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Racing the Rain

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From the author of the New York Times bestselling Once a Runner—“The best novel ever written about running” (Runner’s World)—comes that novel’s prequel, the story of a world-class athlete coming of age in the 1950s and 60s on Florida’s Gold Coast.

Quenton Cassidy’s first foot races are with nature itself: the summer storms that sweep through his subtropical neighborhood. Shirtless, barefoot, and brown as a berry, Cassidy is a skinny, mouthy kid with aspirations to be a great athlete. As he explores his primal surroundings, along the Loxahatchee River and the nearby Atlantic Ocean, he is befriended by Trapper Nelson, “the Tarzan of the Loxahatchee,” a well-known eccentric who lives off the land.

In junior high school, quite by chance, Cassidy discovers an ability to run long distances, but his real dream is to be a basketball star. Still, Cassidy absorbs Nelson’s view of running as a way of relating to and interacting with the natural world. Though he is warned of Nelson’s checkered past, Cassidy dismisses the stories as superstitious gossip, until his small town is stunned by the disappearance of a prominent judge and his wife. Cassidy’s loyalty to his friend is severely tested just as his opportunity to make his mark as a gifted runner comes to fruition.

John Parker’s prequel to the New York Times bestseller Once a Runner vividly captures how a runner is formed and the physical endurance, determination, and mindset he develops on the way to becoming a champion. Racing the Rain is an epic coming-of-age classic about the environments and friendships that shape us all.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published July 14, 2015

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About the author

John L. Parker Jr.

7 books94 followers
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.

---From http://authors.simonandschuster.com/J...

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 168 reviews
Profile Image for Brian.
707 reviews355 followers
July 7, 2018
“And they were thrilled as only children can be thrilled to exist for a moment at the very edge of things…”

“Racing the Rain” is a novel that took me to the extremes, and not in a good way.
I was drawn in by the lovely 1 page-opening chapter. It is entrancing. The text moves right along, tightly paced with short chapters. By page 100, you are in the middle of the novel’s 21st chapter. And the author writes running pretty well. The physical and emotional components of a race.

And that is about it for praise.

If the book had ended when the protagonist hit middle school, it might have been okay. However, it does not. Overall this novel is shoddy in its structure and writing, and way too convenient in all its conclusions. No issue is presented in the plot that is not cleared up within a few paragraphs, so there is no conflict. There is no depth in the text, the entire thing is surface level. The author also inexplicably has pages and pages and pages where he describes EVERY SINGLE move during basketball games. Every dribble, footfall, etc. For a book that advertises itself to be about running, what is the deal? Dull.
There were many moments where I rolled my eyes at the writing. A truly awful aspect of the text is a stupid murder subplot that gets dropped in ¾ of the way through the novel, takes up about 20 pages and then is too easily resolved. It has nothing to do with the story and is ridiculous.
My disappointment really stems from the fact that as a runner I have the author’s famous novel, “Once a Runner” sitting on my “to read” pile and now I am worried that it will stink.
172 reviews7 followers
March 31, 2015
First I want to thank the author and publisher for providing this novel for review.

It has been 8 years since John Parker published the last book in the series, Again To Carthage. The first book, Once A Runner, came out in 1978. Racing the Rain is a prequel. This is the story of young Quenton Cassidy's life before college. I will not provide any spoilers or quote from the book. If you have read the other two novels, you will not want to miss this one. If you are a runner, ever been a runner, or participated in collegiate sports, then you will want to buy this book.

One thing that has always amazed me about Mr. Parker's writing is how he captures what is like to be young, wild and limitless. The way he can describe self doubt and the strength to overcome it puts you in Cassidy's head, and allows you to empathize.

This book is as good, and maybe even better than the first two. I ripped through this story in 2 sittings, and realize I should have made it last longer, as this is the last in the series. The story describes what true living is like. Losing, winning, crying, friends, family, growing up and maturing, and becoming better than you thought you ever could be. Near the end of the story it also has a bit of mystery and suspense, which made me read faster to find out what happens.

Again, thanks to the author. I am a avid runner, and the 3 books in the series capture what it is like to run to win, and life out on the road as a long distance runner. They are also 3 of the best books I have ever read.
Profile Image for Steve.
943 reviews140 followers
September 1, 2018
Sorry, but there was no chance I could give a dispassionate, objective review of this one. I've known, and become emotionally attached to, Quenton (the protagonist) for too long. I'll come back to the original, cult classic, Once a Runner, but ... like the long-delayed sequel, Again to Carthage, I lost significant sleep quickly plowing through this one, reading through the night and well into the morning. And it made me smile.

