That’s Entertainment: A Review Of David F. Ross’ Welcome To The Heady Heights…

It’s always a risk when a writer leaves well-loved characters and places behind to move on to something new. David F. Ross completed his ‘Disco Days Trilogy’ with 2017’s The Man Who Loved Islandsa fitting end but one which left both writer and reader questioning what he would do next. The answer to that is now with us in the shape of Welcome To The Heady Heights, (Orenda Books) and from the opening chapter it is clear that everyone can relax, sit back, and enjoy.

It’s a novel which gets to the heart of ’70’s Glasgow, capturing, and revelling in, the city’s wit, wisdom and widoes, and using them to examine human frailty and institutional corruption at its worst. Corporation busconductor Archie Blunt is a man with a mission, a proud Glaswegian who understands the city and those who bide there, and is glad to do so. When he find himself out of work and, at the age of 52, running out of time, he feels that life is in danger of passing him by. The one thing he has going for him is that he knows where the bodies are buried and who has dirt on their shoes, and starts to realise that such knowledge may be his best hope.

This set-up allows David Ross to turn his ever-so-dark humour and coruscating eye to the second city of the Empire and the decade of flares and Findus Crispy Pancakes, and it proves to be the perfect pairing. For those who are already a fan of his writing they will be familiar with the way he uses comedy, and often controversy, to examine and comment on matters serious. While having a ball with his memorable array of characters running amok, a central theme is the systemic abuse of minors by members, often well-loved, of the apparently respectable establishment, particularly with regard to the entertainment industry.

As much outraged as outrageous, you can’t shake the feeling that Ross writes in part to vent anger and frustration at the darkness and desperation of some people’s lives, and at those who would take advantage of them – often without a second thought. And while there is clear commentary on the highly-publicised sex scandals of Savile, Glitter, Clifford, et al., more current concerns are broached such as the continued march of celebrity culture, the myth that we are all due ’15 minutes of fame’, and how the spate of TV talent shows continue to exploit the young and vulnerable.

Archie becomes the driver to Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks, a well-known TV presenter who, it quickly becomes clear, will never turn down the chance to debase and defile when opportunity knocks. He plans, along with other members of the mysterious ‘Circle’, to turn the landmark Great Eastern Hotel, (the infamous drop-in for Glasgow’s homeless and destitute), into the first Heady Hotel, a place to lure the unsuspecting and susceptible.

You may think this premise too outrageous to be believed, but when you consider the actions of those icons named above and their like, and how institutions and officialdom, knowingly and unknowingly, facilitated their terrible desires then, if anything, it is all too believable. These men see themselves as untouchable, above the law.

It is this hubris that Archie seeks to exploit, using the knowledge he has to help promote his hastily formed boy-band, The High Five – ‘Satan’s Bagpipes’ being sadly rejected as a name. This is his last chance of becoming a success, someone of whom his father could be proud, a desire which leads him to make a series of questionable decisions. As the stakes for everyone get higher the pace quickens and the tension ramps up to such an extent that you are left breathless by the end.

As evocative of the ’70s as Alvin Stardust riding a Chopper, Welcome To The Heady Heights is where those well-known Williams, Connolly and McIlvanney, meet. Ross uses Glasgow’s infamous No Mean City reputation as the backdrop to a story which lifts the lid on the worlds of showbuisness and politics and finds what lies beneath rotten. It’s one of the most thoroughly and unapologetically enjoyable novels you’ll read this year – riotous, courageous, and laugh-out-loud funny. It’s also gritty, gallus and Glaswegian to its core – with Welcome To The Heady Heights David F. Ross has given us a novel to revel in.

*This review is part of the Welcome To The Heady Heights Blog Tour, and you can read what other people think by visiting the blogs and websites mentioned below…

Write On: Scots Whay Hae!’s Top 10 Picks Of The Edinburgh International Book Festival…

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From the 12th – 28th August in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square Gardens once more becomes the place for book lovers to meet, greet, and be merry as this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival takes up its annual residence. It’s an oasis of calm and conversation in a city gone daft, and it is one of SWH!’s favourite places to be. With that and much more in mind, and to help you find something just for you, here are Scots Whay Hae!’s Top Ten Picks of what to see at this year’s book festival.

We have tried to avoid the already sold-out and high-profile to give you an alternative and achievable schedule.

FICTION’S MASTER CRAFTSMAN: James Kelman
– Fri 18 Aug 1:30pm – 2:30pm
UnknownHaving said we have tried to avoid big names, the first pick is one of Scottish literature’s living legends. James Kelman is in town to talk primarily about his latest collection of short stories That Was A Shiver, and Other Stories. There is a body of thought, to which I belong, which believes that while Kelman is one of our great novelists he is an even better short story writer – a master of the art. It is a form which suits not only his style but also the content. What is unarguable is that this is a rare chance to listen to a true artist read and discuss his work. Astonishingly tickets still available at the time of writing, but I would get in there quickly to avoid disappointment. Continue reading

Isle Be There: A Review Of David F. Ross’s The Man Who Loved Islands…

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Those who have read David F. Ross’s first two novels The Last Days Of Disco and The Rise & Fall Of The Miraculous Vespas  will approach his third with anticipation, excitement but also a little regret as it promises to be the closing part of his “Disco Days” trilogy which means no more Max Mojo, Bobby Cassidy or Joey Miller and no more music from Heatwave Disco or The Miraculous Vespas. But put aside those fears for now and rest assured that if The Man Who Loved Islands is to be their swan song, they are leaving the stage in some style.

