It’s a story that begins and ends in a graveyard. Not just any graveyard, the Daddy of all graveyards, Glasgow’s Necropolis. It also begins and ends with hope, because the latest protagonist created by David F. Ross, Archie Blunt, is ‘a stoical son of Glasgow; an unrequited optimist’. Moving from the Ayrshire of his first three novels, David takes us to 1970s Glasgow, and a cast of corrupt politicians, small time (and big time) gangsters and hard men, dodgy clubs and dubious hotels, and the gloriously awful television personality Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks, who gives Archie his big break and wishes very much that he hadn’t. This is what by now we can call vintage David F. Ross, a comic romp through the underbelly of Glasgow with a seriously good playlist.
But lets’s not give the impression that this is all comedy. There are serious themes here, from the struggles of WPC Barbara ‘The Tank’ Sherman against institutional misogyny to Gail Proctor’s doomed search for justice and the shadowy (and all too believable) world of privilege and corruption embodied in ‘The Circle’.
As always though, the genius and joy of David’s work lies in the characters that he creates and makes us love (before sometimes snatching them away from us with a wicked capriciousness). Every player in the drama is fully-formed, from Chib Charnley and his ‘metal fist’ and dodgy hip to the glorious return (and disappearance) of Bobby Souness. There’s also a putative boy band who turn out to be more talented than anyone has a right to expect, and certainly more resourceful. At the end of the day, Archie has risen, fallen and risen again and a retail empire is born. Having said that, if David gives us a sequel (and surely that’s the least we have a right to expect) you wouldn’t bet against Archie’s vans hitting the odd bump in the road or Bobby Souness losing one of his remaining appendages.
It’s all there – the characters, the spot on dialogue, and the page-turning story-telling. Read this book, and hope that we get to meet Archie again when spring comes to the Necropolis.