Common Tread

Book report: Elspeth Beard's "Lone Rider"

Sep 11, 2017

Not long ago, a package arrived for me at the RevZilla video compound.

It was from overseas, and I had no idea what it was until I cracked it open and found "Lone Rider."  I interviewed Elspeth about a year ago, and she did mention that a book was forthcoming. I didn’t even realize her book had printed until I was holding it in my hands! She took it upon herself to ship me a copy, and I couldn't be happier, because it’s a hell of a good read.

Elspeth chronicles a bit of her background and how she came to motorcycling. She also gives a glimpse into her personal life around the time she considered her around-the-world voyage in the early 1980s. In spite of her lifetime of riding (and rather uncommon trip), there's nothing that Elspeth relays about her background and family that would indicate that she was preordained to take such a wild ride. In that sense, she is eminently relatable — most readers will likely feel as though they're listening to an old friend.

She chronicles her bike preparation and plans and takes you with her from place to place, explaining matters relating to world travel that may not be self-explanatory to everyone. Her succinct explanation of languages, customs, and how she negotiated strange situations is straightforward and concise enough that it never seems unwieldy to learn as you travel along with her.

Her writing is clear and direct, and she’s realistic and pragmatic in her narration. I think some may find her writing to be sober to the point of surprising; Beard doesn’t gild the lily too much. She’s capable of sounding nearly detached about some items that must have evoked quite a bit of emotion. (“...I’d been written off as a ‘thicky,’ a label that stuck until I was sixteen, when it was discovered that I was dyslexic.”)

Her travels are not always solo, and though she does travel alone, there are a surprising amount of characters in the book, and Elspeth is able to bring them right to life. Elspeth recalls details of her trip and her own emotions so well I’m sad about my own jumble of fuzzy memories.

Also a bit arresting is her chronicling of various sexual occurrences and medical maladies that occurred on her trip. The surprising parts aren’t really that these scenarios occurred, but instead that she so unsentimentally chronicles them in a fashion so businesslike they’re nearly journalistic. The lack of flowery descriptions is refreshing and clear, and helps the story’s action move right along.

Put it on your winter reading list. RevZilla photo.

The book is satisfying to sit down and absorb, even if you think you know the story of Beard's trip. I turned the pages far too fast for my liking, dreading the dwindling stack of pages under my right index finger. And then the "end" came, far too abruptly for me.

But Elspeth’s story, being true, never really halted. Her trip simply came to an end. Chapter 22 ("The Aftermath") is a beautiful bow on this gift of a tale. I’m not one for spoilers, so I won’t wax long on it, but if you read this book looking for a lesson, that’s where your education will likely take place. I haven’t really spoken with Elspeth too much as of late, so my next line is pure conjecture. Mark my words: This book will be turned into a movie. I haven’t a doubt in my mind; the story is far too good. I can see some of the shots in my mind's eye already.

Lone Rider can be purchased on Amazon. It’ll run you £12.99 (about $17 at the time of this writing.) It’s 312 pages, perfect bound, and a damn good read — and an even better bargain.