In ‘No Thru Road’, veteran American motorcycle journalist, Clement Salvadori offers a selection of thirty stories about two-wheeled journeys he’s made over the course of fifty years. Anthological in style and alphabetical by country in structure, it makes for fascinating, if unconventional, reading.
From the ‘confessions of a travelling man’ tagline, it might not come as too much of a shock that the book is a somewhat self-indulgent partial autobiography. Judging by the character of its similes and rhetoric, it was written with the readership in the USA exclusively in mind.
With the notable exception of his first-hand commentary on the Vietnam war (where as an ex-Green Beret he worked in PR for a major construction company and later as a US advisor to the Vietnamese civilian authorities), Clement’s historical and cultural references often betray a disappointingly superficial understanding of complex issues. His metaphors have a tendency towards crass clumsiness too. In Afghanistan in 1973, for example, he describes being waved off from a remote village by its hospitable and courteous inhabitants as making him feel, “rather like the British expeditionary force that was massacred while attempting to flee… in 1842.”
Those observations aside, on the whole, Clement’s writing is an easy-going pleasure to read. His stories illuminate a bygone era of independent motorcycle travel when exploring the world with open eyes and frugal simplicity was the order of the day. Illustrated with black and white photos, line drawings, and the occasional map, two-thirds of the book recalls trips undertaken between 1957 and 1980. The chapters on Baja California, Japan, and New Zealand include interesting zeitgeist comparisons. He visited New Zealand in 1974 and returned again in 2000 for instance.
Review by Iain Harper.
Paperback. 410 pages.
Published in 2014 by Trovatello Press.