On The Run

In addition to his legendary Travis McGee series, John D. MacDonald wrote 45 standalone novels, many of them excellent. On The Run was one of his last few standalones before he primarily concentrated on McGee. First published in 1963, it is a classic crime novel about broken people and their paths crossing. The plot comes together a bit oddly as the characters come together.

Sid is the primary character, who had a crappy childhood, parents now deceased, and a grandfather who had to be long gone at this point. Sid had found his mark selling used cars and was quite successful at it with a trophy wife and a big dealership. Thing was, as he explains, this trophy wife cared about nothing but the attention she could get from displaying her voluptuous curves and eventually Sid’s attention wasn’t enough and she found attention in a motel room with a connected businessman. And, the thing about connected guys is that, when you rearrange their faces so thoroughly that even plastic surgery can’t save it, the connected guy isn’t going to forget and, for thirty months, gunmen across the South have been tracking Sid from town to town – always a few steps behind the man on the run. So when old grandpa -remember him – is on his deathbed and wants to find his two estranged grandsons, finding Sid isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

The heart of the story is the tender love affair Sid has with the grandfather’s nurse, a broken woman whose ex-husband is due to walk out of prison any day. A love affair with a man ostensibly on the run is not a walk in the park either, but the relationship between them offers deeper looks into the nature of their characters.

Once the story gets underway and there does indeed seem to be quite a lengthy buildup, it becomes clear that MacDonald has quietly given us another gem filled with fascinating characters.


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