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Friday, September 11, 2015

Off and Running By Philip Reed

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

“We’re off and running!”

In Philip Reed’s rollicking mystery thriller, Off and Running, that was the catchphrase of Walt Stuckey, a Gleasonesque TV star whose variety show left the air in 1973 for unknown reasons. In 1999, struggling writer Jack Dillon, desperate to prove to his wife that he isn’t a loser, is hired to write Walt’s “autobiography.” The two Jersey-born men bond and the work goes well, until a stroke takes Walt from garrulous raconteur to near-catatonia. As Walt’s son raises more and more roadblocks to the book’s publication and Walt’s recovery, Jack—and Walt’s favorite nurse—come up with a plan: kidnap Walt, cure him, and finish writing the book. It seems like a good idea at the time, but it gets complicated by a convenient ransom note, a curious lawman, a seriously-crazy-ex-con-tracker/hitman, and possibilities of romance.

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It’s hopelessly complex, but delightfully crazy, as it veers from Southern California, up the coast, then across the Sierras (with a pit stop in Fresno), to Owens Valley, and down to Death Valley. People follow people who are following people; Walt’s speech bounces from nothing but “No” to wisecracks; the son lives in dreams of fame and control that are unrealistic; and every plan Jack makes gets several layers of “it’s not going to be that easy” slapped on it by a universe that doesn’t believe in the easy way. Over it all hangs the one mystery question that Jack is trying to pull out of Walt’s stroke-blocked brain: Why was a wildly-popular TV show taken off the air with no explanation?

Image source: Brash Books

The characters have their charms that keep the reader turning pages. Jack may be luckless, but he never gives up, even when his big break could kill him. Walt would be fun to talk to, and great to listen to as he spins his show-biz anecdotes. The nurse has done all she can to make Walt’s final years happy. The hitman has his own flawed code. The lawmen sense a flim when they are flammed. The son’s conviction that the world owes him more drives every psychotic action he takes.

Off and Running isn’t a political thriller, although politics comes into play. It isn’t a techno-thriller, although there is a lot of Y2K fear. It isn’t a police procedural, although the police and FBI do follow their procedures. What it is, is fun.

To enter to win a copy of Off and Running, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Running,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 19, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.


  1. Sounds like a fun read - a welcome break from the mysteries I'm usually reading.
    thanks for offering a copy of the book.

  2. A chance to try a new writer! Sounds like a fun read. Thanks for the chance to win.

  3. We have a winner
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher