The book is “48 and Counting: A Story of Money, Love and Bicycling.” Clements is a former writer for the Wall Street Journal, who has since moved on, but he’s still writing — and riding. He recounts the story of Max Whitfield, a 48-year-old money manager, who discovers the joy of bike riding. As Max gets more involved in his new pastime, he springs for an expensive road bike, decks himself out in fancy lycra kit, and joins a local club ride, where he is promptly spit out the back. But he keeps coming back, and keeps getting faster.
However, while Max is wrapped up in cycling, he’s neglecting his business. His ambitious assistant plots to grab it. He’s also neglecting his marriage, and a woman he meets by chance starts looking mighty fine. When his life implodes, Max decides to set a new goal for himself. He enters a 40-mile road race.
Although Clements has been a financial journalist, with four earlier books about money, this is his first novel. He had always thought he’d write a novel once he retired, but when his father died after being hit by a car while cycling, Clements decided he’d better write the novel now — because he might not make it to retirement.
His love of cycling is evident throughout the book. Clements rides his road bike in New York City, often near his home on Roosevelt Island. “Down the south end of the island, I have what I consider my personal criterium course,” he said in an email to me. “It’s 0.9 mile around, with a few stop signs you can safely ignore. During the week, I’ll bang out a quick 13 or 14 miles there, going round and round like a crazed rat on a treadmill, and judge the ride by which side of 20 mph I average.”
The weekends find him in Central Park, where cars aren’t allowed on the main six-mile circuit on Saturdays and Sundays. “Again, averaging at least 20 mph is my goal, but that’s much easier in the park because the roads are smoother, there are fewer tight turns and – at the weekend — my aging body has a little longer to wake up before I hit the road,” he told me.
Making the switch from financial columnist to novelist was tougher than Clements thought. “I’ve spent my entire writing career telling people, in simple, plain English, what to do with their money,” he said. “But with ’48 and Counting,’ I wasn’t doling out advice, but telling a story. Making the switch proved surprisingly difficult.”
He pulled it off, though. It’s an entertaining story, one that can be read in one evening, and some of the cycling scenes — the clipless fall, the arrogant hammerheads on the club ride — will be familiar to many. “48 and Counting” is available as a $9.99 paperback through Amazon and as a $3.99 Kindle and Nook e-book. With the onset of autumn, and less genial cycling weather for many of us, some time with the book could be a satisfying substitute for time in the saddle.
I read this novel over the weekend. It is one of if not the best novel that I’ve read in 2012, and I read a lot.