Dashboard Elvis Is Dead by David F. Ross

Today I am delighted to join the blog tour for Dashboard Elvis is Dead, the latest novel from David F. Ross. I love the author’s unique and ever changing style so couldn’t wait to see what his latest book had to offer. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invite. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Owned Copy
Release Date: 08 December 2022
Publisher: Orenda Books

About the Book

A failed writer connects the murder of an American journalist, a drowned 80s musician and a Scottish politician’s resignation, in a heart-wrenching novel about ordinary people living in extraordinary times.

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…

My Thoughts

This book did not go where I was expecting. Not at all. Turns out that this is a very good thing. With yet another thought provoking, challenging and, sometimes, emotional story, David F. Ross takes readers on yet another journey, a literal one in the case of his protagonists, giving us a glimpse of an alternative version of some not all that distant history, and introducing us to characters who linger in the mound long after the final page is turned.

This is meta fiction, but perhaps not as you would expect it. With the action centred largely around two characters, Journalist, Jude Montgomery, and former musician, Jamie Hewitt, although the author does make an appearance or two in the story, in far less than flattering terms as it turns out too. Ironically, or perhaps not David F. Ross plays a pivotal role in what comes to pass, and not just because, as author, he is pulling the strings that make his characters dance. He is a part of what comes to pass, the tragic inevitability that you can feel building from the very first page.

This is a multi-timeline story, one which follows Jude as she navigates teenage years, a difficult relationship with family, both blood and not, and as she experiences losses, the like of which would completely stop a lesser person. I liked Jude. There is a spirit about her, but also an acceptance of the part she has played in her own fate, but also an acknowledgement that she has been dealt a fairly rough hand to begin with. Jude is on a kind of quest – to learn more about her family, about the father she lost before she was even born, and it is a quest that sees her cross paths with many people who will shape the person she is to become.

I felt a kind of empathy for her at times, a frustration with her at others, but the author has created her in such a way that you cannot help but be invested in her. That you want to see something good come from what is, when all is said and done, a pretty awful start in life. It is not that she lacks love, not entirely, but that which she experiences is either conditional or short lived. It makes for a truly emotional experience, reading her story, and whilst some parts I could read with a kind of detachment, other scenes I really felt the emotional tug, the slam of impact that the author no doubt intended. Past experience has proven he is a master manipulator when it comes to the old emotions.

As for Jamie, he was a very different and, initially, sympathetic character. He is thrown into a tour of America that he is not mentally or emotionally prepared for, and from the very beginning it has disaster written all over it. Although Jamie’s story is key to the very heart of the story, the more we learn about him, the harder it is to feel a true level of sympathy for him. Decisions are made, actions taken, that will change the course of history, nit entirely for the better, but not before he leaves one legacy – a song which will come to inform Jude’s future in quite surprising ways. Their paths do cross, their lives intertwined, but not as you may have been expecting.

The story is littered with all manner of characters, some more colourful and memorable than others, but all of whom shape the story and what will come to pass. From Jamie’s band mates, Reef, Bingo, and Chic, his former girlfriend, Annabelle, and their manager, Kenny, through to the people who appear in Jude’s life, AJ, Rabbit, Matt, Brandy and the wonderful Hennessey, each one is perfectly portrayed, their lives painted in vibrant, and sometimes worrying, detail, that you will feel as though you know them. The author excels at creating those unique, unforgettable personalities, ones that dominate your thoughts and make it impossible to escape from the impact of the story, and improbable that you’d want to.

There are moments of real poignancy. The story is set over a number of years but brings us very close to events that we all remember far too well. Emotional events which changed our futures, and also lead to significant impact in Jude’s life. With the most present moments set around the time of the Scottish Independence Referendum and the Commonwealth Games, it leads us towards a conclusion which is as devastating as it is believable, and a moment in which the spotlight falls directly onto the author.

This is a very unique story, with very distinct voices, but one which I think could divide readers due to the style of the narrative. Not so much the movement about in time, but because of the lack of punctuation to denote speech, which I know some people see as a gimmick and don’t like. It does take a bit of time to get into the rhythm of the story, but the time is very well spent and if, like me, you really enjoy a fresh approach, a memorable, emotional and astutely observed work of function, you will very likely love this book too.

Without question, it earns one of these.

About the Author

David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964. His critically acclaimed debut novel, The Last Days of Disco, was long-listed for the Best First Novel Award by the Author’s Club of London. National Theatre Scotland acquired dramatic rights for the book in 2015.

He completed a trilogy of Ayrshire-based books with The Rise & Fall of the Miraculous Vespas and The Man Who Loved Islands. All three novels have been translated into German, published by Heyne Hardcore (Random House). Welcome to The Heady Heights – His fourth for Orenda Books – was published in March 2019.

There’s Only One Danny Garvey was shortlisted for Scottish Fiction Book of the Year 2021. It has been called ‘a brilliant, bittersweet story that captures the rawness of strained relationships.’

David F. Ross is a regular contributor to Nutmeg and Razur Cuts magazines, and in December 2018 was chosen to contribute a poem commemorating the 16th anniversary of the death of Joe Strummer for the publication Ashes to Activists. In 2020 he wrote the screenplay for the film ‘Miraculous’, based on his own novel.

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