Running Dog

ISBN: 0679722947
ISBN 13: 9780679722946
By: Don DeLillo

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Reader's Thoughts

Behnam Riahi

The following review has been copied from http://behnamriahi.tumblr.comRunning Dog, written by Don DeLillo and published by Alfred A. Knopf, is a third-person novel following several points-of-view, most notably journalist Moll Robbins and secret agent Glen Selvy. When an art dealer comes upon an erotic film made in Hitler’s bunker, everyone wants to get their hands on it—senators, pornographers, transvestites, and even one crazed Vietnam vet. Only no one has seen the film and it exists in rumor alone. Working for a politician wishing to keep his collection secret, Selvy is sent out to get his hands on it when he finds himself in the throes of romance with a journalist for a magazine named Running Dog, Moll Robbins. Except Moll wants the scoop on whom Selvy represents, though Selvy isn’t really out to protect the politician’s interest at all—only setting him up for a bigger fall, despite he himself being set up to be hunted down. As the film emerges, Selvy is forced to make haste to the ends of the earth, like a running dog.This is one of the books that my ex-roommate, Wyatt, gave me. It’s the third I’ve read by DeLillo, including Americana and End Zone. And it’s not the last DeLillo book I intend to read this year, though every novel I manage to pick up by him is extraordinarily different from each other. As far as modern novelists go, DeLillo is by far one of my favorites because of his careful use of spirituality tied to sentiment and the context of that in the absence of sentiment. DeLillo writes about departures: David Bell in Americana leaving the world of television to find his roots, Gary Harkness in End Zone abandoning football to understand nuclear holocaust, and now Glen Selvy, the pivotal character of Running Dog, truly running away from his governmental roles to complete all of his unfinished business. These departures not only resound with an audience familiar with deep-seeded feelings of disconnection, but they directly relate to some measure of honor and expectation for the end, like one man looking both at his past and his future. Of course, I can’t tell you everything that happens. That would spoil it for you.Kicking off this review, I’d like to start by pointing out some of the more unusual things about this book: It isn’t all that long, but there are so many goddamn characters. There were moments while reading this where I’d catch a name and had to scroll back a few pages in order to remind myself just who that name belonged to. DeLillo is no stranger to unnecessary amounts of characters though and very rarely does he ever tie up the ends of their stories. Some people just continue to live on, as though unaffected by the events in the novel, and we just have to let them live on that way. While I did long to see what happened to some folks, I found myself engaged to exactly what this novel was about—the big movie introduced at the very opening of the novel.Apart from that, there isn’t much that I disliked about the novel. The points-of-view, though all told in the same voice, are unique, in that DeLillo carefully conveys each person’s beliefs and frustrations as a reflection of those characters in following their pursuits. Points-of-view tend to shift with paragraph breaks, so it’s easy to see when you’re looking through someone else’s eyes as the story progresses forward and he makes no secret about who exactly you’re watching the world from. Only on very few occasions does he meander from one point-of-view to another, but it’s appropriate nonetheless in how seamless it works and what exactly that shift represents. One of the more interesting things about this book is that, in a lot of ways, it is a parody of a conspiracy thriller, though parody might be a strong word. Laced in the criminal activities of the characters of this novel is a very primitive sense of spirituality and complex layer of philosophy that determine each character’s path and motivations from beginning to end. It isn’t so much the action but the integrity of the characters in their beliefs that push the story forward, although DeLillo seems no stranger to action either. Each fight scene is carefully choreographed, with the characters spaced out clearly on the map of the battlefield, no different than how he placed characters on the football field in End Zone. These fights not only convey action, but also intent and strategy while revealing the enormity of each individual character’s determination to survive these conflicts.Much like in a military thriller, DeLillo shows familiarity with firearms, military vehicles, protocol. And in spite of the year this novel is set in, sometime in the 1970’s, the novel feels frighteningly modern. There’s no cell phone use and while that could, theoretically affect a story from that era, it doesn’t—the novel is completely acceptable at face value as a modern story. In fact, if not for the mention that it’s set in the 70’s, I would’ve simply assumed it was set in 2014, although, by that theory, he published it awfully quickly. Nonetheless, the use of technology like military-grade weaponry flawlessly edges the story forward without blunting the audience with unnecessary jargon or outdated images. Although, I guess the Vietnam vets are still young enough to kill people. I’m not sure that’s plausible in the 2010’s, but I wouldn’t doubt it. What makes this novel brilliant is the item that ties it all together—the secret film from the Nazi bunker. DeLillo engages the audience by creating a curious mythos around a fictional item and perpetuates that by building the drama of others trying to get their hands on it. Even while Glen Selvy is off, running for his life, we’re still engaged to that item and exactly what it contains. Is Hitler in an orgy? You don’t know until you get to the end, but you want to know so badly. The big reveal of the film itself ties the whole story together, including Moll and Glen’s connection to each other, and creates a finale that’s both beautiful, meaningful, spiritual, and without the staggering sentiment so common in literature that comes to a “romantic” conclusion. The very fact that this film is the center of the conflict doesn’t deter us from the character’s individual conflicts either, as we find ourselves watching the world through two scopes: the first being that the film is the holy grail and the second being that the film’s existence is a reasonable excuse for other, darker intentions to be unleashed. As noted in my other reviews, DeLillo is still a word-smith. Though his similes and eloquence aren’t nearly as loquacious as they were in his debut novel, he continues to write things in a way that only a skewed perspective on the military, wars, and their aftermath could. As though experiencing feelings and events in the story for the first time as an adult himself upon starting it, each phrase refines the prose to the point of perfection by capturing original concepts about so many cliched expectations of how a gun feels, how a man bleeds, what love is. The clever use of language is only an addition to the plot itself though—he never hammers an idea into our head. He states events as though they’re minutiae, though brilliantly, and leaves it on the audience’s pallet as other events occur as a result. Hints of a film-shaped cookie tin carried off in a paper bag mean more to the story than by stating directly what one character’s intent with the cookie tin was—it’s left up to the audience to find the truth in the beauty, the Hemingway mentality of omission. The very things that aren’t written are the things we have to pay attention to, thus making the story that much more engaging as the audience discovers what they already know when they peer past the great beauty of his writing.Don’t buy this book if you’re easily bored or lost—it’s not a slow book but it’s one that requires a careful eye and a strong memory. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t wait to finish it and now that it’s over, I already miss it.

