Planet Pop, Kilmarnock style…

Not many novels come with their own single and an interview with one of the main protagonists. You can trust David F Ross to come up with a game-changer like that though. The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas picks up (sort of) where The Last Days of Disco left off. The novel tells the story of the band that rises from the ashes of a misdirected attack intended for Bobby Cassidy and his mobile disco and goes on to unlikely and brief stardom before its inevitable self-destruction.

But that doesn’t cover the half of it. Throw in an off-his-head manager and Svengali who just happens to be the son of one of Ayrshire’s leading crime bosses, a plot to bring down the fearsome Glasgow McLarty family and the emergence of Fat Franny Duncan as an unlikely Renaissance man (via the medium of video rentals and a big hoose in Troon) and you’ve got a real rollercoaster of a story that grips you from the off, neatly framed by and older and more reflective (if not less garrulous) Max Mojo being interviewed about how he created and destroyed the Vespas. Oh, and Boy George is in it too. And not in a good way.

The brilliance of David F Ross is his ability to plunge us into 1980s Ayrshire  in all its madness, violence and despair (with a smattering of hope). Pummelled by Thatcher, unemployment, crime and drugs but still full of great tunes, exciting bands and an awful lot of chancers. It’s a vivid and colourful world and could only have been created by someone who was there. Too many novels today are strong on plot and weak on prose. David F Ross is great with both, and that’s what makes it. The dialogue is muscular and spot-on, the locations come alive and the characters are believably flawed. There’s another novel to come and then Ayrshire has its own Barrytown Trilogy, and it’s long overdue. These books will last, because the stories and the characters really live and the place deserves its chronicler.

Orenda Books is establishing itself really fast as a publisher of great new fiction and they’re to be congratulated on hooking up with David F Ross – we’re all the richer for it. The difficult second album? Not in this case. Not at all.

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