“Riding Easy: A Rediscovery of America” Bud Monaco (Sopro Books)
“Riding Easy: A Rediscovery Of America” is Chicago-area music promoter Bud Monaco’s debut novel on the Sopro Books imprint. This behemoth weighs in at 500+ pages; I have not read a more fanciful, improbable and entertaining road novel like Riding Easy in a long time. The story, set in 2013, follows the exploits of two Vietnam Veterans, Clive and Cloud, as they engage in antics that range from gun running, illegal drug use (and marketing), a somewhat questionable evening with two blues fans after a show at Seattle’s Highway 99 Blues Club at the Red Lion Hotel in downtown Seattle, to cross-country journeys on their Harley-Davidsons to reconnect with former brothers in arms. The descriptions of Chicago’s neighborhoods, such as the contrast of life on the Gold Coast and South 79th Street, are pretty true-to-life. Descriptions of their journey to the Navajo Nation to find their friend Gus were informative – and very funny, too (but the crew runs into some pretty unpredictable situations involving alcohol and an ax. Not pretty). I was pleasantly surprised to read about Clive and Cloud’s visit to Las Vegas to see a blues revue. For 30+ years, Monaco has produced the legendary Easter Parade Blues Revue and Thanksgiving Blues Revue featuring many South Side performers, and in Riding Easy, there’s Deb Seitz and France Marie fronting Joey Drada and Frank Anastos on guitar, the rhythm section of John Falstrom and Scott Bonshire, and Doug Lee, and Billy King round out the revue. The Chicago Horns, featuring Bill McFarland, Hank Ford and Kenny Anderson, also sit in, and since this is a rather creative piece of fiction, Las Vegas’ own Carlos Santana plays, too. After a tussle with a serial killer, and reconnecting with another veteran around Wenatchee, Clive and Cloud check into Seattle’s Red Lion and go to the Highway 99 Blues Club. I’ve never seen my name in print in a novel before, but the guys are at a show featuring the Randy Oxford Band, Too Slim and the Taildraggers and Becki Sue and Her Big Rockin’ Daddies. Riding Easy features motorcycle minutiae that many Harley-Davidson riders will appreciate; there’s also details on weapons aplenty: I hadn’t thought of a Fabrique Nationale or a Mossberg .12 gauge since I was in the Army in the 1980s, and while I thought that some of the more violent episodes were a little off-putting, Riding Easy is a good road story that honors the film and the music that inspired it. More importantly, Riding Easy honors veterans, and a veteran himself, Monaco includes a CD of military music in each copy sold on his website or Amazon.com. Monaco dedicated Riding Easy to the creative team behind Easy Rider, including co-stars Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda - I think that Billy and Wyatt would have gladly rolled with Clive and Cloud".