Back in 1963 there was a movie called The Running Man, starring Lawrence Harvey (just one year after he played The Manchurian Candidate). I never saw it, or the 1987 flick of the same name (this one with Arnold Schwarzenegger and based on a 1982 Stephen King book). But I salted away the title, as I did the premise of John Gilstrap’s terrific 1997 thriller, Nathan’s Run, about a 12-year-old boy fleeing just everybody.
Years later that old movie title came to mind when I set out to write my own chase thriller. I had completely forgotten Gilstrap’s plot by then, but the idea of a boy-on-the-run story had been germinating since my early teens when I’d first read Stevenson’s Kidnapped. I can still recall the tummy-churning excitement of 17-year-old Davie Balfour’s prolonged flight across the Scottish Highlands alongside his brave companion, Alan Breck Stewart, as both were relentlessly pursued by the soldiery of the Clan Campbell.
Over the decades since, other “hunted man” adventures fueled my creative urges. Among them I recollect John Buchan’s 1915 classic, The Thirty-Nine Steps (filmed in 1925 by Hitchcock with Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll) and Geoffrey Household’s 1939 cult thriller, Rogue Male (retitled Man Hunt in a 1941 Hollywood version).
But for nonstop, full-throttle cinematic excitement, my favorite chase thriller is The Fugitive, Andrew Davis’ terrific 1993 remake of the old TV series, with Harrison Ford and Tommie Lee Jones on a moral collision course à la Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert.
The additional idea of prolonging and permuting a chase/race with multiple means of conveyance, a hallmark of The Running Boy, clearly traces to Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (unless you count all those Tom and Jerry cartoons I absorbed as a kid). And I suspect that Jerry Zucker’s hilarious Rat Race (2001) and John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) also helped me contrive wacky ways for my fictional heroes to elude their lethal pursuers.
A further resolve in regard to The Running Boy was to keep the chapters short—I mean James Patterson short—and to end each with a certifiable cliffhanger. It was the same template used by Lucas and Spielberg with Raiders of the Lost Ark and its sequels, their homage to those old Saturday-afternoon movie serials of my own boyhood.
I tried to make The Running Boy reflect all these nifty influences and adhere faithfully to these tried-and-true genre formulas. The end result is, I daresay, a terrific read. Happily my opinion has been validated by almost all the book’s Amazon reviewers (69 and counting).
So, without having told you a darned thing about the actual plot or the characters, let me encourage you to read Chapter One of The Running Boy.