Again to Carthage, John L. Parker, Jr.’s sequel to the seminal text Once a Runner leaves more than could be desired. One must admit that after the ending of what could possibly be the best work of fiction to ever tackle the subject of running, a return to the running exploits of Quenton Cassidy could both be welcomed and desired. Unfortunately, Parker not only fails to advance the legend of his main character, but he also struggles to write a convincing, conclusive novel in its own right. First off, the novel struggles to start as it limps through Cassidy’s adult life. While everyone must age, we see just how dull life as a single, ex-Olympian lawyer can be. A cliché sexual interlude here, a zany running competition that harkens back to the old days there, an overdrawn fishing trip to the keys, and of course he still longs for the college girlfriend, running into her arms at the death of his grandfather. This death sparks his change, his return to running, but now the marathon is the challenge.
No longer the miler, he tackles the mammoth distance in a time when people both feared and dreaded the idea of twenty-six and change. Here we do get some training moments, some classic glimpses into the heart of a champion, but the narrative is bogged down. The chapters fail to link, the incidents more incidental than cohesive. He goes into mountain seclusion as opposed to west Gainesville (which might be more secluded), and pontificates about life as one would expect. In the end, Parker goes for broke with a triumphant, dramatic marathon that of course is stacked against Cassidy. People try to prevent him from racing and interfere with the actual race itself. While this well worked okay in the first effort, it pangs with cliché this time around. Parker repeats himself, even down to the customary disappointment found at novel’s end. If you want a fishing trip to the keys and an uneventful walk through the mundane on your way to these truths, give the novel the whirl, otherwise leave your last memory of Quenton Cassidy alone and move on.