The Disco Boys and THE Band are BACK ...
In the early '80s, Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller were inseparable; childhood friends and fledgling business associates. Now, both are depressed and lonely, and they haven't spoken to each other in more than ten years. A bizarre opportunity to honour the memory of someone close to both of them presents itself, if only they can forgive ... and forget.Absurdly funny, deeply moving and utterly human, The Man Who Loved Islands is an unforgettable finale to the Disco Days trilogy.
Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Man Who Loved Islands by David F Ross, published in paperback by Orenda Books today (20 April 2017). This is the third in the Disco Days trilogy, following The Last Days of Disco (March 2015) and The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas (March 2016).
I have to admit that I do often struggle with dialect in writing, and David F Ross's writing is wholly and completely Scottish. However, once I get into the swing of things, I find it easier and easier and I soon found myself chortling away as I was captured by the antics of Bobby and Joey.
The Man Who Loved Islands finds Bobby and Joey reunited after years of no contact at all. Ten years ago they were thick as thieves, solid friends, but the years have changed both of them. They are older, but not really wiser. They are filled with regrets and reminiscence, and are determined to pay a belated homage to Gary; Bobby's brother who didn't get the memorial that they know he deserved.
David F Ross paints an incredibly authentic picture of the 1980s, which I remember so well. The inclusion of music references delighted me, bringing back my own memories of those times. There's a poignancy about this story that touches the heart, there's a sadness that runs through the story and through the characters, yet there is humour that is sharp and so relevant.
The Man Who Loved Islands is brutally honest, the language is stark, and often blue, but this adds to the absolute realism and authentic feel. This is Glasgow after all, it's the music business, it's middle-aged guys with regrets. Lets not try to gloss over this life. This is humanity at its toughest. This is excellent.
I didn't actually read a lot as a child and, to a certain extent, I still don't. Ideas for my own writing – and the things that inspire me creatively – usually come from other sources. I get bored easily and I'm also very impatient. Books that lack immediacy or any discernible pace probably won't last the distance with me. I have too many half-read novels - and half-written ones, come to that - lying around the house already. Commitment issues, as I believe its commonly referred to.
I was around 16 or 17 when I started to become more interested in books. Unsurprisingly, that interest was inspired by the musicians I was obsessed with at the time. Paul Weller, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello etc were songwriters who regularly referenced authors like George Orwell, whose books I had rather reluctantly read while at school. But it was really Morrissey who opened up a whole spectrum of literature to me from 1983 onwards. His lyrics were laced with arch references to Shelagh Delaney’s writing, or Oscar Wilde, or even the American beat poets.
The book is a typically 60s ‘grim-up-northern’ story of a young footballer, Lennie Hawk, whom many believed to be something of a reincarnation of another flawed genius from his club’s past. The book is very descriptive and the characters are realistically flawed. I could easily visualise the grime of the red brick back courts of Northern England and the small terraced house that Lennie and his mum lived in with its living room opening onto the street at the front and sharing the same tiny cramped space as the kitchen at the back. I loved this book and it led me to the better-known A Kestrel for A Knave by the same author, and then to…
It painted a monochromatic picture of a country still struggling to come to terms with the end of Empirical power in the wake of two devastating wars. Everyone in Billy Fisher’s world is trapped by these circumstances, apart from Liz, the beatnik girl played by Julie Christie in the film version. She represents freedom; an escape from a life of pram-pushing drudgery or factory conditioning. Billy Liar’s influence on The Last Days of Disco is perhaps inevitable given how much of an impact it had on me.
Other influences on my writing are probably fairly easy to identify. Irvine Welsh and John Niven continue to be important reference points, especially in characterisation. I think Irvine Welsh – and Trainspotting especially - has changed the way the Scottish literary voice is appreciated around the world. John Niven is also from an Ayrshire background and his books - specifically The Amateurs - demonstrated that small-town everyday life could be brutally funny. Roddy Doyle is an absolute master of this kind of writing and the believability of the characters and the way they speak to - and interact with - each other is just genius. Jonathan Coe also creates fantastic characters and directly relates their multiple storylines to the cultural and political events of the time. The subtext of all of my books merely reflect my attempts to write something approaching the social commentary backbone of The Rotters Club.
There are a few books that have stayed with me for the way they take the vastness of America and try and condense that into something personal and often reflecting a painfully human scale or truth. These are three of the very best. Auster is a master of serendipitous stories where the believability of the often-absurd coincidences is never questioned as a result of his brilliance.
The Sellout is just the best, most relevant, most scathingly funny and brutally realistic depiction of modern day America. The first hundred pages or so are perhaps the best fiction I’ve ever read, and reinforce a truism for me that writing critically acclaimed biting satire is the hardest literary skill to master.
Dylan is our Shakespeare, in my opinion. Anyone who can write…
‘Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands, with all memory fate,
Driven deep beneath the waves. Let me forget about today until tomorrow.’
…frankly deserves a fucking Nobel Prize for Literature for that verse alone! His autobiography has his signature imprint of playing with the confines and elasticity of time, every bit as much as his peerless lyrics.
David F Ross ~ April 2017
was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over 30 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 . Since the publication of his debut novel, 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.
Find out more at www.davidfross.co.uk
Follow him on Twitter @dfr10