Full disclosure: I remain squarely in the camp that proclaims Once a Runner the best book (and hands down the best novel) about distance running (and, of course, the mile) ever written. No, I can't say that I've systematically scoured the entirety of the literature, but I remain open to recommendations to challenge for the crown.... Looking back, I found Again to Carthage a fully appropriate and more-than-sufficiently gratifying sequel. Yet ... somehow ... I completely missed the fact that, a few years ago, Parker came out with this prequel. So, I'm glad I found it ... and, when I did, it vaulted to the top of my (admittedly, largely electronic) pile (or, I guess in the Kindle-and-Goodreads era, the front of my reading queue). And, as noted above, I consumed it within 24 hours.....

One thought experiment: I wonder if some readers have (or, in the future, will) read the trilogy in chronological, rather than publication, order. If so, I wonder how the story arc holds together.

Like the others in the (now) trilogy, I understand why plenty of folks have no interest in these books or find them wanting. But that's them, not me. These are epic tales of the quest, written by a (knowledgeable, accomplished) runner (who is also an experienced and far-more-than-competent writer) written (primarily) for runners or other readers who understand the hard-won, no excuses, accumulation of miles, generation of lactic acid, and, of course, the crucible of competition. These are comfortable, accessible books to read, and, I'm not holding my breath for the Booker or Pulitzer literary prize committees to reach out to Parker, but that in no way diminishes the unique genius of the books.

Without being overly critical (and that wouldn't be fair), when Parker strays from what he knows best - running and his protagonist - his work can lag, but, at the same time, these are novels (and not novellas or short stories). My sense is that the temporal nuggets add color and flavor (and, for those of us of a certain age, more than a hint of nostalgia) - and each of the three books is very much a period piece, but, at times, the non-running-related side stories (or stories within stories) can derail momentum and aren't always worth the candle.

One more nit: the title of this one didn't really work for me (unlike the title of the other two, which were spot on, as far as I was concerned). Having said that, the opening and closing riffs were sufficiently gratifying, satisfying, and heart-warming that it's just fine by me.

If Parker ever chooses to let Quenton run (or, I dunno, sprout wings) again, I'd love to read about it.
Profile Image for Morgan Eigel.
121 reviews
May 9, 2023
well shit, I’ve been gotten. I���ve been tricked, fooled, enraptured by none other than QUENTON CASSIDY 😭😭😭 how am I supposed to review this book dispassionately???

actually, I’ll tell you how: john l parker jr continues to be a pretty garbo author lmao. the historical and physical setting was almost painfully forced, the running continues to be dreadfully unrealistic (2:03 in 8th grade bruh???), and the entire plot hinges on these strange contrived connections between influential celebrities and random men in northern central florida. like archie san romani was a reoccurring character cuz he somehow knew cass’s trainer ⁉️⁉️

all that aside though, I fully let out a gasp when mizner’s name was mentioned for the first time. and I annotated “very on brand” next to the paragraph where jack nubbins took it out in 60 at the state meet. and when quenton saw the rudyard kipling quote in his dorm? audible sobs

so… while this book was like 65% about basketball (?!?!?!), I am a sucker for racing scenes. time to read once a runner AGAIN😶‍🌫️😶‍🌫️😶‍🌫️
Profile Image for Letitia Moffitt.
Author 5 books19 followers
September 28, 2015
Good prequel to "Once a Runner." A lot more of this book is about basketball than I expected (and I am far more into running than basketball) but Parker is good at describing any kind of athletic endeavor, and the running scenes once again are terrific. There's a slightly weak-ish plot point thrown in there, but it doesn't detract much. The characters and setting are sharp and well-drawn, and this is a fine third book in the series.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
269 reviews2 followers
May 16, 2015
Good book. I enjoyed it almost as much as the other two Cassidy books, but I wish he would once make a mistake or do something that doesn't make him more of a heroic figure. I guess that's not the type of book this is.

Anyway, it's time for a run!
Author 7 books7 followers
June 19, 2015
Racing the Rain: A Review of John L.

