John L. Parker, Jr.’s first novel, Once a Runner, is the cult novel for runners. Self-published in the late 1970s, and for years sold out of the trunk of the author’s car at running events, it went on to sell over 100,000 copies and achieve legendary status among runners.
It perfectly captured the intensity, relentlessness, and sheer lunacy of a serious miler’s life. Kenny Moore of Sports Illustrated—himself an Olympic runner—called it “by far the best fictional portrayal of the world of a serious runner . . . a marvelous description of the way it really is.”
For over twenty-five years, fans of Once a Runner have wanted more. Parker has finally written the sequel, which begins in the early 1970s where the previous book left off. The protagonist of the first book, Quenton Cassidy, has lost his best friend and teammate from college, a helicopter gunship pilot who dies a horrific death after crashing in the jungle. Cassidy is plunged into a depressive spiral in which he is forced to re-examine his studiously carefree life as a young, single attorney.
Cassidy’s return to the world of competitive running is dramatic and revelatory both to Cassidy himself and to the reader, as is his desperate, all-out attempt to make one last Olympic team.
John L. Parker, Jr. is the author of the highly acclaimed novel Once a Runner. He has written for Outside, Runner’s World, Running Times, and numerous other publications. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and Bar Harbor, Maine.
John L. Parker Jr. has written for Outside, Runner’s World, and numerous other publications. He was the Southeastern Conference mile champion three times, and the United States Track and Field Federation national champion in the steeplechase, and was the teammate of Olympians Frank Shorter, Jack Bacheler, and Jeff Galloway on several championship cross-country teams. A graduate of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism as well as its College of Law, Parker has been a practicing attorney, a newspaper reporter and columnist, a speechwriter for then Governor Bob Graham, and editorial director of Running Times magazine. He lives in Gainesville, Florida, and Bar Harbor, Maine.
Parker really blows it this time- his book is a literary jumble, with lots of extraneous characters and a rambling plot. The writing is pretty mediocre, almost laughable... until you get to the race description, which is awesome. You have to suffer 300 pages to get there. Not sure it's worth it.
I know it seems like blasphemy to only give three stars to any book about Quenton Cassidy, but only about 3/5ths of the book is any good, so it seems appropriate. The first half is slow-moving, and hardly mentions running in any way. Parker is clearly trying to show the new world of Cassidy, which would be fine, if it was interesting at all, or if we found any reason to care about this new cast of characters. Maybe someone who is as into fishing as Once A Runner fans are into running, would appreciate the multiple chapters and in-depth explanations of this passive past-time, but I don't get it.
Once Quenton moves back into the woods though, and starts hammering the miles, Carthage satisfies the expectations of the sequel. In fact, I have to admit, during the week I read these pages, I doubled my weekly mileage and have virtually committed to again attempting the marathon (If Quenton can do it... There's some flawed logic for you).
So if you can muddle your way through the first 100 pages - much in the same way Parker does - then it is well worth it.
As a runner I really enjoyed reading this book. What I find interesting about Parker's writing is that instead of just telling what happens to the characters he instead paints a picture and right when you start to wonder where it's all going it suddenly all makes sense.
It's not a quick read as the writing doesn't lend itself to reading quickly but it's beautifully written and like I said I love all the parts that talk about what it means to be a runner. A really good book that made me want to pull out my running shoes and hit the trails.
And I almost did go running but I instead decided to sleep in. Maybe tomorrow.
Parker's sequel picks up after Quenton Cassidy has become an olympian and now has to go back to something he has been avoiding: life. After establishing himself as a respectable lawyer though, he finds that there is something missing: his life simply is not challenging enough. After reconvening with his old friend Bruce Denton, Cassidy goes after his dreams one more time in an effort to qualify for the Olympic Marathon. Readers will be pleased to hear that Parker adheres to his nonchalant style of writing, while ushering in an older, more mature version of his main character Quenton Cassidy. This is one for the record books (no pun intended).
