Last night I finished reading Patricia Nell Warren’s book, The Front Runner. It was first published in 1974 and really led the way for bestselling gay fiction. Actually, I think it was probably the first mainstream book that featured a homosexual relationship. Throughout the years of working in bookstores and talking to other readers, a ton of people have always asked me if I had ever read it. Now I can say I have.
It is a great story and very well written, despite the ending. I will keep it from you as to not spoil the book in case you want to read it, but beware…it’s blatantly posted in the description of the book on almost every bookstore web site. The book definitely has a 70s feel since the author spends a great deal of time talking about the way they dance, what clothes they were wearing, and how their hair looked. The Montreal Olympics are also a crucial part of the story, and the tragedy of Munich and Mexico City are mentioned.
As a gay man, if I was a teacher in charge of a gay literature class The Front Runner would definitely be required reading. For me, it is a true classic. There are two more books that are follow-ups to the story and I plan to read them soon. Of course, there’s been a movie on the drawing board for a long long time.
As an author, I probably would shoot the editor had I written the book. There are lots of mistakes and typos that stuck out at me. For instance, one character is drinking scotch on one page and finishing his whiskey on the next. There are also repetitive phrases such as “roman circus” throughout the book, often twice on a page, and I couldn’t help but think, “Couldn’t the author come up with something better?” or “You said that already!”
Despite these opinions, it really is a breakthrough book that captures a male-male relationship quite perfectly and would still ring true today. I have never been a fan or been involved in sports, but the detailed account of several track meets and the Olympics here definitely kept me interested. I’m not ready to throw on some spikes and run a 5,000K but I do have an appreciation of one’s love for the sport. And for that, this book has done exactly what a good book should do in my eyes:
It’s kept me entertained.
I’ve learned something new.
I liked it enough to suggest it to someone else.
I connected with the characters.
And I’m still thinking about it after I turned the last page.