Book Review: Duel in the Sun

I had seen this book last summer when it was new. Since I knew nothing about Dick Beardsley nor Alberto Salazar, I was not really interested in reading it. When I heard about the book through a recent episode of Phedippidations, I really wanted to read the book.

I picked it up last month on my trip to California. Unusual for me, I paid full price for the book at Borders Books.

One of my joys in reading a book is to read it to those around me. Most of the time my wife just endures the book along with me. This time though it interested her in reading the book herself. It could also have to do with the fact that we started on a 3 week trip and she did not have a book to read of her own. Our reading tastes are so different that the only time we read the same book as the other is when we are reading books to our kids. However, she picked up this book and enjoyed it as much as I did.

While the book was well written most of the time, I had a couple of complaints about it. There were times when the author was writing about one of the runners, but the description really seemed like he must be talking about the other. I could not fit those two sections into the full story properly in my mind. I finally decided that there was either poor editing going on and something got moved to the wrong spot, or that I just was not following the story as closely as I should have.

The book jumps from the ’82 Boston Marathon to the lives of the two runners both before and after the race. While I did not have a problem with the concept, I did have some trouble following the time line. It would have been a great help if the author had included a few year numbers in the text. Many times he would say things like “three years later…”, but you would have to go back several pages to find out when the current events were taking place so that you could add the three years. Sometimes I was not sure if the events in the story were before or after the marathon.

I also did not like the use of profanity. I have complained about this in many reviews through the years as I have read books and write about them. The argument has always been “Well, people really talk that way.” While I dislike it, I do agree that there are some people who talk that way. Unfortunately that is becoming more and more common. But this book went too far in my opinion. Not only was the cursing included in the dialog, but it was part of the descriptive text as well.

Finally, I thought the book was very unsatisfying. I finished the book feeling like there was much more to the story. Had the story just been about the marathon, then there would be a specific conclusion to the events. But the book was more about the lives of the runners themselves, then we don’t know what the conclusion is or will be. I would have been much more interested in the book had it just been about the race.

As a whole the book was very interesting but dissatisfying. I now know about the lives of the two protagonists, about which I knew nothing before. I don’t feel I learned much about the race though. In fact, the book never says directly who won. It only tells you who did not lose. Also, the official time of the “one who did not lose” was never stated, only that he was 2 seconds faster than the one who did not win.

If Border’s had a 100% money back satisfaction guarantee on their books, I would be glad to return this one and get my money back. It was not a horrible book, but I was not completely satisfied either.

Duel in the Sun, John Brant, 2006 Rodale Press. 203 pages.

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