Book Review: The Marathon Man

Marathon ManMarathon Man by William Goldman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been a William Goldman fan for just one of his books. (The Princess Bride, obviously.) I’ve also appreciated him for his screenplays (Butch Cassidy, Princess Bride, All the President’s Men, etc.) So when I saw The Marathon Man on sale for Kindle, I decided to give it a shot. It was also turned into a movie with Dustin Hoffman in the seventies (which I have not seen).

Really, it was a blast of a book. The premise is straightforward: a PhD candidate gets involved with a spy ring. It’s your classic under-prepared protagonist in an impossible situation. It’s set apart from other thrillers by a couple of things. First off, I was impressed with Goldman’s skill of writing third person effectively, inserting the character’s views into the narration in a way that made things (for me) very readable. (Actually, I enjoyed it so much I thought I’d give it a shot in writing. I didn’t make it past a few paragraphs with each attempt. Pulling it off was really difficult for me, which made me even more impressed.)

Second, I liked how focused Goldman kept the story, going into details in the scenes and really fleshing them out. You can have something that takes five minutes in real life take pages and pages in a text, or you can sum it up in a sentence, or you can skip it entirely. Goldman knows when to dive deep and when to skim. (If you’ve got a thing against dentists, this is a book to skip. Trust me.)

The book did what it was designed to do: kept me turning pages, even after I wanted to go to sleep. I love it when a book does that. In the end I gave it a 9/10. If you’re looking for a fun summer read, give this one a shot. Sure, it’s from the 70s, but it’s aged very well.

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