Today it is my great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for Welcome to the Heady Heights, the brand new novel rom author David F. Ross. My thanks go to publisher Orenda Books and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to review. Here is what the book is all about:
About the Book
A hilarious, dark and heart-warming drama about the elusivity of stardom, in an age when ‘making it’ was ‘having it all’ …
‘A real new talent on the Scottish literary scene’ Press and Journal
Welcome to the Heady Heights …
It’s the year punk rock was born, Concorde entered commercial service and a tiny Romanian gymnast changed the sport forever.
Archie Blunt is a man with big ideas. He just needs a break for them to be realised. In a bizarre brush with the light-entertainment business, Archie unwittingly saves the life of the UK’s top showbiz star, Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks’, and now dreams of hitting the big-time as a Popular Music Impresario. Seizing the initiative, he creates a new singing group with five unruly working-class kids from Glasgow’s East End. Together, they make the finals of a televised Saturday-night talent show, and before they know it, fame and fortune beckon for Archie and The High Five. But there’s a complication; a trail of irate Glaswegian bookies, corrupt politicians and a determined Scottish WPC known as The Tank are all on his tail…
A hilarious and poignant nod to the elusivity of stardom, in an age when making it’ was ‘having it all’, Welcome to the Heady Heights is also a dark, laugh-out-loud comedy, a heart-warming tribute to a bygone age and a delicious drama about desperate men, connected by secrets and lies, by accidents of time and, most of all, the city they live in.
Well … I really don’t know where to begin. Heady Heights is a book that is humorous, dark, complex and skin-crawlingly despicable, and yet totally and utterly addictive too. From the very beginning I found myself drawn into the world of Archie Blunt and his mis-fit pals as they navigated a very seedy, secret laden and show-biz hungry Glasgow life in the second half of the nineteen seventies. Full of the kind of cultural references that anyone would instantly recognise, although I was barely one year old when the book is set, it transported me to a time, and a place, that I knew little of and brought it to life in glorious (and revolting) technicolour.
Now I don’t want to say too much about the plot as it’s the kind of book that you need to read yourself, to peel back all the layers and get a clear appreciation of what is happening. The main story is about Archie Blunt, a man who ,having lost his job on the buses, finds work as a driver. His first and most recognisable passenger is ‘Heady Hendricks, TV super-star and presenter of one of the most popular talent shows of the current era. Think of a kind of cross between New Faces & BGT on steroids. Now Archie’s dreams of personal stardom are quickly dashed, but he soon hatches a plan to achieve fame and fortune through the creation of a new ‘boy band’. So far so simple, although believe me this story is anything but. Finding a group of lads with talent is challenge enough – getting them to the final of one the most celebrated shows on TV proves something else entirely.
Despite what you may think, this isn’t simply a book about creating the 1970s answer to Take That or Westlife. That would be one hell of a boring read in my opinion. Take the initial idea and magnify it. Really magnify it. Take a look beneath the glossy veneer of showbiz, to the corruption intrigue and scandal that has come to shape our understanding of what the seventies was really like. Then you’ll begin to understand where there book is going to lead you. Let just say that some of Archie’s close friends and associates have led a far from blame free life. Geordie McCartney is a case in point, a man caught with his pants down, literally and figuratively. Then there’s Wullie Dunne and Chib Charnley, Archie’s new boss and his minder. It’s safe to say that running a luxury car service isn’t their only source of income.
I really love the way in which the characters have been established in this book. Larger than life, and both intentionally and accidentally funny. There are so many situations which made me laugh out loud, including a scene where, Marvin, one of the lads that travels to London with Archie and his boy-band sets fire to a London police station in order to stage a breakout of their driver, Jimmy. And then there’s the banter back and forth between Archie and Geordie, and Archie and Jimmy that was a hoot, conjuring up the kind of inept partnerships you know from films like Fargo. If something can go wrong, then it probably will, and often does, go horribly, laughably, wrong.
There is a dark side to the story, as I said, and we find that it veers from Archie’s last ditch attempt at a better life to the hedonistic life style of some truly abhorrent people. Politician’s, law makers and entertainers all engaged in the kind of lifestyle which will make your skin crawl and your anger increase. This side of the story is not overplayed, not used for gratuitous entertainment. The author walks a fine line balancing the humour that keeps the novel fresh, with the disturbing reality of what is happening behind the scenes.
It is on this side of the story we meet Gail Proctor, an investigative journalist, and WPC Barbara Sherman. these are two strong women battling to have their voices heard in a world still dominated by masculinity. Whether they can and will make a difference is something you’ll need to find out for yourself.
This is the first book I have read by David F. Ross but it won’t be that last. I thoroughly enjoyed Welcome to the Heady Heights. His clearly strong views on Bohemian Rhapsody aside (okay, so the song makes literally no sense but I still like it), this book is a brilliant blend of humour and compelling story telling, both used to make the strong socio-political commentary about the endemic abuse of power among the elite far more palatable whilst still conveying a total sense of condemnation at what occurs. And above all else, it’s just bloody good fun with a dang good soundtrack to back it up. Top stuff.
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.
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