The Fast Men

Tom McNab, Author Simon & Schuster $17.45 (345p) ISBN 978-0-671-64244-0
Despite the superficial character portrayal, this is an engrossing look at theatrical life and the foot-racing phenomenon (""pedestrianism'') in the American West during the 1870s. The main playersand racersare Professor Moriarty, Buck Miller and Billy Joe Speed (all aliases) and their ladies. As Moriarty's ``Theatre of the West'' plies various Western towns, with occasional trips ``back East,'' he and his younger cohorts work different foot-racing scams on the locals. They never cheat at racing but aren't above confusing opposing bettors and runners (``fast men'') as to their true identities. Almost all the action revolves around the psychological warfare, physical training and actual racing contests. The major high points are a world-record sprint in England and a climactic men-and-horses competition in 1878 Arizona. We also get interesting glimpses of life upon the stage and of such real-life people as P. T. Barnum, Leland Stanford and Edwin Booth. Even readers not much interested in stage lore or pedestrianism will find it hard to put this book down: the pace never flags. McNab also wrote Flanagan's Run. (February)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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