I loved "Once a Runner" but I found this one harder to get through. I had to force myself through some chapters that were entirely uninteresting to me. I love the main character, Quenton Cassidy, I think the author's writing is clever and often very funny, I love the running stuff, and the ending was good. But the writing seemed too self-indulgent, like the author figured his first book was so successful that he could put whatever he wanted in the second one and people would automatically love it. I do still highly recommend "Once a Runner" though.
Quenton Cassidy gets back in the running scene in this sequel to Once a Runner and his return does not disappoint! As a matter of fact, the lens through which Quenton approaches his goal in Again to Carthage is relatable to anyone who picks this book up - runner or not.
Parker, again, does a fantastic job weaving details and drama into this story that will conjure up old memories for most, and a positive outlook and hope for all who choose to read it!
The action-packed and exciting sports fiction book Again To Carthage by John L. Parker, Jr. takes place in Southern Florida. Previously a collegiate runner for Southeastern University, Quenton Cassidy tries to revive his running career despite his boring new job as an attorney. Cassidy starts to spend most of his time training with his running mentor, Bruce Denton, in order to make one last Olympic team and to become one of four people to run the mile in under four minutes, and the marathon in under 2:10:00. He has to overcome obstacles that he faces and must endure all of the physical labor that he forces onto himself in order to achieve his goal. This book could put you on the edge of your chair with excitement within a matter of seconds and it was very motivating. Overall, I think Again To Carthage was a great book. I chose to give the book Again To Carthage this overall rating because although it was a great book with very exciting and motivational parts, it also had other parts of the book that I did not like. Some parts of the book that set up Quenton Cassidy's backstory and his new career as an attorney in the story were very slow moving and were not intriguing. These parts of the book contained very little dialogue and seemed to take much longer to read because it was more difficult to focus on the story for me when it moved slowly. Other parts of the book that I did not like were the parts that were completely irrelevant to the main plot and the final climax, such as when Cassidy goes on a fishing trip. Although these parts may have been exciting and easier to read, I feel like the book Again To Carthage would be no different if it did not contain these parts. One writing style that John L. Parker Jr. used that I thought was very moving and important to Cassidy's story was the use of a song that was spread out through paragraphs of writing. In this part of the book, Cassidy is enduring a lot of physical pain during the final miles of the marathon so Parker inserts lines of the song Hallelujah in between paragraphs to show Cassidy praying and hoping that he will be able to make it through the marathon. Finally, John L. Parker, Jr. wants to emphasize an important part of the book so he uses this song and writes "all hell-bent for some promised land, some finish line beyond the horizon. hallelujah hallelujah." (Parker 335) to show Cassidy's feeling of accomplishment and happiness after he finishes the marathon. Hallelujah! Although some parts of the book were not my favorite, I appreciate John L. Parker Jr.'s skill in writing and the way he can make a reader feel the emotions of a character. Overall, I think Again To Carthage was a great book. I would recommend this book to anyone that loves sports books and is anywhere from middle school and up. If you are younger and would like to read this book it does contain some inappropriate language so I would not recommend it specifically for younger readers. Even if you do not like sports fiction books it is still a motivational read and I think you would still have a good experience reading the book. Again To Carthage is the sequel to another John L. Parker, Jr. book, Once A Runner. Although Again To Carthage is a sequel and does contain a few parts that you learned about in the first book, I think you could read and understand the book perfectly fine without reading Once A Runner. Again To Carthage was a great sports fiction book and I would highly recommend reading it as soon as possible if you can.
finished my once a runner speedrun literally JUST IN TIME for loucks. like it actually couldn't have been more timely-- racing in less than 4 hours 😬😬😬😬 and all I have to say is.... john. you fumbled the bag.
