The 80s were a fine time in cinema. Chunk was doing the Truffle Shuffle, Marty McFly (aka Calvin Klein) was making a total arse of himself at the school dance, Johnny Five was very much alive, and Ferris Bueller took one hell of a day off.
Yup, movie fans have fond memories of the decade and none more than Spencer Austin. Austin is the writer of Chasing The Eighties: The Ultimate North American Movie Location Road Trip, which charts his and his friends’ journey around North America to visit the locations and stars of the movies (and TV shows) that were big hits during their childhood. On the way they meet Police Academy’s Hightower, spend some time at the Ghostbusters’ building, and hang out with Jeff Cohen – he who will forever be known as Chunk.
Chasing The Eighties comes as yet another glut of the many and varied ‘quest’ books that have been doing the rounds for the last few years. Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman dominated the market at one point, and there are other notable examples from writers such as Tony Hawks. However, one key difference between this book and those is that all those writers were established comedians with a knack for a good one-liner. Spencer, on the other hand, is a TV producer who obviously operates within the same universe, but naturally doesn’t have the same cache as many other writers in this field.
It’s perhaps for that reason that his writing style struggles to match the experts of the road trip genre. It jars on many occasions, especially early on when his propensity for swearing takes the better of him. There’s also a slight edge of smugness to the whole thing. Being able to bugger off for months to swan around North America, meeting movie stars and hanging ’round in the same buildings and streets that starred in your favourite films is something I dare say we’d all like to do if we could. If this were a famous bod taking on the trip, I think I could forgive them somewhat for feeling a little pleased with themselves for taking on the journey. As this is ‘one of our own’, so to speak, I did read it at times thinking, “You Jammy Get” and struggling to warm to him.
However, the book redeems itself by the sheer breadth of locations and stars that Austin and his mates take in, and by the occasional insights into the stars’ lives that the book brings forth. Plus, it does go to show that with some contacts and a fiercely determined attitude, we can all follow our dreams, however silly they may seem to some people.