Eighteen months on HIAB, hosted by a rota of Hull writers Dave Windass, Russ Litten and Nick Quantrill, for Wrecking Ball Press, is becoming the place for the discerning book lover to gain a bit of writerly insight and a fine monthly reading recommendation.
This month’s author was David F. Ross from Scotland making his debut visit to Hull, with his first novel Last Days Of Disco published by Orenda Books.
David’s first agent told him to never start a book with a dream sequence or a hangover, so taking that advice on board, The Last Days of Disco begins with both.
The book is set during six months in Kilmarnock in 1982, at a time when music was in a state of flux; Joe Strummer had gone missing; unemployment in the UK was at an all time high and Margaret Thatcher was just about to take us all to war over the Falklands. The book opens with a powerful quote from Dennis Skinner and the continuing political tumult, provides something of an arena for the story to play out.
David says: ‘Despite the industrial decline and the tension, there was a youthful optimism, everyone thought the next move would be the one that took them to success and riches – bit of a Fools and Horses mentality.’
Another piece of advice for first time writers is to write what you know and David chose to follow that by setting his book in the world of mobile discos. Surprisingly those of us of a certain age, all appear to have a mobile disco story, whether it is someone we knew or peddling playlists ourselves in a pre-internet world.
‘Back then Kilmarnock was awash with local rivalry, a town looking for an identity and for many running a mobile disco was a bit of a rite of passage and a life raft to better things‘
Like Irvine Welsh before him Ross has chosen to write much of the dialogue in local venacular in an effort to remain authentic.
David read a very entertaining passage where the two central figures Bobby and Joey, get involved in a bit of a brawl at a Conservative club party, where they have been hired to DJ.
‘When violence was in the air Bobby and Joey were in the flight camp…’
They begin to feel this was a bad booking as the room erupts and the night disintegrates into chaos, the police turn up… Ross describes the scene in fine dramatic style but it’s the individual names in the piece; Hamish May, Fat Franny, Des Brick and Wullie the Painter imbued with such colour that immediately hook you in.
Nick Quantrill says: Like the vinyl that crackles off every page, The Last Days of Disco is as warm and authentic as Roddy Doyle at his very best.’
I’ve said it a few times now, but I missed out on the eighties. We emigrated when Blondie was Nos 1 and came back to the UK just as Rick Astley was promising never to give up… A huge chunk of British pop culture is sadly lost on me so I try and make up for that by dressing up as Duran Duran (yes the whole band) and Cyndi in her trailer trash days, not much use for high boots and eyeliner in the African bush.
The Last Days of Disco will be a bit of an education for me. I can use the handily placed discography in the back of the book to broaden my musical horizons. Once more bemoan never getting to be a New Romantic. Incidentally Ross doesn’t care much for the ‘style over substance’ brigade preferring the working class riffs of Paul Weller and The Jam.
I’m looking forward to having a read of The Last Days Of Disco I’ll let you know how it is when I’m done. In the meantime you can check out David’s stuff on his site and follow Head in a Book to stay up to date with all the events.
Head In A Book gratefully acknowledges the support of sponsors City Arts Unit, Hull Libraries, Arts Council England and The James Reckitt Library Trust without who they would not be able to bring authors to the city, to share their work and considerable experience. HIAB serves as an inclusive, sociable literary platform to continue the buzz created during Humber Mouth all year round.
Apparently next month we are having a chilling bit of Scandi-crime so I’m looking forward to that one.