Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Run For Your Life: David Line, January 12—16, 2013
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
Run For Your Life saw the light of day for the first time since Miss Philpot read it to the class back in 1997. Some 16 years later, Woolcott and Soldier once again got their skates on to preserve their living status in this retro classic.
The plot is simple: the boys witness a murder, the police don’t believe them, so they leg it before the bad guys bump them off. It’s unapologetically straightforward and doesn’t pretend to be more complex than it is. What the Dickens two schoolboys out in the cold in the mid-1960s are going to do to survive, let along bring the killers to justice, is far from clear, and it’s finding the answer to that question that supports progression.
The pair have an uncomfortable relationship which makes for good reading. Woolcott’s grudging friendship is well played, and his reluctant affection for his junior develops believably as the novel progresses. Soldier is easier to like, but has his flaws too. He’s portrayed as manipulative, sneaky and dishonest but never loses the reader’s sympathy. The villains are fairly standard, but Smiler’s name strikes fear into the reader’s heart with his malevolent grin showing up where you least expect it.
Run For Your Life is written in first person by Woolcott, and his style is authentic and true to the character. It’s easy to read and draws you in, but there’s no urgency or development. His tone is identical whether he’s trying to wangle out of a school play rehearsal or facing up to his impending slaughter. That lack of urgency neutralises the threat at times; if he isn’t coming across as scared or desperate, why should the reader be?
The resolution is simple and relatively twist-free. Everything is rounded up, however the Woolcott/Soldier/Nixon dynamic is contrived.
For a nostalgic trip, Run For Your Life was good fun. It’s childish and innocent, but honest about itself. Don’t expect too much from it, and take joy in its simplicity.