Parker’s newest novel Racing the Rain delivers the goods on young Quenton Cassidy with Parker’s flair for inspirational running scenes, an intriguing cast of characters, and a verdant setting above and below the surface of the Florida Gold Coast.
John L. Parker returns in Racing the Rain to flesh out the character of Cassidy, beginning with the young boy that would toe the line barefoot to run his first race, not against people, or even himself, but just to feel the wind and the joy of the act of running. Quenton Cassidy, the famed hero of Once a Runner, received the gifts of speed and the courage of a miler from the gods, but until those talents were nurtured by coaches and mentors, they lay quiescent.
Parker opens the novel with scenes from an American childhood that will seem alien to most of his young readers, but that resonates with authenticity for the age; and, of course, there’s a race.
The boys in the story—Cassidy, his friends Stiggs and Randleman—roamed freely as the story unfolds, the early years touched on at the highlights, until Racing the Rain settles into the early teenage years when Cassidy turns serious about sports even as he searches for his identity.
For Cassidy, identity gets bound by the character of the Florida Gold Coast and by Trapper Nelson. Trapper, who as Cassidy thought of it, “. . . was supposedly bigger and stronger than Paul Bunyan, had more powers than Superman, knew more about animals than Tarzan . . .” is the first to suggest that Cassidy pursue running, and was wise enough to wait for the seed to germinate. Trapper lives alone in the Everglades and the two form a relationship built on a mutual appreciation of each other and the Glades.
Parker’s ability to write a race scene that leaves your pulse pounding was the backbone of Once a Runner. In Racing the Rain, he adds a graceful skill in describing the natural world of Cassidy, whether describing a foray to capture bait fish amongst the cattails in the tide pools, scuba-diving in coral “so exotic they seemed not the product of the natural world, but of some schizophrenic jeweler,” or the feel of the oppressive summer heat as he works for Trapper maintaining an exotic menagerie. Parker’s affinity for Florida helps him paint the scenes with details that allow the richness of the place and time shine through.
As an author, Parker also added some misdirection to his repertoire as he gently builds a training program for young runners under the guise of telling the story. Gone are the sixty quarter miles, replaced by the guiding wisdom of Archie San Romani through Trapper, and later, from his coaches, especially Mr. Kamrad. The running is interspersed with basketball. It’s on the court that Cassidy first stars, learning the lessons of diligent practice and focus to reach beyond the barriers that had been applied to him.
Parker does a smooth job of bringing the previous book’s characters back to round out the scenes. Readers of Once a Runner will recognize many of the characters, not the least Mizner and a young Jack Nubbins and the race finale takes place at Southeastern University, the setting for Once a Runner.
Parker continues to blend in the science of training with his racing, but does so subtly. He sets basketball as the prestige sport, with cross country and track distant also-rans in the school hierarchy of popularity, not so different from the reality for most runners. As the plot develops, so does Cassidy’s character. The reader watches the writer deftly molding young Cassidy into the man that he will be in Once a Runner, the athlete with an almost visceral rejection of stupidity masquerading as authority. The tension builds through the second third of the novel as Cassidy is forced, by a combination of his own talents and decisions as well as the internal pressures of the sports programs with the prestige to decide on his future.
The result is less a one dimensional running book like Once a Runner and more a coming of age story for Quenton Cassidy, teenager. As such, it should have wider appeal to more readers. And yet, there’s that Parker touch, and the runners will recognize the magic that Parker brings to running fiction, that makes it special to all of us that once dreamed of being that runner.
Paul Duffau writes novels about running and works with junior high cross country runners part-time. His first novel, Finishing Kick, was recognized by Running Times in their Summer Reading list July, 2014. His newest novel, a high-octane adventure set in the mountains of Montana, is Trail of Second Chances. He blogs on the running life, running books, and interviews people that he finds interesting at www.paulduffau.com. This review of the manuscript provided by John L. Parker, Jr.

Profile Image for Travis.
192 reviews28 followers
November 1, 2015
What does it mean to be an athlete? All the civilians see is the triumphant moment, the victory lap, the fulfillment of the dream. they don't pay much attention to the also-rans and the missed by inches, the great majority of us who go on with the rest of our lives driving whatever comfort we can from the fact that we were close. That we were mango those who at least died, were willing to put ourselves at risk. That we would live with the results, whoever they were. Bot always to try. That is what makes an endurance athlete,Quenton, the contract you make with yourself agh yo will try and not give youp. And if you are lucky enough to be among those that finish at the top, that's a great thing that you get to live with for a long time.
Profile Image for Chris.
1,501 reviews31 followers
August 28, 2015
More than a book about running it's a great coming of age tale. We follow young Quentin Cassidy from first grade when he tries to outrun a squall line to freshman year of college. It reminded me of Tom Sawyer tales and the movie "Stand By Me" with an idyllic childhood in the South. Boys being boys and wandering all over creation during the 50's and 60's. It's about sports and learning how to thread your way in an adult world and knowing which battles to fight. A beautiful book that should be made into a film.
4 reviews
March 26, 2022
The action-packed and exciting sports fiction book Racing The Rain by John L. Parker, Jr. takes place in Southern Florida. Racing The Rain is a prequel to the book Once A Runner that shows the significant events of athlete Quenton Cassidy’s life before his career as a college athlete. From loving to run around his neighborhood as a kindergarten student to winning the state championship in Cross-Country as a junior, Cassidy never stops competing in games and with his friends. Throughout his childhood, Quenton has had another fatherly figure, Trapper Nelson, who leads him on runs and encourages him to get better and faster. Cassidy overcomes challenges, hardships, and lives through tough times during the Cold War but never lets it stop him from becoming a better athlete.His love for competition and sheer athleticism as a high school student gets him a scholarship into Southeastern University where he eventually attends college in the book Once A Runner. This book could put you on the edge of your seat in a matter of seconds or it could make you remember what it’s like to be a little kid again. Racing The Rain was very motivational, moving, and overall a great book.

