Authors Reading

“Running As Fast As I Can” by John David Graham is a gripping tale that follows the remarkable life journey of Daniel Robinson from his childhood in the mid-1900s to his adulthood years. The story is told in 1st person by the protagonist, Daniel Robinson. If you were a child of the fifties or sixties, you will find his tale ring true. He talks about his dealing with his angry, drunken wife-beating philandering father. He and his brothers hated him so much that they had decided to not refer to him as dad or father but simply as “him.” His brother Robert said, “To me, he’s just him—some abusive stranger who happens to live in the house with us.”

Daniel’s father was a factory worker by day and spent evenings watching TV, getting drunk, and sleeping. Sadly, he was a harsh and abusive individual towards his three sons and wife. The beatings were frequent and often severe. Daniel wanted to know why his mother married him, and she said it was because she had felt sorry for him and all the hell he had gone through before they married. But his mother’s decision transformed her into a solitary and forgotten soul, burdened by the constant domestic violence and the grief over the loss of her beloved mother.

This book profoundly portrays adolescent life in the 1950s and 1960s. It delves into the hustle of earning money through delivering papers, the joy of building balsa wood models, the excitement of weekend cowboy movies, and the tender yet complicated emotions of first love. It’s a compelling journey through a transformative era.

It is a story of being betrayed by the influential and revered and the heartbreaking truth that society ignores the pleas of the less fortunate, rendering them powerless in their pursuit of justice against the established powerful. Daniel experiences betrayal multiple times in his journey. He experienced it in childhood, love, and work – one betrayal became his nightmare. Daniel’s mentor, Dr. Samuels, shared a profound insight with him, “Life is written in pencil, so we can get a lot of second chances.” When encountering hardships, this profound concept inspired Daniel to remain resilient and gracefully adapt whenever necessary.

Seeking a fresh start after a devastating heartbreak, he embarks on a journey from his college in Kentucky to the vibrant city of San Francisco. He hopes to find solace and begin anew amidst the thriving counter-culture movement there. Despite encountering kind-hearted souls during his cross-country hitchhiking adventures, his arrival in San Francisco is marred by a disastrous event that makes him second-guess his decision. Nevertheless, amidst the initial hardships and emotional turmoil he endures, he eventually finds solace and a sense of purpose.

Detroit is another city that becomes a part of Daniel’s story. There, he encounters an unexpected new love interest, Kate. Will she prove to be just like Elizabeth? Can he trust her love to be genuine, or will she judge a man based on his family and wealth instead of the true essence of his being?

It is a captivating book that offers a profound reading experience. It delves into various aspects of life that resonate with all of us, provoking deep introspection into one’s own journey. It portrays an authentic depiction of a society in constant change and uncovers the gritty truths and unforeseen obstacles that life frequently presents. I found “Running As Fast As I Can” a fascinating read that I was glad to have had the opportunity to review. I LOVED IT.
Reviewed by: James B

Literary Titan

Running as Fast as I Can by John David Graham is an evocative novel set in the Midwest during the turbulent 1960s. The story follows the protagonist, Daniel Robinson, through a difficult childhood marked by an abusive father and a mother grappling with mental illness. Seeking an escape from this oppressive environment, Daniel leaves home at 16, initially finding refuge with a sympathetic pastor. This sanctuary is short-lived, however, as a betrayal by the pastor sets Daniel on a challenging path of self-discovery and belonging.

Graham paints a vivid picture of Daniel’s disillusionment with the religious institution he once turned to for solace. The narrative is enriched by the array of characters Daniel meets — some offering wisdom and support, others struggling themselves, yet all contributing to his growth. The central theme of constructing a chosen family comes to fruition when Daniel meets Kate Fitzgerald, with whom he endeavors to build the nurturing home he always longed for. Yet, a lingering question persists for the reader: Can Daniel truly free himself from the shadows of his past?

John David Graham’s writing is impressive, characterized by meticulous planning and skillful character development. His attention to detail creates immersive scenes, bringing the characters’ emotional journeys to life. The reader is drawn into Daniel’s world, sharing his pain, understanding the complexities of overcoming trauma, and witnessing his efforts to find love and acceptance. The novel is not without its familiar tropes. One particular instance where Daniel confides in his mentor, Doc, echoes a memorable scene from the film “Good Will Hunting.” While this similarity may detract from the novel’s originality, it does not significantly diminish the overall impact of Graham’s storytelling.

