In this Hitchcock-like tale of a normal event forcing two ordinary characters to run from the police, M.A.N. effectively and entertainingly provides the reader with page-turning suspense. From the beginning of the novel, in which the brothers are accused of a crime they did not commit to the end of it in which the characters must figure out how to get out of the country M.A.N. gives readers breakneck pace while at the same time keeping the escapes plausible.
An advantage “chase” films have over their literary counterparts are that the former can distract the reader away from the improbabilities with entertaining visuals and breakneck speed. A case in point is the Indiana Jones’ series. Spielberg is such a master of making the audience shriek and laugh that it is only well after the picture that they become aware of the implausible actions of Dr. Jones. Novelists who write chase novels, however, have no such visual recourse, and have to stick to what is plausible. There also has to be a control of pace. Readers, unlike viewers, have to be allowed to literally catch up to speed.
M.A.N. has this ability. A writer who usually traffics in science fiction he, in RUN, reveals an ability to excite the reader with the chase while at the same time provide racial commentary. In the form of the two brothers, Jaban and Jaheem, who in true Hitchcock fashion, are provoked into running by the simplest of events—a traffic stop—M.A.N uses the “driving while black” phrase to chilling effect.
But the two brothers are not without resources. They have a hard-earned knowledge gained from living on the streets. M.A.N. does show how clever the two are, but to keep the pace going he shows that their “street smarts” do not give them a considerable edge over the police. Police have their own street smarts, and moreover are armed with considerable backup. And there is no chance of resolving their dilemma by proving to the police that they did not commit the crime. The police have no interest in proving they are criminals; one gets the sense that the “proof” will come after the brothers are captured and forced into a “confession” during a session with a phone book-wielding detective. Such are the odds against them that they must leave the country rather than hole up in a “safe house” or with a relative.
Thriller writers are given short shrift. Raymond Chandler once lamented that in America he was a pulp writer; while in England he was considered a “writer.” But suspense writers have the additional burden of getting readers to keep turning the pages; a burden the more high-flown of writers don’t even attempt (instead they pause to explore character). M.A.N fulfills this duty of a thriller writer. At the same time he has considerable gifts in defining character through how they respond to danger.
All in all, this is a good novel that will keep the readers entertained from beginning to end.
~Ron Capshaw for IndieReader