Never judge a book by its cover. Or title. You’d run the risk of doing yourself a terrible disservice if you were to do so in this case. The text has an engaging professionalism that the cover design fails to reflect. The title doesn’t help either, oozing the worst elements of vanity publishing, but get past both and you’ll enjoy a terrific read.
Starling isn’t pretending anything. He has an opportunity to do something he’s always wanted to do – ride around western USA – and he has secured the company of two great mates with which to share the experience. It’s just three late middle-aged guys from Australia kicking back from hectic careers and living a month on the road enjoying the bikes, bars and landscape and being open to all the people they engage enroute, decadent or desperate.
Like so many men of a certain age they’ve had a lifetime of US celluloid influence – from Westerns to road movies and sitcoms – and they just want to immerse themselves in a dream and see if any of it exists.
It’s an adventure for them but this isn’t about battling deep mud and sleeping rough, it doesn’t need to be. Starling’s writing is wonderfully descriptive and you’ll find it hard to stop turning pages even if he’s telling you about lunch.
Blow by blow travelogues are often difficult to endure but this is a captivating delight and the group dynamic certainly adds. He doesn’t rant or pass judgement although he does observe and as a reader we permit him to be affronted by certain behaviour. But this doesn’t disturb the narrative and when he does wish to concentrate on something specific such as Hearst Castle, or National Parks, the mini-info-chapter layout is slightly different. It’s a format that works surprisingly well.
This is a book that captures the ‘x’ factor of American road trips, call it romance if you like, but you’ll want to go when you’ve read it. Force yourself to open the cover.
Paperback 387pp £16.99
10 route maps
Meta Publishing (2015)