“Running Out of Road”

“Running Out of Road” is very different from a typical crime novel in construction, in narrative, and in expected outcome. It was not the story I anticipated when I started reading the book. It is compelling, thought-provoking, and startling. It deals with a complicated social issue, poses real life questions, and incites thoughtful contemplation of questions with no answers. I could not put it down.

Friedman structured the narrative in a unique manner that sets the tone for the book. It reads almost like a documentary with events described by all sides and comments from outside observers. The narrative is conversation driven, and readers learn how participants remember events from the past, and how they view those events today. The views are very different, and readers are left to evaluate those differences in terms of what they learn about participants.

The characters are complex and diverse. Carlos Watkins is a reporter from NPR doing a series documenting the process by which the state prepares to kill Chester March, convicted of three murders thirty-five years ago. The arresting officer was Baruch “Buck” Schatz, now 89 years old.

This is a dark story, mostly set in a different time, in the middle the Twentieth Century, a time defined by widespread bad behavior. There is an undercurrent of discrimination and racial prejudice on all sides. Details of relevant events emerge slowly, and no one is perfect; no one is blameless; no one is completely innocent or totally guilty.  

The title, “Running out of Road” reflects the story; here are two people with very different and very troubled backgrounds. At one time they had had plenty of time, plenty of life ahead, but now, time is short; they are running out of road.  The culture is a critical character in this book; it would not be the same story if it were set somewhere else. I was given a review copy of “Running Out of Road” by Daniel Friedman and Minotaur Books.  I did not realize until after I finished the book that this is book four in a series. This book certainly stands on its own, and it is a thought-provoking way to advance a series. Now I must find the first three books.