listen. I'm a once a runner apologist. I'm a quenton cassidy appreciator. I might even go so far as to call myself a .... fan ..... but literally NOTHING could have saved this train wreck of a book. let's set the scene: the book opens a few years after cassidy's amazing race at the southeastern relays, he has since run in the olympics and it is revealed (about 4 pages in) that he got (gasp!) second place! but oh no, this will not do for quenton. so instead of taking the loss -- ITS STILL A FUCKING WIN HE GOT SECOND PLACE IN THE O L Y M P I C S -- in stride (heh), he quits running altogether. that's it. he just quits 🤷♀️ blah blah blah, a lot of random ass new characters are introduced, confusing storyline, etc etc and then he decides to pick up marathon running. the book literally starts 200 pages in. john, I have to tell you something: no one is reading these books because they are extraordinary pieces of literature. you have a gift for writing about running races, and very little else. so WHO let him get away with a 340 page book where 60% of it is just.. filling space? like if you're going to completely avoid writing about quenton's olympic race, then why do we have to have like 6 months of his life as a bachelor just doing fuck-all with his bros. just say it happened and reintroduce bruce denton and let's get a move on.
ok that is a pretty coherent summary of what I thought so in case you wanted to see the incoherent version, this is what I wrote while I was mid-book: - WHY would you change the plot of a series that capitalized off running - like I get writing about the experience of burnout and saying how it takes more than willpower to escape the cycle of running and racing and not feeling like shit after workouts but THE BOOK WAS FAMOUS FOR ITS STORY OF A RUNNER - quenton cassidy is such a bitch - hate hate hateee the setting - the rambling is so much more amplified (too many new characters, too many side storylines) - why the fuck is the book about fishing. - too few connections back to the first book. like mizner's death was shocking but it just happened and then it was over. either make cass have like an emotional redemption arc or kill a less important character that would still have an impact, like hosford or mobley
a great sequel to once a runner. Tbh it was hard to get into the first half because a lot of it was just about his life, but the second half was amazing. I think I liked this one more than the first book!
I have just finished it and I think it is a good book. It is worth reading his "Once a Runner" first since "Again to Carthage" is a sequel to it. Moreover, Parker does not spend time introducing the characters and somewhat assumes that the reader is familiar with the first novel. OaR achieved a cult status among people who enjoy the sport. OaR is out print but copies are scanned in and available on the Internet.
"Again to Carthage" is a more complicated book than OaR. The characters are given a bit more depth. It is also not just about running. One of the major characters (from the first book) goes and dies in Viet Nam. The wistful and somewhat despondent tone is more pronounced in the sequel as the protagonist -- Quenton Cassidy (and the author) had to come to terms with the sunset of their running career. Quenton Cassidy is well aware that the race, set in the end of the book, is his swan song. Yet, this very race and the reckless drive for physical perfection come out as the victory against inevitable decline and the affirmation of the joy of life itself. The description of the race and the book's ending, reminiscent of the first book's, are quite moving.
Parker is a former elite runner. He essentially writes about himself which brings to the novels the raw authenticity that won the first book so many admirers among runners. Actually, the novel is structured as a sequence of notes written as if by a runner in heavy training as an escape from the grind of the routine and torment of twice-daily workouts. The book has its weaknesses. A letter from Quenton to his girlfried that takes up a whole chapter is rambly at best. The arch-villain is painted with a broad black brush. He is introduced nearly at the very end of the book just late enough for Quenton to raise the stakes. Overall, the narrative's direction weaves, turns and occasionally seems to be lost. However, the books sincerity and authenticity is certain to endear the book to generations of runners.
I finally got around to read the long awaited follow up to the cult classic Once A Runner by John L. Parker Jr. (here is my book review in case you missed it). Once A Runner was one book that I thought did an amazing job act really engulfing you into the mindset and body of what it is like to be a runner. John L. Parker Jr. did an amazing job at evoking what it is really like to be a runner and specifically a track runner. It was one of those books that drew you into the characters so much that you didn’t want the book to end because that would mean that you would no longer have a connection to them.
Parker wrote Once A Runner in 1978 and it took Parker 29 years to publish a followup to his hit. There were many anxious readers that have waited a long time to see if anything else would ever happen to the great Quenton Cassidy. In Again to Carthage Parker pens the next chapter in Cassidy’s life and provides a glimpse into the lives of the myriad of other characters we grew close to in the first book. Again to Carthage follows our main character Quenton Cassidy as he trying to come to terms with his post competitive running life. Cassidy, after a very successful track career now is working on his professional career and a more normal life, though he is still having a hard time letting go of the feeling and lifestyle of competitive running.