This is a more mature book than the other two in both content and approach. Having previously been taken back to the ’80s we are now in, or are at least quickly approaching, the present day, aside from some timely flashbacks to explain how we got here. While once the main characters had their life before them, for the most part full of promise and potential, Ross now concentrates on them as 50-something men reflecting back on their lives and finding them wanting. Continue reading

The Good Word: Scots Whay Hae!’s Best Books Of 2016…

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It’s the time for ‘Books Of The Year’ lists and we like to think that Scots Whay Hae!’s selection for 2016, while small, is beautifully formed and well worthy of your attention.

These are the books which stood out against a lot of stiff and perhaps better known competition. The list could have been longer but we like to stick to a traditional Top Ten. Consisting mostly of novels, with one remarkable collection of short stories, and one unforgettable musical (auto)biography, these are the books which have left their mark. Here’s what we thought at the time:

51xve7sbigl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Young Soul Rebels – Stuart Cosgrove

Stuart Cosgrove writes as he broadcasts – eloquently, forcefully and at pace, and as such he makes persuasive and forceful arguments. If you have a music fan in your life, then I would suggest this book is the perfect gift. If they are a soul fan, then it is a must. Anyone who has ever pored over liner notes, obsessed over b-sides, searched out limited editions and rarities, or cued hours for tickets or entry will recognise themselves at least in part on the page, no matter what their musical tastes. Stuart Cosgrove is here to remind you that while music may not be a matter of life and death (and there are poignant reminders of that in Young Soul Rebels) it certainly makes the former worth living. Continue reading

Creative Industry: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To David F. Ross…

david-rossIn the latest podcast Ali talks to writer David F. Ross ostensibly about his novels The Last Days Of Disco and The Rise & Fall Of The Miraculous Vespas and the forthcoming The Man Who Loved Islands, but the conversation veers off in many interesting directions.

They discuss the motivation behind this relatively new career as a writer, what inspired him to set his novels in Kilmarnock, the importance of remaining true to people and places, the golden years of mobile discos, the central importance of music in his work, architecture, and morality – and I don’t mean the 1981 OMD album.

All writers take different paths, but some are more different than others and it’s fair to say that David’s is unique. Any one who is interested in writing will find what he has to say on the subject fascinating. But there is something for everyone here, including tips for any budding DJs, a mutual love-in about Postcard Records, and the importance of creative subjects in education. Social, political, cultural, and artistic – all those boxes are ticked in this podcast. Continue reading

All Mod Cons: A Review of David F. Ross’ The Rise & Fall Of The Miraculous Vespas…

vespas-full-front-copy-275x423Two of the West of Scotland’s major obsessions are music and crime, so it’s a smart move on the part of David F. Ross to write about both in his second novel The Rise & Fall Of The Miraculous Vespas. Any one who has been involved in or around the music business will know it’s also fairly apt.

The Miraculous Vespas are an up and coming band led by the charismatic and unstable Max Mojo, known to his parents as Dale Wishart, who puts together a disparate bunch of misfits who bring their idiosyncratic personalities to a group determined to make it big, by fair means, but more often by foul.

Their rise (& fall) is set against the backdrop of localised criminal activity which is controlled and fought over by a small number of families all after the lion’s share of ever decreasing spoils. Imagine the Cosa Nostra on the Costa del Clyde and you have some idea as to what these families aspire to.

A lot of the comedy in Ross’ novel comes from the distance between the fantasy and the reality of crime in 1980s Scotland. Opening up video stores rather than casinos, sporting nicknames such as ‘Flatpack’ Frankie and Wullie ‘The Painter’, rather than ‘Lucky Luciano’ or ‘Spats’. Ross never shies away from the fact that threats and violence are never far away, and he is not glorifying such behaviour. Rather he is trying to give a realistic portrayal of a time and place, and the lengths some people would, and will, go to to make a living, often using methods which are not strictly legal. The thought that this may involve homo-erotic initiation ceremonies only adds to the overall sense that the serious and the absurd are never far from each other.  Continue reading

Wrapped Up In Books: A Preview Of Aye Write! 2016…

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Stepping into its second decade with well-earned confidence and style, Glasgow’s Aye Write! festival is a must for all book addicts and lovers of literature, with this year’s programme promising something for everyone.

All life is here, with authors talking food, music, love, politics, money, evolution, revolution and Star Trek.

Here are a few selected highlights to give you something to think about, but you can peruse the full programme at your leisure here.

You can also keep up to date with events as they unfold by following @AyeWrite on Twitter or on Facebook. Tickets can be bought here.

One of Scots Whay Hae!‘s books of 2015 was Stuart Cosgrove’s Detroit ’67: The Year That Changed Soul Music, and when Stuart talked about that book on the SWH! podcast he also mentioned that his next venture was going to be a history of Northern Soul, one of his great loves. That book is called Young Soul Rebel, and he will be talking about it on Friday 11th March. Cosgrove is steeped in soul music and this is a must for all music lovers.

On the same day music journalist Barney Hoskyns is in town to talk about Woodstock and the musicians and characters drawn to that place. On Saturday 12th, Cosgrove and Hoskyns’ fellow NME alumni Paul Du Noyer will discuss his book on Paul McCartney which is based on a series of conversations the two have had over the decades. McCartney is sometimes portrayed as a figure of fun these days, but he is one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, and Du Noyer has had almost unprecedented access for this book. Continue reading