Prequel novel shows 1950s coming of age on Florida’s Gold Coast
I’m the fastest kid in first grade,” Quenton Cassidy declares. He loses that race, but holds firmly to his love of running, which would become more important than he could have imagined.
Long days in school, pick-up basketball, squirming through Sunday church—― this is young Quenton Cassidy’s life in the 1950s on Florida’s Gold Coast. Racing the Rain by John L. Parker Jr. (Scribner, 2015, $26) follows Cassidy as he dreams of greatness, even though he can’t manage to qualify for the school basketball team. Parker’s new novel is a prequel to his popular Once a Runner.
One day while fishing Cassidy meets Trapper Nelson, the local wild man with an alligator draped over his shoulder. He’s seen Cassidy dive deeper than anyone in town, and suggests it could indicate enough endurance for distance running. As their friendship develops, Nelson begins Cassidy’s training.
Following a regimen set up by Nelson’s friend Archie San Romani, a national champion miler, Cassidy steadily develops. But there are obstacles, including Coach Bickerson, who stubbornly holds on to outdated training methods, and the kidnapping of a local judge and his wife, which results in Trapper Nelson’s arrest. Greatness doesn’t come easy.
Racing the Rain tells the story of Quenton Cassidy’s coming of age, and each chapter is a snapshot of his life, the innocence of after-school basketball quickly giving way to the fierce competition of high school basketball. Distance running demands commitment, and John L. Parker Jr.’s experience as a competitive runner brings Cassidy’s story to life in a way that will keep you involved until the last page.