Monday 28 November 2022

Dashboard Elvis is Dead by David F Ross #DashboardElvisIsDead @drf10 @OrendaBooks #BookReview


Renowned photo-journalist Jude Montgomery arrives in Glasgow in 2014, in the wake of the failed Scottish independence referendum, and it’s clear that she’s searching for someone.

Is it Anna Mason, who will go on to lead the country as First Minister? Jamie Hewitt, guitarist from eighties one-hit wonders The Hyptones? Or is it Rabbit – Jude’s estranged foster sister, now a world-famous artist?

Three apparently unconnected people, who share a devastating secret, whose lives were forever changed by one traumatic night in Phoenix, forty years earlier.

Taking us back to a school shooting in her Texas hometown, and a 1980s road trip across the American West – to San Francisco and on to New York – Jude’s search ends in Glasgow, and a final, shocking event that only one person can fully explain…

 An extraordinary, gritty and tender novel about fate and destiny, regret and absolution – and a road trip that changes everything…

Dashboard Elvis is Dead by David F Ross is published in paperback on 8 December 2022 by Orenda Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

Two years ago, I read and reviewed David F Ross's previous novel; There's Only One Danny Garvey. That book has become one of my all-time favourites, I think about it often, I recommend it all of the time. For me, it is the perfect novel.

Here we are, two years on and I approached Dashboard Elvis is Dead with a mixture of feelings; anticipation and a little bit of trepidation. Could he do it again? Could anything touch me as much as Danny Garvey's story? I should have known better than to worry, for here is one of Scotland's greatest living authors and another magnificent story filled with complex and often infuriating characters, set against the most deprived of backgrounds and taking the reader on a road trip that spans years and continents. It is a joy, another masterpiece, another book to add to my all-time favourites.

Dashboard Elvis is Dead is the story of three people, loosely connected, yet their lives are entwined together for ever. 

The book opens as Jude Montgomery, known worldwide for her amazing photography, sits in a backstreet Glasgow cafe. This is Jude's first visit to Scotland and she's there for multiple reasons; she wants to discover more about the Scottish man who was her father, and she's desperate to speak with her foster-sister Rabbit. She wants to make amends. 

Ross takes us back to Jude's early life, as she left home, in her teens and travelled for days across Texas, and wider America. We learn how the camera that she bought with money stolen from a guy on a bus becomes her most cherished possession, and how the plastic dashboard figurine of Elvis also becomes so very important in her life. 

Meanwhile, Jamie Hewitt and his band the Hyptones arrive in the US. A bunch of guys from Glasgow who've had one hit and are determined to break through in the States. Travelling with them is AnnafuckenBelle Mason; girlfriend of Jamie, and whose dodgy businessman father is bankrolling the band. 

This is an epic story, it's very difficult to believe just how much is packed into the 340 pages, when I turned the final page, I felt as though I'd read a book of 1000 pages at least, there's so much in there, so much to digest, to contemplate, and to discuss. 

I think it's fair to say that I could talk about this book for hours, and it's a novel that I will be thrusting in people's hands, so that I can talk about it with them afterwards. 

Expect Scotland and America, but don't expect 'shortbread biscuit tin' scenes, with bagpipes and tartan. Don't expect the glamour and glitz of the US that we are sold by the media. Be prepared for the gritty realism of deprivation, drugs, violence, poor parenting and lots of swearing. Be prepared to have your heart shattered by events, and be prepared for a book that will shake you to the core. 

Magnificent, glorious and often emotionally challenging. With a rawness and sensitivity that is so visceral. This is another extraordinary novel from David F Ross.

David F. Ross 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 debut novel The Last Days of Disco was shortlisted for the Authors Club Best First Novel Award, and optioned for the stage by the Scottish National Theatre. 
All five of his novels have achieved notable critical acclaim and There’s Only One Danny Garvey, published in 2021 by Orenda Books, was shortlisted for the prestigious Saltire Society Prize for Scottish Fiction Book of the Year. 
David lives in Ayrshire.

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