I chose to give the book Racing The Rain the overall rating that I did because in my mind, there was nothing wrong with the book and I don’t know why all books aren’t written like this. John L. Parker, Jr. wrote every single chapter in the book so that it was exciting, engaging, and heartfelt by the reader. I also appreciate that every chapter of Racing The Rain can be connected to the final climax of the story. Unlike some other books by John L. Parker, Jr. that I have read I felt every chapter contributed to the plot and there were no chapters that went completely astray from the storyline. One writing technique that I enjoyed from John L. Parker, Jr. is the difference of writing style changes throughout the book based on Cassidy’s age and maturity. For example in the beginning chapters of the book, when Cassidy is younger and a race is being described, Parker simply writes “Ed Demski really was the fastest kid in the first grade,so it wasn’t much of a contest, though Cassidy surprised everyone by making it close.” (Parker 4) When Cassidy is in a race as an upperclassmen in highschool, Parker uses more depth and detail when writing and states “With Cassidy, the feeling came as two distinct sensations. One was a sense that the finish line was a reality, that it was a goal he could actually attain. The other was a tingling sensation as the hair stood up on the back of his neck when he realized that he had a kick left, that he could win.” (Parker 337) Parker’s writing style helps the reader to notice how Cassidy has aged and matured throughout the course of the book. I appreciate John L. Parker, Jr.’s skill in writing and how he can move and motivate the reader with his words.

Overall, I think Racing The Rain was an amazing novel. 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. Racing The Rain is a prequel to two other books in the series which I would highly recommend if you like this book. Racing The Rain was an amazing sports fiction novel and I would recommend reading it as soon as possible.
Profile Image for Dillon Allen-Perez.
Author 2 books3 followers
May 26, 2020
"It would have been difficult for an adult to appreciate their boundless sense of possibilities as they stood waiting: the vastness of the coming summer, the endless expanse of school years ahead, the insignificance of their tiny lives when measured against any grown up conception of time."

Anyone that has known me for a while knows that running is important to me. Obviously all the friends I’ve made as teammates and club members in the running community share that passion with me. If you have competed in any sport at multiple levels and kept the practice as part of your life beyond your competitive career, no matter how big or small, you know that being an athlete is a deeper, more significant part of one’s identity and experience in life than simply “playing a sport”. This has been known at least since ancient philosophers asserted that physical education should be a required aspect of one’s lifelong learning. If you disliked having to take P.E. in high school you can blame people like Plato.

Cross country is my favorite sport. I competed in both cross country and track as a high schooler, for my local community college team, and then briefly led the Running Club at Sacramento State as president. Although it’s always impossible to choose just one, I have often claimed Once A Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. to be my favorite book—certainly my favorite book about running. The book follows the main character Quentin Cassidy, a talented middle distance collegiate runner who specializes in the mile at Southeastern University in Florida. However, I haven’t read the book in probably six years now and I haven’t gotten around to reading the sequel Again to Carthage.

When I realized that a prequel to the 1978 classic was released in 2015 I knew what I had to do. I would frame my necessary re-reading by getting the full trilogy experience. To undergo the full Quentin Cassidy journey I would read the books in the chronological order of the protagonist’s life: Racing the Rain, Once a Runner, and finally Again to Carthage.

This prequel takes the reader to the earliest points in which Cassidy can be called a runner. The reader follows Cassidy all the way from elementary school through to the end of high school.

I have to admit that I had a cynical skepticism going into my reading of this novel. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I was afraid that the author had written this years-later prequel only in the attempt to cash in on the cult following that Once a Runner has amassed over the years. Critically, Runner’s World Magazine even calls it “The best novel ever written about running.” I was also afraid that the project may come across as a self-indulgent journey into the author’s own nostalgia since Quentin Cassidy’s exploits are admittedly (in the author’s note) loosely based on Parker’s own experiences as a runner: “Some characters and situations in this book were inspired by actual people and historical events, though I have used (and perhaps misused) them in entirely fictional ways.” What I wanted to read was another great story about the physical, emotional, and psychological depths of distance running, not an old white guy’s heavily nostalgic rehashing of the good ol’ days growing up in the U.S. south (Florida) during the 50’s and 60’s.

Despite all the potential things that could have gone wrong, I was not disappointed. Parker delivers a solid, engaging story about young Cassidy growing into a middle distance runner that leads us right to the first page of Once a Runner.

My only complaint would be that the story doesn’t have enough running. Understandably, the story could never be only about running but I was surprised to read how much Racing the Rain covered all the topics I thought it would cringingly ignore, and more. Parker didn’t ignore the historical realities and implications of the novel’s time and place. After three short chapters there is already a chapter called “Nuclear Oblivion”.