John David Graham has written an emotionally charged story that delves into the themes of resilience, belonging, and the importance of human connection. The story follows Daniel through personal struggles and challenges, discovering the true power of perseverance and human relationships. This story is a poignant reminder of the importance of finding one’s place in the world. Overall, Running as Fast as I Can is a must-read for anyone looking for a heartfelt and inspiring tale of triumph over adversity.

Readers Favorite #1 by K.C. Finn

Running As Fast As I Can is a work of fiction in the recent historical, interpersonal drama, and sociocultural writing subgenres. It is best suited to mature adult readers owing to the presence of graphic violence, sexual content, strong language, and other adult themes throughout. Penned by author John David Graham, the work is a heart-wrenching yet ultimately redemptive novel that delves into the tumultuous journey of Daniel Robinson, a young man who grew up in the grim mill slums surrounding Pittsburgh. The story opens with Daniel’s desperate escape from his abusive home, with an alcoholic father and a mother who retreated into prayer, neglecting her son’s suffering. This traumatic upbringing propels Daniel into a decade-long odyssey through the volatile 1960s, marked by encounters with the hippie drug culture, racial violence, and anti-war protests. Amid this chaos, Daniel discovers love and hope through Kate Fitzgerald, and together they embark on a path to healing and rebuilding a life marked by love rather than pain.

Author John David Graham has crafted a highly emotive and immersive novel that deftly explores themes of family, redemption, and the long-lasting effects of trauma. The book masterfully captures the historical and social backdrop of the era, offering a compelling insight into the challenges of the time whilst also bringing the vibrance, attitude, and dark complexities of the 1960s into living color with some fantastic descriptive and dialogue work. What distinguishes this book is its ability to seamlessly intertwine Daniel’s personal journey with broader social issues, making it both an emotional and thought-provoking read. It serves as a poignant reminder of the injustices and struggles that people faced during this period and the enduring impact of trauma. Overall, Running As Fast As I Can is a narrative that captivates and profoundly resonates with readers, presenting a compelling tale of love and forgiveness that I would not hesitate to recommend to one and all.

Readers Favorite #2 by Lorraine Cobcraft

All Daniel Robinson ever wanted was a normal loving family. To escape an abusive father and mentally ill mother, he leaves home at sixteen to seek refuge with a pastor. But a man he believed would protect him — a man he should have been able to trust implicitly and depend on — sexually assaults him. From thereon, his life takes many twists and turns as he struggles to find his place in the world, facing repeated challenges and betrayals and becoming increasingly disillusioned with the church and the authority figures he looks to for help and protection. While benefiting from the wisdom and caring guidance of a few good people he meets along the way, he also learns a great deal from troubled folk to whom he extends the hand of friendship. Eventually, he finds his soulmate in Kate Fitzgerald. Together, they build the family he always wanted. But can he ever outrun the demons that haunt him?

Running As Fast As I Can is a genuine page-turner. A good writer makes you either laugh or cry. John David Graham did both. Daniel’s story had me struggling at times to read through my tears. Graham is a truly great author, in my view, because long after putting the book aside, the characters still live with you. Graham takes you into their world to walk in their shoes, to feel what they feel, to think what they think, and to know what they know. You learn with them. You love with them. You cry with them. And in the end, you draw on the experiences you share with them to shape your view of the world.

This book shines a light in dark corners. The author does not hold back in his judgment of human behavior and a society shaped by prejudices. But he reminds us that life is written in pencil so that we can erase a mistake and start over. As we join Daniel on his journey, I suspect most of us will reflect on the times we needed to erase a chapter and rewrite it. We ponder the race we are running; our own search for love, for a place to belong in the world, and for a way to light the path for those who struggle in a dark place. Running As Fast As I Can is told with deep compassion and understanding. It’s a story of love and forgiveness. Intensely emotional, it is also timely and relevant, highlighting social issues our society still struggles with today. It is, in my opinion, truly a masterpiece.

