gay. The one passion in his life he is able to indulge is running, it is while he coaches track at college that he meets the love of his life Billy Sive.

This story is about the fight for human rights. Simply because he is gay Billy, a supremely talented athlete, and Harlan have to fight every step of the way to be able to compete at athletic meets and eventually the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. It is also about an athlete's personal fight to be able to give the best performance they can. And lastly, but most certainly not least, it is about love and fighting your own demons.

One of the things that struck me most when I read this is how,40 YEARS after this is set, some of the same issues are still occurring. In fact with the Russian winter Olympics around the corner and the current political stand of that country maybe it is time everybody read this book. Have no lessons been learnt in 4 decades? It is easy for me, in my safe, straight, white world to sit at home and write about this. I can cry as much as I like, I'm not the one made to suffer by small minded ignorance.

The fight that Harlan and Billy faced was made all the more poignant and difficult because they didn't want to fight. They wanted to love and run, it really wasn't asking for the world. I don't think they really even cared what people thought of them if only they were left alone. Aren't these rights we should all be allowed, whoever we are?

This book does not have a happy ending but I am not sorry I read it. Please everyone read this book.

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