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Book reviews - The Ballad Of The Running Man

The Ballad Of The Running Man

Author: Shelley Smith
A new life, a new name, a new way to die…

On the Alps, in the summer of 1960, two schoolteachers discover a gruesome sight – a corpse of a murdered man.

How the corpse came to be there is the story of Rex and Paula Buchanan.

A restless and spirited man always on the look out for some new adventure, Rex Buchanan was in the RAF and then earns money, writing pulp fiction novels.

Paula once dreamt of being a famous actress but Rex’s writing career is steady enough that she can spend her days idle.

One day, Rex comes home with a fantastic plot idea for his next novel – ‘The Ballad Of The Running Man’.

A man insures his life and with the aid of his wife, pretends to fall ill and eventually ‘dies’.

In reality, he simply takes on a new identity and waits until it’s safe for his wife to join him with the insurance money at hand.

Paula thinks it’s a brilliant novel in the making.

Except Rex wants him and Paula to act it out in real life.

At first, Paula wants nothing to do with Rex’s little scheme but once the seed is in her head, she can’t help but think what a lark it would all be…

And so Rex insures his life, falls ‘ill’ and eventually dies. In the meantime, he prepares his and Paula’s new life.

While Paula, the hysterical, grieving widow, convinces the doctor to sign a death certificate without even seeing the ‘body’.

The insurance company is even easier to convince – the young man appeared smitten over her anyway – and soon, Paula Buchanan vanishes.

While some way, away, ‘Mr and Mrs Jerome’, a quiet, unremarkable married couple, move in to an equally quiet and unremarkable neighbourhood.

But already, both Rex and Paula are planning their next fraud, their next ‘death’ ploy, their next identities.

They go from identity to identity, getting richer and richer with each new life.

But money has a way of corrupting people and Rex and Paula find themselves suspicious of everyone, including each other.

And then one day, whilst staying in Switzerland, a young man recognises Paula, greeting her as ‘Mrs Buchanan’.

But Paula hasn’t the faintest clue who this young man is…

A gripping psychological thriller, The Ballad Of The Running Man is a chilling and suspenseful tale.

Praise forThe Ballad Of The Running Man

“Grips like an old pike” –OBSERVER

“I would call her [Shelley Smith] the English Patricia Highsmith…” – GUARDIAN

“The most stylish thriller I have read this year.”– DAILY HERALD

Nancy Bodington was born in 1912. Under the pen name of Shelley Smith,she wrote 15 crime and detective novels between 1942 and 1978. Smith is best known for The Ballard of the Running Man and its 1963 film adaption starring Laurence Harvey and Lee Remick.

US publication: 1961
Detective: n/a
Genre: n/a