Throughout the fun and funny events that the reader follows Cassidy through the novel manages to address: the catholic church, racism, the potential consequences of international nuclear arms (i.e., extinction of the human race) in time when that was a very real possibility, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (this isn’t a spoiler—it’s been 57 years). There are even subtle critiques of post-Kennedy U.S. politicians like referring to Barry Goldwater only as “a curmudgeon from Arizona” that the Republicans elected, therefore causing politics to revert “back to the same group of old white guys”. Although JFK’s vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, was elected over Goldwater he was not safe from Parker’s critique either. His political exploits are described in the young protagonist’s voice: “President Johnson signed a law saying you had to be nice to colored people, which apparently still didn’t include letting them into white schools, certainly not Edgewater [the novel’s high school setting]”. Given the young perspective, though, none of these topics are a deep focus in the narrative nor are they treated with much critical depth.

What’s interesting to note here is that the narrator is actually third person omniscient, not the young Quenton Cassidy speaking in first person. This could devolve into a weirdly meta analysis on what it means to be an author writing in third person “omniscient” especially considering that Parker must have done much reflection and introspection on his own life to construct a fictional version of his own childhood. I won’t spend too much time going down that path right now. The main point here is that the novel isn’t afraid to address sociopolitical issues of the time but the book as a whole—with young main characters, a youthful voice, and really short chapters—reads very much like a young adult (YA) novel. But, it doesn’t seem to be intended as or marketed as YA since it is a prequel to the college-level Once a Runner. Even more, there are probably many YA books to be found that really hone in on and explore time-and-place social/political issues. So, look elsewhere if that’s the painting of the 50’s-60’s U.S. south that you’re searching for.

Quantity-wise the narrative is just as much, if not more-so, about Cassidy and his young friends’ experiences playing basketball. Although I came prepared for a running novel, Parker is equipped to make all the basketball scenes exciting. He was a former all-state player himself. The book does showcase what made me enjoy my initial reading of Once a Runner: Parker’s talent for writing detailed description of athletic competition in prose that puts you on the edge of your bleacher-seat as a spectator, while also putting you in the athlete’s shoes mentally and emotionally. If you are a fan of athletics, of any sport in general, you will surely enjoy Parker’s prose on both basketball and running. School drama between changing coaches and players keeps the conflict going in Racing the Rain.

I was in no way disappointed by the addition of a prequel to the Once a Runner world of realistic fiction. Parker proved that he is a gifted writer, capturing many parts of life in this coming-of-age novel that will appeal to runners and non-runners alike. It really did lead beautifully up to where Once a Runner begins. I’m excited to start my re-reading and continue on to the end of the trail.
38 reviews1 follower
February 1, 2022
I have always loved John L. Parker's stories about running. If you have ever trained or raced competitively, his descriptions bring to life the indescribable. He is creative a poetic. While not the same caliber as Once a Runner which is a true masterpiece, this is enjoyable and fun to read, brining me back to many high school races with the mindset and nerves. Worth the read.
58 reviews
August 22, 2023
I am a big fan of Quenton Cassidy and loved reading this prequel to Once A Runner. Once A Runner is one of my favorite books. The sequel, Again to Carthage, was a solid book but Racing the Rain is on the level of the first book. This will be a book I read many times because it is so enjoyable.
29 reviews
June 9, 2016
This book is amazing! John Parker Jr. strikes again. Though in the early stages it is more about basketball than running, it tells of the same dedication that he applied to both sports to become a champion. And the ending has that same old heart beating out of your chest feeling. It was also interesting as someone who read the books in the order they were written to see references to what would happen in the future. Must read for any runner or serious athlete.

Series Order
Racing the Rain
Once a Runner
Again to Carthage

Order Written
Once a Runner
Again to Carthage
Racing the Rain
9 reviews
August 20, 2018
Great insight into running!

