Today we are wishing a very happy 5th Book Birthday to David F. Ross and Orenda Books as it is the anniversary of the paperback release of The Last Days of Disco, book one in the Disco Days trilogy. This one of those series I have had lurking on my shelf for a while and now I’ve had the perfect reason to push it to the top of my reading list. This the original Orenda Books title – the very first kindle book ever released under the Orenda banner – a very important title indeed.
Before I share my thoughts on this bloody marvellous book, I have a special treat for you all. It’s only David F. Ross himself introducing the book and reading an extract from it too! I know. I am so chuffed to be able to share this with you all – hope you enjoy it! (Be warned – there may be a little bit of swearing included …)
How brilliant was that? That is only part of this book’s wonder and I know my review is going to be a bit of a let down after that (and believe me when I say that the only way to really experience this book is to read it), but I’m here now and I’m going to share with you all anyway. First up though, the important bookish bits …
About the Book
Early in the decade that taste forgot, Fat Franny Duncan is on top of the world. He is the undoubted King of the Ayrshire Mobile Disco scene, controlling and ruling the competition with an iron fist. But the future is uncertain. A new partnership is coming and is threatening to destroy the big man’s Empire …
Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller have been best mates since primary school. Joey is an idealist; Bobby just wants to get laid and avoid following his brother Gary to the Falklands. A partnership in their new mobile disco venture seems like the answer to everything.
The Last Days of Disco is about family, music, small-time gangsters … and the fear of being sent to the Falklands by the biggest gangster of them all. Witty, energetic and entirely authentic, it’s also heartbreakingly honest, weaving together tragedy and comedy with an uncanny and unsettling elegance. A simply stunning debut.
You know what? I’m not sure that there is a hard thing for a blogger to do than review a book that they’re really enjoyed. And I’ve really, really enjoyed reading The Last Days of Disco. So much so that I’ve had to give myself a mental kicking for allowing it to languish on my TBR for so long. It’s one of those book that as you start to read you know you’ve got something special in your hands, a book that will (and did) have you chortling along into your coffee. But it is so much more than just a comedic look back at what passed for pop culture in 1980’s Ayrshire.
This book follows the fortunes of two boys, Bobby and Joey, as they set about trying to create a mobile disco business. They have the sponsorship (Bobby’s dad), they have the records (mostly) and they have access to the equipment. All they need is some luck and a few good gigs behind them … Easier said than done when you are faced with the prospect of taking work away from loan shark and mobile entertainment entrepreneur (?) Fat Franny … Of course Bobby and Joey’s disco, Heatwave, is of great concern to old Franny and this is what leads us into the lion’s share of the first part of the story as a very testy Franny tries to gain the upper hand over these young upstarts ..
There is so much about this book that shouldn’t be funny but it really is. The story is littered with so many darkly humorous, often almost slapstick scenes of comedy and mayhem that you cannot help but laugh. Although much of Franny’s attempt to derail the new disco is driven by exploring his inclination towards threat and violence, nothing ever really goes quite to plan and the aftermath of various incidents is often as funny as it is chilling. Then there are young Bobby’s attempts to woo his new girlfriend,one who he met, bizarrely, at one of his ill fated gigs. There is one scene in particular involving a smoke machine that had me hooting but which seemed totally fitting for the story.
But beyond the mirth, of which there is much, there is a deeply emotional core too. This story is set against the backdrop of early eighties Thatcher Britain. Where unemployment is on the rise and prospects grim. Where the only thing that can draw attention away from the growing turmoil at home is the increasing hostility and forcible invasion of the Falkland’s by Argentina.
Now this may seem a very strange leap to make, from Mod rock tunes to armed conflict in the southern hemisphere, and yet it works beautifully. Bobby’s older brother, Gary, is a soldier, and he is stationed with one of the troops to be sent to the Falklands. The scenes in which we are privy to his letters home will stifle that laughter for a moment, and it is Gary’s story which brings the calm and the quiet to the midst of riotous laughter.
As I read through that part of the book, a little over 2/3 of the way through, I could feel that genuine emotion build. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that within a space of a few pages I went from scenes that had me spitting my coffee out, moving from tears of laughter straight through to genuine tears of sorrow. Because just as surely as David F. Ross has been able to capture that eighties spirit and tie up the whole essence of Ayrshire through a canny use of the vernacular and comedy, he has managed to convey such genuine, heartfelt, emotion on the page, that I could not stop the tears. Hell I started to tell Mandie about the scenes over lunch at work today and could feel the tears welling – that’s how absolutely perfectly this is written. Just the simple contradiction of the letters Gary writes to his mum and his sister, compared to his letters to Bobby, or even the truly heartfelt letter to his father, is pitch perfect and a truly beautiful thing to read.
So yes – if you want book that will take you down memory lane with a vast array of musical escapism and will make you laugh out loud at the absurdity of the battle between Fat Franny and Heatwave, the The Last Days of Disco is definitely one for you. But be warned – it is the truly hard of heart reader that will walk away from the book remembering only the comedy. The emotional elements are every bit as powerful and effective and made me fall in love with this book, totally and utterly. Absolutely brilliant.
And yes – I’m awarding it one of these – the Red Hot Read badge.
You need this book, (and perhaps a Scottish to English dictionary) in your life, right now! Cannot wait to read books two and three.
About the Author
David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over thirty years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. His most prized possession is a signed Joe Strummer LP. Since the publication of his debut novel The Last Days of Disco, he’s become something of a media celebrity in Scotland, with a signed copy of his book going for £500 at auction, and the German edition has not left the bestseller list since it was published.
Books by David F. Ross