First published in 1974, The Front Runner raced to international acclaim - the first novel about gay love to become popular in the mainstream.
In 1975, coach Harlan Brown is hiding from his past at an obscure New York college, after he was fired from Penn State University on suspicion of being gay. A tough, lonely ex-Marine of 39, Harlan has never allowed himself to love another man. Then Billy Sive, a brilliant young runner, shows up on his doorstep. He and his two comrades, Vince Matti and Jacques LaFont, were just thrown off a major team for admitting they are gay. Harlan knows that, with proper training, Billy could go to the '76 Olympics in Montreal. He agrees to coach the three boys under strict conditions that thwart Billy's growing attraction for his mature but compelling mentor.
The lean, graceful front runner with gold-rim glasses sees directly into Harlan's heart. Billy's gentle and open acceptance of his sexuality makes Harlan afraid to confront either the pain of his past, or the challenges which lay in wait if their intimacy is exposed. But when Coach Brown finds himself falling in love with his most gifted athlete, he must combat his true feelings for Billy or risk the outrage of the entire sports world - and their only chance at Olympic gold.
This is a great love story and the reason I say surprisingly is because of the time frame in which the book was written. Patricia Nell Warren's tale of Harlan and Billy is sweet and tantalizing and most certainly relatable. I will admit that some of the terminology used, such as 'The Gay' made me laugh a bit, but keeping in mind that this book was originally written in 1974, it is fairly accurate to the times, although I do not believe I have ever called myself 'A Gay'. :-) The narration by Christian Rummel is fantastic and certainly adds to the intensity of the story. The book allows the reader to embrace the best, suffer in the tragedy, and long for a better tomorrow. A must read!
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
This was a great listen which I could not put down;
even cried along the way.
Narrator did a good job
well worth a credit
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
First let me say the narrator of this book does a wonderful job. I am actually glad I listened to this book because I think I would have hated reading it. The narrator at least brought the characters to life and made a bad story and mediocre writing at least bearable. I should qualify my review by saying this book was written in 1975, so I really tried to keep my opinions in that context. That was a very volatile time in the gay rights movement. As an exposure to that time and the challenges that gay men had to face, I think the book does a great job. However, as a romance/love story I did not enjoy it. Not because the love story wasn’t poignant and beautiful, but because of the direction the author chose to take it. It was like she took the reader on this wonderful ride only to pull the rug out from under us in the end. I realize the “shock” value of what she did, but I really don’t think it was necessary and it seemed almost cruel. Also, in my opinion, the aftermath wasn’t executed well enough to gain the “acclaim” this book seemed to have. Maybe in 1975 it was considered great art, but in 2013 I don't think it survives the test of time. I wish she had just stuck with the gay rights message and not delved into the love story; I think I would have enjoyed it more.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Amazing story. A new favorite of mine. I laughed and cried.
Thank you so much
A re-read . . . Well, I actually listened this 'go-round' . . . First read this novel as a teenager . . . It was a 'Godsend' at that time in my life.
this is a book for anyone who has ever loved or for anyone who wants to love.
This book will appeal to both the athlete and the romantic. I highly recommend it. The audible version was great and I really enjoyed listening to the narrator.
Would you listen to The Front Runner again? Why?
The Front Runner is an intense and passionate look into true love found in the running world of the 1970's. The protagonists, Harlan and Billy, are so fleshed out that I practically searched the internet to see if this was based on a true story. It was written mid seventies, before some of the topics it covers became acceptable to even talk about in public. It dared to explore gay sex, relationships, friendships, marriage and even adoption way before the rest. In that it is groundbreaking. The story is well written in general, so it transcends the mere fact of being historical into being groundbreaking even now. The struggle to find love for a regimented track coach with a tough coming out past, a young runner who finally finds someone to express his heart with, the road to the Olympics laid out before them, and the burgeoning gay rights movement with all the dangers imagined and real; this book has it all. The story is so captivating as we follow Billy into Harlan's care as track coach, to their unlikely love story. There are twenty years separating them, and it felt weird that Harlan was his coach, but they were both adults capable of making their own decisions. I felt that some of the supporting characters were too ok with some of the decisions of the man characters. The university owner seemed saintly, Bill's dad was supremely understanding, Betsy extremely selfless. Even so, those and the rest of the characters were exciting and compelling. I was drawn in, pulling for their every challenge to be overcome. I felt the wind on my face as everyone watched Billy run for the tape in the Olympics. [spoilers removed] The running is written very well that a complete non runner like me could be so enthralled by it. The science of running and the human body intrigued me. All that together makes a great book. I will check out the sequels.
What other book might you compare The Front Runner to and why?
It is similar to the Art of Fielding in that the sports story entwined a gay love boy meets boy tale.
Which character – as performed by Christian Rummel – was your favorite?
Billy captures your heart, but Harlan paints him as an ethereal being so you have no choice but to love him.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
When Vince helps Harlan come to terms in the end. Or when Billy helps Harlan learn to love.
I listened to this many, many books ago and normally i forget most of them again to the point that i have no idea why they are in my library. This one i still remember and usually it is a good indication of the quality of the book - the ones with impact factor stays with me. So - this is a lovestory, but its not a fairytale - if you like the more serious MM books you will probably like this one.
Where does The Front Runner rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
I remember when this book came out, and there was a lot of chatter. Now many years later I really appreciate this read. I did not want it to end. No wonder they re-released it!
What other book might you compare The Front Runner to and why?
Without limits and Brokeback Mountain
What does Christian Rummel bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Excellent performance. He puts you inside the action. Great job!
If you could rename The Front Runner, what would you call it?
I would not rename it
Any additional comments?
Best enjoyed book in a long while
fantastic story reminding me how good I have it these days. reader was excellent, kudos!
It was a little slow to get going, however, it drew me in so that I didn't want to stop listening.
A very moving and at times tearful listen of a wonderful sensitive guy relationship. Good ending as well. Thoroughly recommend this book
Having read the front runner is supposed to be the first gay novel that was well recieved in the mainstream I am at a loss to understand how that was ever the case! The story lacks depth, is repetitive and full of stereotypes. The first audio book I have been unable to finish out of annoyance with the depressing tone, moments of sickly sweet dialogue and repetitive useless information about what the characters are eating. The constant need to point out people's sexuality and especially describing groups of men as 'gays' is exceptionally grating.
This is truly an all time great. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a good story about gay love and the problems gay lovers had in the past with society. It truley is an all time great. ENJOY