Review—Motorcycles, Minotaurs, & Banjos
Below is a review of Motorcycles, Minotaurs, & Banjos from Tiger Coward. It describes this book more incitefully and accruurately than I could do it justice in the product description. Take a look, and perhaps you'll find Steven's book a worthy adidtion to your library.
There is a new addition to the Tiger Coward Adventure Motorcycle Library: Motorcycles, Minotaurs & Banjos, A Modest Odyssey.
Thank you to Steve Sherill, the author of this book, who sent me his remarkable novel!
My executive summary is that this is a fantastic novel that is well written and unlike any other book in my Adventure Motorcycle Library. It is easier to describe what this book isn't than to tell you what it is. This isn't a travel guide or a trip journal. It is not a story of self-realization or a tale of escapism. Instead, as the title states, it is a Modest Odyssey. A trip with a purpose. The author is, amongst many things, a motorcycle and banjo efficianato, and he combines these two passions in this terrific story.
The Modest Odyssey is a motorcycle trip to the grave sites of the author's favorite banjo players and the motorcycle rides that connect them. This route takes Sherill from his home in State College, PA, south through the Appalachians to his home State of North Carolina and back to Pennsylvania. Along the way, he rides epic mountain roads, including the Tail of the Dragon, visits colorful and sometimes dreadful towns on his way to radically differing graveyards.
But the story is about so much more, including the author's life and upbringing. About the lives of the banjo legends that he visits. About the fictional characters from his previous novels. And of course, about motorcycles. Specifically, his current Royal Enfield Interceptor 650. Not necessarily an Adventure Bike, but I believe that any bike that you have an adventure on is an Adventure Bike.
MM&B is a great read but not the book to purchase if you are looking for a travel guide to motorcycle roads in the Appalachians.
I will state my biases or at least potential conflicts of interest.
I was sent this book by the author, but he didn't ask me for anything. Not even to review it. I was honored but not indebted.
I was, however, intimidated when I received the book and read his pedigree on the jacket. University professor. Author of 5 fiction novels. Pulitzer Prize Nominee. Painter and performing musician. That is all a bit intimidating for the shy, innocent country boy that is Tiger Coward. Nonetheless. I read it. I loved it. Now, I will review it.
I should also let you know that I rode many of the same roads and visited many of the same towns on my Tail of the Dragon tour in spring 2023. That ride is inadequately documented in a playlist on my Tiger Coward moto rides YouTube channel. Check it out. I say that this is a potential bias because I may have felt a special affinity to the book because of the deep and rich memories it triggered for me.
Here are five things that I loved about Motorcycles, Minotaurs & Banjos:
1. The purpose of the Modest Odyssey.
The idea of having a purpose for a trip is completely foreign to me. I just ride. I give surprisingly little thought to where I travel. I hear someone say that it is great somewhere and then I want to go.
Having a purpose seems so much more meaningful. Especially if it combines two passions. This Modest Odyssey has inspired some thinking on my part. What would be my Modest Odyssey? Do I actually have two passions? Do you know what would your Modest Odyssey would be?
2. The route.
Oh, how I loved riding in the Appalachians! Sherill's descriptions of roads and towns had me rewatching videos from my trip through this region. Strangely, I also rode through State College, where he currently lives. It is not really a tourist town, but I wanted to visit Pennsylvania State University for some reason.
It is so cool that I have ridden the roads that he described on his Odyssey. This is a different experience for me because so many of the books I read are from places that I will never visit.
There is comfort in being able to close your eyes and picture places in the story.
3. The uniqueness of the story.
This story is different in so many ways. Duh, that is the definition of unique! But really. How many motorcycle adventure books are written by Pulitzer Prize nominated authors, who are both accomplished painters and musicians. The closest that I have come to find this is Neil Peart's epic book Ghost Rider. But Sherill's story is far more complex than what Peart gave us.
We learn about the author's challenging childhood, run-ins with the law, the jobs as a welder, cook, and nude model. Most uniquely, it is the alternate personality of the Minotaur.
Nope, I can't think of another novel that has that. You will have to read it to make sense of what I am saying, but rest assured, this novel is different than anything that I have read. I also think that it is better than anything that I have read.
4. Observations from deep in the helmet.
The author gives us an unfiltered description of his stream of thoughts when he rides. I am not sure if everyone has deep helmet thoughts and conversations, but I do. So does Steve Sherill. Some are ridiculous, some are sweet, and many made me laugh out loud.
When I am in my helmet, I am anyone who I want to be. I am not old and bald, nor am I an executive, retiree, husband, or father. Inside my helmet, I am simply a rider. Inside my helmet, I am Tiger Coward. I fully connect with the Minotaur, who sometimes rides Sherill's bike. Maybe you will, too.
5. The writing.
I received some comments on my review of Neil Peart's book that the writing was challenging to read. Some may find that with this book. It is not written as a Travel Guide. This is a novel written by an artist, and I loved it.
I felt like I was sitting on the porch, or around a campfire, speaking with, or at least listening to my new friend Steve, tell me stories. Interesting stories. Funny stories. Meaningful stories. I feel the same way about reading books by Nick Adams. The writing is different, but I feel like we are old friends. I hope that you will too. BTW Steve and Nick, if you are ever in the centre of the universe you are welcome to stay with Tiger Barb and I. We can sit at our fire pit and I will listen to your stories all night.
I don't really know the difference between a book and a novel. Do you? But, I do think that there is a difference. I think that the Tiger Coward Adventure Motorcycle Library has many great books in its collection, but I think that this is the first novel to be added.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this book to those who are looking for something deeper in a Motorcycle Adventure book/novel. I also recommend this for anyone who really loves great storytelling!
—Tiger Coward, YouTube: Tiger Coward moto rides