You know how it is when someone dies, and you read their obituary and you realise what an interesting person they were, and how you wish you’d known all this when they were alive?
James Riordan was such a man. In fact, he seems to have been involved in so much, in just the right way, that I am almost surprised he had time to write good books as well. He was into sport and politics. In a way they are two things I don’t feel go together so easily, but in Blood Runner they combine exceedingly well.
As with Now Is The Time For Running which I reviewed here a few weeks ago, this is more South African sports. The story begins during apartheid, with a massacre of innocent (black) people. Three young brothers are orphaned and the book is about Sam who’s the youngest.
Sam runs everywhere, and his uncle who looks after him thinks he might well be able to run in the Olympics one day. This is back when South Africa was not allowed in the Games, and blacks wouldn’t have been allowed to compete anyway.
But he runs and he runs, and as Sam goes about ‘normal’ life, growing up, working, being given a wife by his uncle, fathering children he rarely sees while working away, he runs.
And one day Nelson Mandela is freed, and at some point South Africa is invited to take part in the Olympics. Sam is their token black runner, not expected to do well.
This is such a fascinating story! Very short, which just goes to prove you can fit a large book into few pages. It’s also rather shocking to find how quickly you forget, at least if you are white and far away.
Based on a real runner, this is truly compelling reading.