This is a great prequel to the previous Parker books featuring Q. Cassidy. It is the best book about running since Born to Run. If you just like to run or know someone who does, you will want to read this book. You don't have to be a runner to enjoy it. It is a great story of growing up in a time without the dangers the world today holds.
Profile Image for William Lutz.
15 reviews1 follower
October 14, 2017
Racing the Rain was a phenomenal book . . . if you ran track or was swept up in the 'glory' of high school sports at some point in your life. If you never ran, it might be a little tough to relate to. Runners: read this book.
333 reviews3 followers
February 17, 2020
If you're a runner or fan of the sport, then you probably (like me) found yourself at some point reading Parker's "Once a Runner." As much as any training manual, it's the serious runner's bible. Before the days of e-books, dogeared copies of "Once a Runner" were passed around by athletes. "Once a Runner" is actually part of the Quenton Cassidy trilogy. It was written first, then "Again to Carthage" was written as a sequel, then "Racing the Rain" appeared as a prequel. Now that all three are in print, I would probably recommend reading them in order. While "Once a Runner" still remains my favorite, it leaves out some information about Quenton's past, such as his family history, how he met some of his lifelong friends, and how he came to running in the first place. Let me first say that while all three books share a theme of serious running, they're not ONLY about running. You could as easily approach these as character studies about someone who's passionate about an activity; it's less important what that activity is. Running plays a relatively small role in "Racing the Rain." Parker knows that readers want the question answered: how does Quenton get into running? But he takes his sweet time getting there. This novel is as much about the turbulent Sixties, growing up, and finding an identity. My only quibble with "Racing the Rain" is that it's a bit less focused than its companion novels. "Once a Runner" was laser focused on Quenton's efforts as a young twentysomething to make the Olympic team as a middle-distance runner, just as "Again to Carthage" was focused on his attempt as an older runner to make the Olympic marathon team. "Racing the Rain" gives us some random episodes from Quenton's childhood before finally settling into his teenage years. There are a few false starts. What redeems the novel is Parker's fantastic writing. He describes events (such as fighting in line at the drinking fountain) with such clarity that it's easy to connect. There's a lot of "yeah, I did that too." If this fine trilogy receives any skepticism from potential readers at this point, it's that the novels are simply running books written by a former runner. Parker was a great runner, so he knows his stuff, but he's also a great writer. When he describes the Cuban Missile Crisis and the JFK assassination, the reader is transported to those living rooms and classrooms of the early Sixties. There are some track victories in "Racing the Rain," but also some setbacks. And Quenton realizes the same thing many of us have: as hard as you work individually at a team sport (in his case, basketball), and as good as you are, your future can still be derailed by a bad coach. Parker so deftly draws characters. By this point, we feel as though we know Quenton as a friend. "Racing the Rain" gives us two of Quenton's buddies, Stiggs and Randelman, in all their glory. But the character who steals the book is Trapper Nelson, a hermit living in the Florida swamps who Quenton befriends. Trapper is, in every sense, a character, but he's also loyal to his friends and knowledgeable about the Florida rivers, ocean, swamps, and all the flora and fauna contained therein. It's probably too much to ask for another book about Trapper's life, but it's one I would love to read. Parker's Quenton Cassidy novels are a pleasure to read; they're not just books, they attain the status of literature.
Profile Image for Josh Liller.
Author 2 books35 followers
July 22, 2018
I am not a runner and I don't read much fiction so I probably shouldn't have picked up this book. I did so because of a historical character who appears in it.

Racing the Rain is the story of boy growing up in Citrus City, a generic fictitious town in Palm Beach County. He likes to run. The book is 349 pages long, with 65 chapters - an average of just over 5 pages per chapter. Some of the chapters are literally two pages long. Some seem completely tangential, like when the main character talks about being bored with church. I got 50 pages in and it seemed like nothing was happening. It seems like this should be a YA novel, but nothing I could find suggests it was written for other than an adult audience.

The characters and setting are all fictitious, except when they aren't. Vince "Trapper" Nelson, a famously colorful individual who lived near Jupiter, Florida on the Loxahatchee River, befriends the main character. He's got an entire fictitious pet parrot. He meets the main character near Jupiter Inlet while carrying an alligator he apparently caught and was taking back to his camp. It's not impossible to find an alligator by Jupiter Inlet, but it's very unlikely, especially by the late 1950s or early 1960. Flipping ahead in the book I saw Trapper gets mixed with a real murder that occurred in Palm Beach County, of which there is no known actual connection. The main character has a race in gym class as part of President Kennedy's physical fitness program. In the immediately preceding chapter, Trapper Nelson mentions getting his camp ready for visitors brought by Dave Brooker's Jungle Cruise (which was a real person and a real thing). By the time JFK was inaugurated in 1961, Trapper had closed his camp to visitors.

I'm not opposed to novels with fictitious characters in real places and real events, but the way it was handled in this book really took me out of the story. I think the author needed to go all out one or or the other - set the book in a real place and try better to stick the real events, or better yet just create an entirely fictitious character based on Trapper Nelson and avoid the issue entirely. It doesn't seem like the author is trying to write historical fiction so best avoid the actual history all together.

I usually give books that get off to a bad start with me at least 50 pages before throwing in the towel; I gave this one 55 and wont be finishing it. If you enjoy simple plots featuring child protagonists and know little or nothing about Trapper Nelson then you might enjoy it. I think this would probably be good for a casual teenage audience.
Profile Image for Robyn.
1,858 reviews126 followers
April 9, 2020
Cough, cough, cough...

Man oh man, my luck is running flat this week. I saw RACING THE RAIN by John Parker and was trying to do a challenge read... this book indicated that it was a coming of age story about a kid in Florida that was a runner. The kid is cute enough and has a military family, it started off ok. He wants to run and play sports, but then the book shifts to left. A new character enters, one that is a nonfictional character of some repute in Florida and the book shifts focus, the kid drops to the side and the book is about Trapper Nelson, "the Tarzan of the Loxahatchee."

Not being from Florida, I shamefully had no idea who Trapper Nelson was and had to look him up. I am not sure if both characters were needed in the story, why focus on a kid who runs track, plays basketball and football if you have a nonfictional historic character? So, even more confused, the focus of the book was really the friendship, unlikely as it was, between this kid and Trapper Nelson and then he gets arrested, for ... drumroll... murder! (in fact, he did).

