01 March 2008

John L. Parker. Once a Runner, 1978.

"Cassidy sought no euphoric interludes. They came, when they did, quite naturally and he was content to enjoy them privately. He ran not for crypto-religious reasons, but to win races, to cover ground fast. Not only to be better than his fellows, but better than himself. To be faster by a tenth of a second, by an inch, by two feet or two yards than he had been the week or year before. He sought to conquer the physical limitations placed upon him by a three-dimensional world..."

John L. Parker. ONCE A RUNNER. Cedarwinds Publishing, Tallahassee, Fla. (1978?) (ISBN: 0915297019)

Current Selling Prices
$80-$200 /£40-£100

Cult running classic. Number one In Bookfinder's 2007 list of the top ten most searched for books -- above the elusive Football Scouting Methods by the immortal Bill Belichick, Madonna's silver SEX and ahead of Promise Me Tomorrow, one of the countless romance novels of Nora Roberts, so shameful that she refuses to have it reprinted. They don't refuse to reprint Parker's running novel 'Once a Runner' but the 7 or 8 printings since it first appeared have not been enough for consumer demand. About 10 copies (it's a paperback) turn up every week on Ebay, only shagged out examples making less than $100, never less than $80 and decent ones can make over $150. The edition is almost immaterial. I suspect that people buy it there, read it, and then put it up again. I calculate that Ebay make about $3000 a year in fees from this one paperback alone. What's it all about? There are many, mostly positive reviews at Amazon, including these:-
'...the best running book I have ever read....The basic plot is simple and unadorned: Quentin Cassidy, a senior at Southeastern University, embarks on a quest to become the best four-lap runner he can be. Everything else in his life be damned, as it must be, for distance running is the ultimate jealous mistress... really goes into the life and mind of a runner...fantastic, unique novel... It describes the dedication, hard work, and goofiness that is required to be successful... It is a fantastic book and I would highly recommend it for beginners, enthusiasts, or someone who just needs a little motivation.'
Apart from the hero Cassidy characters include John Walton – the world record holder for the mile, and the first person to run a mile in under 3 minutes and 50 seconds. His character is based on that of the famous miler John Walker. Cassidy's race against him is the novel's climactic moment...Not everybody loves it, a dissenting voice says -'...this book is out of print for a reason, it didn't sell well because it's not a very good book. I've read countless books on running over the years and I'm an avid runner and racer but this book is silly and unbelievable in many parts, shallow and inconsistent in others... Don't let the high asking price fool you into believing it's worth your time or money... it's not. Read the Lore of Running, Ultramarathon Man (below), The Cutting Edge Runner, just about anything by George Sheehan (and his writing is not perfect either but better than this drivel), A Shining Season, A Cold Clear Day... you get my point.' Interesting to know there are other contenders, obviously running is a hot subject with an audience large enough to keep underpinning a reasonably findable paperback at a $100 a go.

VALUE? $100 max. On ABE four copies reside for the rich or unresourceful shopper at between $220 and $450 with, as often happens, the more expensive copies being the poorest -- for $400 you can get an ex library copy with the 'usual library markings'. An ex library paperback has to be one of the saddest sights. Outlook? Might be running out of steam... fine copies from the 1980s and copies signed by Parker will probably hold their value but a larger reprint would probably finish the rest off. The ebay crowd will tire of forking out a C note every time someone puts one up. Meanwhile a copy (with no photo) made $112 while I was typing this--it was described thus: 'This is a true classic!! It is vintage and is softcover and has wear and tear but no markings on pages. The front cover is wearing and the front cover is faded a little in places!!'


Anonymous said...

anyone who charges more than 20% above cover price is an asshole. anyone who pays is d-u-m: dumb.

Anonymous said...

This book has been re-issued - it is available now in Australia ( not sure about anywhere else but now yet on amazon) - ebay Buy it Now price is $39.95

Regards, Don.

Great site by the way!

Anonymous said...

Dean Karnazes is just a self promoting guy who happens to run a long time. all he is doing is pumping up his image- hes not that fast.... its like a 17 min 5k runner talking smack about the workouts he does to track and field news. please.