I really don’t want to give anything away for those of you who have not read it yet, but I will say that it is a good read and though it is almost impossible to recapture what Parker did in his first book I think that he did a good job at following up a book that many consider that best book on running ever written.
I listened to Once a Runner on audiobook about 6 years ago. And it changed my life. Legitimately, it changed how I looked at running, runners, and the running community. Too long ago to admit, I picked up the novel at a running store with the intention of reading through it again. I mentioned it casually to a running friend of mine who promptly asked, "Did you read the sequel?"
This is that sequel. I'm glad I had 5 years between books. I have since become tangentially familiar with the intense demands of endurance runners and their ilk. I would never have understood his training and emotion and crazy desire to return to the Olympics.
An incredible sequel. I may have even loved it better than the first. (I should probably return it to it's owner now, right?)
As a runner, I liked the storyline and cast of characters. As a reader, I was entertained most of the time but annoyed often enough that I can't really recommend it. As a writer, I was appalled at the poor editing. Parker's prose is straightforward, so what's with the run-on sentences throughout the book? I know that fiction doesn't necessarily follow standard written English, but this strikes me as laziness, not style. Someone should have also caught Parker's habit of repeating stock phrases and a too-heavy reliance on empty adjectives and adverbs. Somewhere in this book is a great story--I just wish he'd had a stronger editor.
If you aren't a runner I don't think you could possibly enjoy Parker's books. The banter of group runs, the methodical, repetitiveness of training, and the agony of a long race are where Parker is at his best. The rest of the book felt almost like a story of his life (from what I can tell of his personal bio, his non-running life seems a lot like Quentin's).
I read Once a Runner many years ago, and in my head, that remains the better book. Of course, I was doing a lot of running then, and so I might only be remembering the good parts.
I really liked "Once a Runner" and this sequel is just as good. As others have stated, it's not for everyone. If you've enjoyed the pain and the pleasure of doing endless intervals, long solitary runs, and marathon racing, you'll connect with this book. I read a negative review on Amazon where the individual stated that the book didn't inspire him to get off the couch and start running. Those are the ones that just won't get it.
Only negative was the chapter devoted to one of his former college teammate's Viet Nam experience. It seemed out of place and a distraction.
The sequel to Once a Runner, this book initially seems like a cheap attempt to sell two novels for the effort of one book. However, this book grew on me. Again, John Parker draws parallels with the real world, both in events of the Cold War, and in the power trips of the athletics governing bodies.
This may not be the novel for someone into masterpieces of fiction, but it was an easy read and kept my interest.
At first I didn't like this book very much. I was annoyed by the detail given about the weekend fishing trips and such. Once Cassidy goes to NC to attend a funeral, though, the story shifted. And then the earlier details fit perfectly into the rest of the story.
It's a corny book about running. But, I enjoyed it. It's also better written than Once a Runner. If you're a runner dork, I think you'd like both books.
As the follow up to Once A Runner, I loved this book as well, if not more because its focus on distance running. Like a long run itself, it ambles and glides over seemingly random and at times odd events that lead to a collective ending worth the read.
This is by far the best of the series, but unfortunately the author did not get better at writing in any elegant manner. I will admit, I'm a terrible writer, and I have no excuse for it because I constantly am writing in my career (career student, that is). I really have no right to criticize another's writing, but I'm also notoriously hypocritical so here it goes. Parker is describing a very emotional exchange between two characters that's supposedly powerful and moving, which involves one character kissing another. He says:
"He ran over and kissed her really hard."
Of all the lines in the book to slack on, this one? Really hard? It's haunted me for days that this is how he chose to describe the exchange. Most of the book seems to be written in very simple language with no sentence structure variability. It seems like maybe the author went through and picked random words, replaced them with the most difficult word in the thesaurus, and then didn't make sure it made sense (connotation vs denotation is something that really matters for most people, not Parker).