In addition, good God, now basketball. Who writes about pages of a basketball game, dribble, dribble, dribble.. and of course, the formation of the basketball game, the score of the game, dribble, dribble, dribble? This goes on for about 16 pages, my eyes glazed over... so running and now basketball? Don't get me wrong I don't mind watching basketball, but reading about playing basketball one bounce at a time is ..... ugh! This book is a hot mess... in fact, a hot boring mess!

Overall, if I hadn't thrown a book out this morning, I would have pitched this one... but I hung on... Grass growing has more appeal, paint drying... I haven't read anything by Parker before and I rather think I will run if I have to read another one.

I am on the hunt for a good book today.

Happy Reading!
Profile Image for Matthew Komatsu.
81 reviews2 followers
February 17, 2019
This book is a wonderful cap to the Quenton Cassidy trilogy, each of which (Once A Runner, Again to Carthage) have cemented Parker’s lonely position as the greatest author to have written fiction about running. The only reason I didn’t give it five stars was because a murder plot drops into the last eighth of the book and does little to move the plot. I suspect Parker pulled something about the real Trapper Nelson into the novel, and his afterword indicates an appreciation of the man. I struggled with all the basketball, until I finished the book and realized Racing the Rain is as much Quenton’s origin story as it is a story about how great athletes were once made: by Baby Boomers, against the backdrop of the Cold War and a changing world, and strengthened by the fact that there smoky was no thing as year-round specialization. Too, it is a book filled with nostalgia, for here is youth and characters and places whose names we recognize and know from the first two books. Finally, Parker demonstrates a technical mastery of sports that give away his love for the games of boys and men, and this is also admirable. I wouldn’t want to read a book about sports written by someone who doesn’t know jack about them, and yet he does so with verve, humor, and passion. This book won’t send you to the track at midnight to see how many quarters you can run (Once A Runner.) Nor will it make you wish for a cabin in the woods to hike up at and train from (Again to Carthage.) But it will make you remember the thrill of whatever athletic pursuit you once threw yourself at, and fall in love with it once again.
Profile Image for Jeff.
317 reviews3 followers
May 10, 2018
One of the top three books I've ever read on running. The other two were written by the same author. (This may be the best of the three.) I would also consider this one of the best stories I've ever read.
The story of Quenton Cassidy is enlightening, nostalgic, inspiring, & down right fun. With an assorted cast of friends young Mr. Cassidy grows up in the old south of the '50's & '60's. The journey was over too quick. Although, I am younger than the author by a little, he created a childhood that reminds me of the '60's that I vaguely remember.
I don't know of anyone that does a better job with writing sports scenes. You understand what is happening, mentally you are there, & I was gripped in the compelling manner he related the ball games, practices, training sessions, & races. I'm not a nail biter, but I did find myself holding my breath at times.
The dialogue was wonderful & natural. The relationships were very interesting. The power of a coach in forming an athlete's life is almost all powerful. One fellow in the story deserves a real come uppance. Bickerstaff you are an idiot.
The story of the murder, recounted in the hotel was chilling. The detail of one of the killers watching the eyes of the victim was especially chilling.
This was a great story of youth, winning & losing, and all the stuff that gets you there.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Bree Taylor.
1,160 reviews2 followers
May 21, 2018
It's taken me YEARS to get to the trilogy that is Once a Runner. The first book came easily many years ago and I loved it. It instilled both a love of running and the reality that I will never be an Olympic athlete.

My friend Gail mentioned two years ago that it was a trilogy and my jaw dropped. Again to Carthage was similar to Once a Runner with the seemingly unrelated side notes and long drawn out descriptions of training schedules. In spite of that craziness, I loved both novels. The trials and tribulations of elite athletes (even fictional ones) is fascinating to me.

Racing the Rain takes a different approach. Here we see young Quentin Cassidy as he applies the work ethic we've come to love to his first love of basketball. He wants to make the team and is too short and untalented. So, he works his tail off, finds some mentors, and makes the team. As again in the other novels, we see all that work come to a frustrating confluence of circumstances. But, here we see Cassidy as he turns to something else - the mile.

And that is where the story becomes beautiful. A definitely fitting end to a great trilogy.

Four stars only because of a really unnecessary plot point with Trapper Nelson that felt forced.
1 review1 follower
October 12, 2019
John L. Parker jr’s “racing the rain” is an amazing fictional novel for runners and people who want to be inspired. In the 1950s in Florida is where the book takes place. Quenton Cassidy the main character is relatable, and athletic person who is interested in basketball. when his P.E. coach interests him in track he decides it will be good conditioning. In track he has an injury but his coach ignores it. Tensions rise and Cassidy proves his coach wrong about his injury. When he gets into high school every thing begins going his way he makes it on the basketball team, and he has lots of friends. When his jr high track coach becomes his new basketball coach every thing goes wrong he is kicked off the team. He then pursues xc and track. I love the way john L. Parker writes this novel with its dramas and triumph. If you are a runner I am sure you will really enjoy this book I loved it. I am a xc person and so I may have some bias, but I really think anyone will really enjoy this book. In the end of the book it gets even better and that's why I think everyone should read it.
Profile Image for LindaJ^.
2,168 reviews6 followers
July 29, 2021
Welcome to the 1950's and early 1960's. This book is a prequel to the author's classic runner's story Once a Runner, which I read in 2013. This 4 stars is not for literary worth; it is for the memories it elicited.

