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The Independent Travel
Drive Thru America (Lonely Planet Travel, pounds 6.99), by Sean Condon

Sean Condon is so taken with the idea of road adventure that his second novel shares the same theme as his first. After four-wheeling his way across Australia in Sean and David's Long Drive, Condon now takes us on a ramshackle journey through the States in his latest offering, Drive Thru America.

Nostalgic for the artery-hardening dishes and Seventies rock music of his youth, Condon starts his journey in Montreal, his childhood home. From the Molson bars of Montreal, Condon and his long-suffering co-pilot David, travel to New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco via New Orleans. David is the consummate Aussie travel partner - laid back and entirely unfazed by his companion's scurrilous antics. On the plane to Montreal, Condon writes "I am wearing sunglasses and pretending to be blind. David is asleep behind me, exercising his almost superhuman capacity for relaxation".

When it's good, Condon's humour reaches well-paced brilliance. At best, the punch lines are not unlike a hammed-up, Nineties version of Raymond Chandler; pithy, with generous measures of surreal humour. Yet on the whole, the reader is left with the feeling that Condon is an unreformed class clown, intent on a quick laugh at the expense of anything more substantial. Indeed, two of his school reports grace the inside cover and are filled with comments like "Sean has much ability which he channels with great gusto into the comic, the foolish and the fruitless approach". This could just as easily be an epitaph for the book itself. The result is slightly exhausting, like watching a nervous stand-up comedian in overdrive.

Given these frustrations, the book is strangely compelling. An anti-travel book, this is not the kind of thing a tourist board would recommend. In this respect, it offers a refreshing, offbeat change to the turgidity of many a travelogue.

As with his first novel, Sean and David's Long Drive, Condon renders the classic road adventure with enduring idiosyncrasy. More "bonza" journalism than "gonzo", this Australian author brings brash, antipodal humour to a genre traditionally dominated by such errant Yanks as Hunter S Thompson and Jack Kerouac. Overall, it is an amusing read and, in the words of Condon's aforementioned school report, "his remarks can be irritating" but "if he behaves well he could be very successful".

Rating: 5/10

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