J Frederick

The closest DeLillo I've read to genre fiction (thriller? what do you call the genre where half a dozen groups are all hunting some maguffin and killing each other?), but very much in his style (the typical DeLillian themes were all present, the dialouge again switches from stilted and sharp to the language of intimacy demonstrated earlier in Players), simply stretched to fit a different frame. This reminded me of the two most recent William Gibson novels (Pattern Recognition, Spook Country), but not as well paced or with as bright of a pop sensibility.

Eric T. Voigt

I've heard him acting like he made a stunning turn in his literary life after the 80s began, after The Names was released, but damn, DeLillo's good anytime he's writing. Everything he's written is my favorite. I was like "where do I stack this alongside or against his other work?" and then thought about it and put it right there, in the middle, with the rest.


Cross between dialogues in Delillo's White Noise alongside some of the kinds of language the author developed way back when he wrote Americana, with a twist of Denis Johnson's style such as one might have read in Angels. A strange exploration of obsession and collection with this kink of suspected underlying government or splinter off-giveernment spy societies. At points you may feel this will never come together or ask yourself "What are all these characters doing here?" But in the end, the book leaves off with a peculiar resonance that I feel many will enjoy reflecing on. I adore Libra, Mao II, White Noise, so enjoyed very much reading more of Delillo's well-written prose as I imagine others will.

Patrick Mcallaster

A really classy airport thriller. DeLillo even admits in an interview this is a fairly conventional book. Still, some of his hallmarks show up: clever dialogue, conspiracy, Hitler, Oswald/Kennedy, edge of the world (desert), etc.


Interesting plot about some porn dealers looking to buy a supposed film of an orgy in Hitler's Bunker near the end of the war and how peoples lives change who become involved in it.


A strange book, oddly compelling but at the same time strangely boring. A whole lot of people trying to get their hands on a tape of Hitler having an orgy.


My reaction to this book was much like my reaction to Libra. DeLillo is a fine, fine writer who has doubtless control over his subject. In this book, a journalist for a formerly radical newspaper starts to investigate a senator who seems to have a penchant for erotic art and gets herself immersed in the sordid world of erotic art and its Holy Grail: a reel of porn shot in Hitler's bunker during the last days if the Third Reich. DeLillo has a wonderful way with black ops - the intricate handling of matters, the incestuous nature between operatives, but like the aforementioned book, I suffered a tad bit of ennui during the middle. The array of names doesn't get tough to follow, but the progression of the work gets a little slow. DeLillo doesn't disappoint at the end, though, which is spectacular and muses upon what great novelists muse upon - just who IS a human being, anyway? DeLillo has complicated answers, and maybe answers we don't even like.


credo che se qualcuno mi dicesse che ha un video delle orge di berlusconi, lo ascolterei con la stessa attenzione con cui ho letto questo libro.però almeno hitler è morto.ecco, questo è quanto di più positivo sono riuscito a pensare per duecentosessanta pagine.non ne vale la pena.


Some very good sections of dialogue but I think the whole thriller/caper thing is not really my genre. So, maybe I should not have read this. I liked White Noise more.


It took me several times to get going in this novel. In the final day to the Third Reich, Hitler and his entourage make a porn film in the bunker were they are all held up in. This is the story of the search to find the film.

Andrew Pagano

I dig the hell out of this book. And why not? A strong female protagonist (with great legs!), espionage, erotic antiques, and a mystery centered around a sex tape made in the Führerbunker during the last days of WWII. DeLillo's dialogue is modern and snappy as always. His images are spot-on. His pacing is tight. Toward the end, the narrative shifts focus from character to character, giving only a few paragraphs to each. It's exciting and appropriately climactic. The reveal of the Führerbunker film carries just the right amount of weight. Just a great, great book.

Tom Hancock

This is Delillo getting warmed up. A little to much cloak and dagger mystery for my liking. The characters were a little flat. Not a bad book over all. But not a really good one.


You ever notice that Delillo's dialogue is the same in every novel? No matter the characters or the situation the dialogue flows similarly. Sometimes I love that, sometimes I don't. The end is necessarily disappointing and I guess that's okay.


I loved White Noise, so I had high hopes for this one. It left me feeling flat. It's a fun book, full of spy novel antics, but it didn't make much of an impression on me.

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