That being said, the story is solid and I highly recommend the book to anyone returning to running, it's a fun read. Parker does a great job of capturing what makes a runner tick. Towards the end when he's describing the process of actually racing a marathon he does a great job, I was getting fired up just imagining it! Happy to have finished the trilogy and overall it was satisfying, I think I may just be a little harsh because I don't love his style of writing and I haven't had enough sleep lately so I'm a tad ornery.
Again to Carthage, the sequel to Once a Runner (the greatest running novel EVER), is a worthy successor to the original work. Starting shortly after Quenton's return from the Olympics, we are dropped into his day-to-day life as a lawyer in Florida. The objections from many reviewers is, I believe, absolutely unwarranted regarding the first half of this book's depiction of Quenton's life. The reader NEEDS to see his life through his eyes. There is little introspection for the first 100 pages. When 2 people close to Quenton are killed we see an abrupt change in his internalized self. Without the previous current background information the abrupt transformation from lawyer to full-time runner would simply not have worked. The remainder of the novel is every bit as engaging as Once a Runner. The reader feels totally inside the body and mind of a world-class athlete. I can not possibly praise this book enough. If you are a runner, no matter at what level, you must read (and own) both this volume as well as the first in the series. I will soon be getting the prequel to Once a Runner - 'Racing the Rain' - to complete the trilogy. In closing, if you are not a runner, you very likely shouldn't bother reading the Quenton Cassidy books. But if you are, you will very likely re-read them many times in your lifetime.
Again to Carthage is a great book. When I finished Once a Runner I remember feeling that craving and urge to know what happened to Quenton Cassidy. Again to Carthage is a book that tells me exactly how Quenton turned out. It isn't a master piece of writing, but it fills the void and answers some unanswered questions. It is also an entertaining story about a man going through a mid life crisis. I could relate more to the prequel which is about Quenton in college because I am closer to that than a mid life crisis. I think the story is good, but it can be confusing at times because its not all action or all training some things are just about his life. The overall message though of having daily life written into the book is for Quenton to draw comparisons to when he was in college and the shenanigans he would get up to. What pushes him into his mid life crisis and decision to try for the Olympic Marathon is when he realizes he misses the competition and the adrenaline of competing which is something i can relate to. Overall I think this is a good book it is not without its flaws and I think in the end it was a good book to fill the gap of what Quenton Cassidy had been up to.
Hard to be objective because I just feel such a found attachment to the main character, Quenton Cassidy. This was a reread for me after realizing there was a prequel so I committed to reading the trilogy.
One of the things Parker does well is build on the nuances of being a competitive athlete. Also, I feel he does a great job of observing and portraying how that lifestyle influences relationships. In this book in particular, the brotherhood between Bruce & Quenton, the reconnection with old relatives, & the lingering relationship with Andrea are developed so well.
And, the culminating chapter made me emotional as Parker tied the various storylines together. Likely aided by the prior two novels storylines being fresh in my mind. Fun read...especially if you identify as a runner.
It has been almost exactly six years since I picked up John L. Parker Jr.John L. Parker, Jr.'s ode to competitive running, Once a RunnerOnce a Runner, though when I lifted this sequel off my book shelf at the beginning of the year that realization hadn't come to me. Once a Runner is a love story to running, and since as of late I have had a tough time connecting with my love of running I thought I'd pick up the sequel and see if I could find it in the pages of a good book. In some ways I find myself not disappointed.
Again to Carthage: A NovelAgain to Carthage picks up sometime after Quenton Cassidy has left competitive running. He's a successful partner in a Florida law firm now, spends long, liesurely weekends on fishing expediditions with some of his other friends from the law firm, and he still romances his college sweetheart, Andrea. Cassidy still runs, too, though not competitively anymore. Now he runs for the joy of it, in the mornings, occasionally besting legal foes in races to prove mostly to himself that he still has the speed that earned him a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics.
