by Geoff Steward
Geoff Steward is keen from the outset that his readers are fully aware he’s not the type of lawyer who wears a wig. He is, in fact, a specialist in “litigation, with a focus on intellectual property, sports and competition law.” In other words, he’s a solicitor. When we first meet him, at home in West Sussex, he’s feeling overworked, harassed, restless, middle-aged and has a hankering to go on an American road trip – about which he hopes to write a book.
And so, it came to pass. The result of Geoff’s 2016 sabbatical is the light-hearted In Search of Nice Americans, subtitled, Off the Grid, On the Road and State to State in Trump’s America, a disorderly but entertaining drive across the USA, ending with a memorable few days in Costa Rica before returning to Blighty.
A Kerouac-type odyssey this is not – and there is nothing impromptu or bohemian about the trip. For starters, he receives professional help creating his itinerary, and endeavours to stick as closely as possible to the travel agent’s pre-booked hotels, tours and meals. He also has in tow Jackie, his volatile Irish wife, whom he deliberately, and rather sadistically, I feel, irritates and generally discombobulates at every given opportunity. I imagine that twenty-five years in the legal profession doesn’t always bring out the best in a person.
Twice wedded, and with several children from both marriages (his step kids are referred to throughout as his “spare children”), Geoff loves music, movies (especially those starring Tom Hanks) and books, so he has great fun exploring New York, Los Angeles and Nashville. He is in his element when visiting The Johnny Cash Museum and the Grand Ole Opry, but is the first to admit that he is easily irritated by people, and therefore enjoys lampooning elderly American couples on his Alaskan cruise. He has an immense liking for the affable, easy going Nashvillians and their incredible Music City; less so for the reserved Angelenos, but he meets many fascinating characters along the way.
Each chapter comes with its own soundtrack, so, for instance, Chapter Nine, in which he passes the Dakota Building in New York, has the sub-heading, Soundtrack: John Lennon – ‘Nobody Told Me’. Whether in Utah, Yosemite or Savannah, he faithfully recounts amusing conversations, describes his accommodation in detail, takes an interest in the wildlife and is generally witty and facetious about everything and everybody, including himself.
This is no spiritual journey, but it is entertaining, and I could imagine sitting in my local pub listening to Geoff regale fellow drinkers with anecdotes about his jaunt to the USA.
A light and humorous read for chilly autumnal evenings.