My new novel of travel misadventures, Gumbi vs The World, is out now and FREE for one week only on Smashwords. So, to celebrate (or shamelessly self-promote using articles on vaguely related topics) I’ve compiled a list of film locations I sought out whilst I was in America. To be honest, most of my travelling in America was done based on movies I’d watched and liked. I didn’t look at the Lonely Planet once.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The main reason, above all others, for going to Milwaukee was American Movie. If you’ve not seen it, it’s a documentary film about a filmmaker and his friend trying to make the great American Movie. In this case a horror movie called Coven (pronounced Coe-van – the pronunciation is important).

I fell in love with that documentary in a big way, and as I mention in the book, I was lucky enough to get to meet one of its stars, Mike Schank. Not only that, I got to play tennis with him. Yup, tennis. I know, far-fetched, right? If you think that’s a stretch of the imagination you should read how the meeting came about. Just saying. [PLUG FOR NEW BOOK GOES HERE]

Aside from American Movie I’d grown up wanting to see Milwaukee because of Alice Cooper’s appearance in Wayne’s World. I’ve mentioned before on this blog what an influence Wayne’s World is to me, and so it seemed right to visit the place in homage. Did you know Milwaukee is the only capital city to elect three socialist mayors? [Fact correct as of 1991]

Las Vegas, Nevada

Despite America’s size, films tend to be set in only three main places: New York, LA, Vegas. Yes San Francisco and Chicago get used a lot, but I bet there are more films with Las Vegas in the title than the rest combined.

Of the many Las Vegas films the one I’ve watched the most (and read most often) is Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. A madcap drug addled misadventure with no discernible plot. It shuns the glitz and glam given to the city by other films by holding up a sort of circus mirror the place, showing it in an ugly distorted form. Just like Hunter S Thompson, I stuck it to the man whilst I was there – I wore a Haiwaiian shirt. Ooooh, rebellious. I would’ve done more rebellious stuff, obviously, but hey I’d just had my appendix out. You believe me, right?

One of the best things about Vegas though was seeing the Biffco building from Back to the Future 2. It actually exists. Hey, McFly!


Los Angeles

Like Las Vegas, there are many many movies set in Los Angeles. I absolutely love the way a sunset looks on film set in LA, especially at the credits of a film when the hero walks off into the sunset with the deep orange wash mixing with hot red and gold as the guitar starts wailing.

My personal fave films in LA are those set in one day, so you can see the movement of the sun and see the lengthening shadows as the day progresses, and top of this rather niche list of requirements is Falling Down – a two finger salute to the world of an unhinged man who has had enough. Michael Douglas crosses LA, moving through some pretty rough looking areas, so I decided to check out Venice Pier, the scene of the final shoot out. And you know what, I didn’t shoot anybody. Who says films have an undue influence on people?


There’s just one film I think of when it comes to Chicago…and that’s the The Blues Brothers. I first watched it when I was about fourteen, and didn’t really get it, but it very quickly became a favourite film and soundtrack. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen it since then but I know it word for word. It’s a personal regret that I didn’t walk around wearing a black suit – but then perhaps if I did that I’d have the entire Chicago police force chasing me around. And given everything else that happened on the trip, I could live without that. Hit it!

Download Gumbi vs The World free this week on Smashwords. Oh, I mentioned that already, didn’t I?




  1. I think we live in parallel worlds. I like movies (I saw While We’re Young yesterdays – set in New York, and I think that city probably takes it for the most movie settings. So many movies set there: West Side Story, Birdman, Gangs of New York, Easter Parade, French Connection, Manhattan (and lots more Woodie Allen). Las Vegas is just a vulgar pile in the desert.) but I haven’t seen one of the movies you feature. Though you do write well about them, and I’m thinking this guy can probably write a good book, I have to read one. Oh – and I’ve got one on Kindle waiting. Even if I haven’t seen the films. My next read.

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