The first half of this book plods along slow enough. Cassidy seems to be going through the motions of life, living what he believes is a normal existence rather than finding his own full measure. I found myself stymied by the stodginess of some of the prose, and the way scenes that had nothing to do with running dragged on and on. While finding out what happened to Mizner (Cassidy's running buddy from Once a Runner) in the early pages satisfied something I felt was missing from the first book, it seems to play little role in the story here.
What happens to Mizner becomes relevent to Cassidy when coupled with other losses the runner suffers, losses that shake him out of his idyllic life. He realizes that he's not been living up to his full potential—not only as a runner, but as a person—and that to get that back, to find himself again, he must forgo all that he is and become, again, the runner.
It is here that the novel begins to really become something, when Cassidy moves—as he does in the first novel—to a remote cabin in the woods and dedicates his days to running. Every day, twice a day, he runs, racking up the miles on his feet the way a salesman ticks them off in a car. He's working on joining another Olympic team, this time as a marathoner, and though few runners have gone from Olympic greatness in the mile and the marathon, as his coach Denton—another returning character—tells him, it has been done.
As the training dragged on, I felt about it the way I feel about my own training: that it goes on and on forever and ever. Sometimes you just hunger for the race to come, for the goal to arrive, to get it all over. But then you realize, as Cassidy does, that the race is not what it's about at all.
"What I mean is that someone sees a race, and they think that's what you do. They sort of know you had to train, but they weren't watching then, so they don't understand how incredibly much of it there is. But to us, it's almost the whole thing. Racing is just this little tiny ritual we go through after everything else has been done. It's a hood ornament."
The race—the Olympic Marathon Trials—is the tiny ritual at the end of this book, in the same way that the 1500 meters was the tiny ritual at the end of the first book. But first Parker throws some intrigue into the mix by way of an "informal" advisory council from the Amateur Athletics Conference. The meeting has all the airs of a kangaroo court, and is reminiscent of some of the criticism lobbed against the USADA: that athletes can be accused without warning; that they can be convicted without physical evidence on the heresay testimony of only one witness; that bias against specific athletes can affect the impartiality of the committees. I don't follow USADA or WADA, but the way Cassidy handles the hearing had me cheering.
And that's when the topping on the cake can begin: the race. Parker is a master at detailing the nuances of running, and this race is no different. He goes through each mile, from the first few in which the runner struggles to get in a steady rhythm, to the long stretch of middle when everything seems to go fine, but the runner waits for the dreaded wall to appear.
"But there was no denying that he was once again all right, at least from a running perspective. He knew it couldn't last for long, as they were nearing the twenty-mile mark and the dregs of the glycogen stores in his system began to run out. Yet he found himself again running with almost no perceivable effort."
That's the same feeling I've had in almost every marathon or further distance I've run just before I've hit the wall, that feeling of euphoria before the glycogen runs out and it's a matter of pure will power to get one foot in front of the other.
Again to Carthage suffers from many of the same issues that befell Once a Runner, but for runners, or fans of the first book, this sequel is not to be missed. Rediscovering Cassidy's love not only for running but for life itself was a joy for me as a reader, as a writer, and as runner.
Not a particularly good novel in absolute terms, and not as good as "Once a Runner". Reads a bit disjointed and disorganized, and the author may be going through the motions. Some affectations familiar from "Once a Runner", such as frequent name-dropping of American runners/coaches of the era and anecdotes of athletes' horseplay, become a trifle irritating here. Still, if you liked "Once a Runner" you'll want to read "Again to Carthage". However, I wouldn't recommend the book to the general reader.
Really enjoyed the writing style, very similar to Once a Runner and Racing the Rain. Some really beautiful quotes that perfectly expressed my own feelings towards running. Overall I thought the book was too long and had a lot of superfluous information. A good amount of characters introduced once and then totally forgotten as well. The first half really lagged and it took me a while to get past it, once I got to the actual running and training section the book read a lot better. Not perfect, but a good end to the story of Quentin Cassidy