Readers Favorite #3 by Viga Boland

From the moment I met 12-year-old Daniel in Running As Fast As I Can by John David Graham, my heart went out to him. How well I could relate to his joy in saving his pennies to buy and build a model airplane, only to have his young spirit crushed by his alcoholic father. From that point on, throughout adolescence and into early adulthood, throughout his eagerness to succeed in both love and career and his disappointments in both, Daniel needed constant reminders that he was writing his life in pencil and could always start over again. It’s a chance that many of us deny ourselves if it weren’t for the many good people who help us along the way. So it is with Daniel’s journey to discover who he really is and what he’s truly capable of. His search for self takes him on some wild rides with some unusual characters. We laugh and cry with him, but each and every one of them teaches him more about life and himself than any education ever could. It reminded me of my own experiences as a new teacher: I learned more from my students in my first year of teaching than I ever did in teachers’ college!

Running As Fast As I Can by John David Graham is one of the most beautiful stories ever told, one whose message was repeated several times throughout the novel, and whose importance I will never forget i.e. that “…life is written in pencil; we get lots of second chances.” Don’t believe that? Read what happens to Daniel Robinson and you might just change your mind and think a lot more deeply about your own life. I did, and, like Daniel, I realized that even though what some people had done to me could never be erased, it was always up to me to write the next chapter. The author tells us he began writing this story 50 years ago. I’d be willing to bet that though this novel is fiction, there’s a lot of reality in the protagonist’s experiences and encounters. Apart from a natural ability for story-telling, the author writes with such sensitivity that readers feel every one of Daniel’s emotions. It’s actually quite amazing how a rather long coming-of-age story could be so compelling that it’s almost impossible to put the book down. This was an engrossing and unforgettable read. Thank you John David Graham for writing Running As Fast As I Can. This particular journey belonged to Daniel Robinson but his story belongs to each of us.

Reedsy Discovery

A poignant exploration of resilience, shattered dreams, and the complex tapestry of human relationships.

Growing up in the mill slums surrounding Pittsburgh, all that 16-year-old Daniel Robinson ever wanted was a family who loved him. Instead, he was ignored by a mother who hid in her room praying to an unseen God, and a drunk for a father who used everyone as a punching bag.

After yet another beating, he runs to the only man he trusts—his pastor. He welcomes Daniel—then assaults him! Devastated, and frightened out of his mind, he runs away again, spending the next ten years wandering the country throughout the turbulent 1960’s, desperate to forget the bedlam he called home. He tries to make a new family with all the misfits he meets on the road, all while getting caught up in the hippie drug invasion in San Francisco, racial violence in Cleveland and Detroit, and especially a deadly anti-war protest at Kent State. Disillusioned, and nearly killed several times on his odyssey,

Daniel loses hope he will ever be happy—until he meets Kate Fitzgerald, who was running from her own demons. Together they get a second chance at love and the family they both want.

But can he ever run far enough to forget his haunted past?

Running As Fast As I Can takes readers on a poignant journey through the eyes of a young boy, Daniel, as he navigates the challenges of adolescence, family dysfunction, and the pursuit of a dream.

The narrative is rich with vivid details, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the world of 1950s suburban America.

The story beautifully captures the innocence and determination of Daniel as he sets his heart on owning a model airplane—a symbol of his aspirations and escape from the harsh realities of his troubled family life. The vivid descriptions of Thompson’s Hobby Shop, the model airplane, and the camaraderie with his friend Frankie create a nostalgic atmosphere that resonates with readers who may recall their own youthful dreams.

The character development is particularly well-executed, depicting the complexities of Daniel’s relationships with his family and friends. The portrayal of his father’s indifference and the strained dynamics within the family adds layers to the narrative, underscoring the challenges faced by many children growing up in dysfunctional households.

The emotional impact of the story intensifies when Daniel’s efforts to build and share his cherished model airplane with his father result in heartbreak. The symbolism of the burning plane becomes a powerful metaphor for shattered dreams and the harsh realities of life. The narrative skilfully navigates the delicate balance between hope and despair, leaving readers with a lingering sense of empathy for Daniel.

The writing style is evocative and immersive, successfully transporting readers to a bygone era. The author’s attention to detail, from the descriptions of model airplane assembly to the portrayal of family dynamics, enhances the overall authenticity of the narrative.

Running As Fast As I Can is a poignant exploration of resilience, shattered dreams, and the complex tapestry of human relationships. It captivates readers with its emotional depth, making it a compelling and thought-provoking read.

A beautiful coming-of age novel.