The book opens with a group of young boys actually racing the rain. They watch and wait for the storm to get closer and then off they go, trying to reach cover before the rain arrives. It is a wonderful image. Then it is on to the story of Quentin Cassidy, son of an Air Force pilot, who's only goal is to make the basketball team.

Wait just a minute. What's with the basketball? I thought this book was about running?

Well it is about running and about basketball, and more. It's also about friendship and mentoring. And it hits the major incidents of my childhood, e.g., the Cuban missile crisis and the Kennedy assassination.
Profile Image for Chip Scarinzi.
Author 4 books33 followers
July 16, 2020
Another excellent read by Parker. His unique, somewhat meandering storytelling style runs through this story of a young Quenton Cassidy - before the reader truly gets into the running, Parker takes you on a lengthy journey through Cassidy's early days as an aspiring (and, ultimately, successful) basketball star. I tend to find these departures from the main event to be endearing. Much like "Again to Carthage," where Parker spends several chapters exploring Cassidy's lazy days skin diving and gabbing with friends before getting serious about distance running, it all adds depth to the character. I'm invested in Cassidy and these sidebars add to the mystique.
In any case, highly recommended. Would love to see the legend of Quenton Cassidy continue, but we've now covered his youth, his Olympic exploits, and his foray into marathon running. What's next? What's left?! Keep writing, Mr. Parker. Keep writing.
Profile Image for Joseph Norman.
12 reviews
May 31, 2022
Really fun read. Been a long time since I’ve read John L. Parker Jr.’s work & I ripped through this one quick. When I was competing in Cross Country & Track & Field in college (2004-2008), was when I first read Once a Runner. And then I read Again to Carthage a few years after that.

What I loved about Racing the Rain - a prequel - was reconnecting with Quenton Cassidy & his origin story in central Florida. It was like meeting back up with an old friend.

The way Parker weaves in local history, the political environment at the time, & his influences was fantastic. And, of course, a few plot twists keep you intrigued.

This book also forced me to remember some of my early influences as a runner as well which was a welcomed trip down memory lane.

If you’re just in for a good story, it’s a fun read. If you’re a runner, it’s a special treat. May need to revisit Once a Runner & Again to Carthage again.
25 reviews
June 19, 2022
I grew up a decade before John Parker and fell in love with bicycling instead of running. But it resonated with me because the common threads were otherwise numerous. More than a few times I recalled myself in similar circumstances. Parker tells the stories of the people who nudged him toward running, his Tarzan-type friend Trapper Nelson, his school running coach Mr. Kamrad, his rival and future teammate Jerry Mizner, and his villainous high school basketball coach. The frustrating disappointments and the glorious triumphs (some of them surprising) are described almost poetically by the author. Sometimes I laughed out loud and sometimes I was driven to melancholy. He again captured the essence of growing up in the sixties and the struggle of reaching for goals you're not quite sure are attainable. Quenton Cassidy is an interesting character and one of my heroes, whether he really exists or not.
Profile Image for ritwik tati.
2 reviews
August 12, 2023
I was gifted a bunch of John L. Parker Jr. books by my cross-country coach during senior year of high school. I think I might have read "Racing the Rain" about 4 or 5 times.

What I didn't love about "Once a Runner" and "Again to Carthage" was pretty much non-existent here (the god-awful training arc and plot armor). Being so emotionally attached to Quenton's character might be clouding my judgment on this but DAMN did I love this book on first read.

It's part coming-of-age, part running novel, part murder mystery (questioning the choices with that one), and part historical fiction. The Gold Coast and the 60s came to life here. For some reason, there is sooo much nostalgia I have rooted in this novel that I will not be taking any criticism of it!!!

Quenton Cassidy is the boy of boys who will be boys. Genuinely and always such a fun read. I feel like a baby boomer.
185 reviews1 follower
August 23, 2023
I started reading this book and absolutely loved it. The writing was wonderful and reminded me of a Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn type story. I even enjoyed the running narratives. The three main characters were wonderful friends, I enjoyed how they grew up together. Trapper Nelson was a wonderful character himself, and I couldn’t wait to find out more about the trouble that he would find himself in and how Cassidy would stand by him. But…then it fell short for me! All of the basketball narratives grew a little too long and drawn out, the drama surrounding Trapper Nelson fell flat and never really became part of the story - just a couple of short chapters thrown in with no real meat to it. The ending - last chapter - ended well, and the writing was once again captivating. There was just too much of “nothing” in the middle for me to give it more than three stars.
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