‘The room’s too wee! The room’s too dark! The cake’s no big enough! The bar’s got nae Pernod. The disco husnae turned up!’
For fuck’s sake, none of these things were his fault. Frank King was getting increasingly annoyed. He didn’t even want to be here, far less to have to deal with his daughter’s high-pitched carping. Anne had even made him wear a suit and tie. He felt as if he was going to court.
Remember being eighteen and wondering what the hell you were going to do with your life? Like a challenge? Then The Last Days of Disco is for you.
The reason I ask whether you, dear reader, like a challenge, is because initially, I found Ross’s use of Scots dialect, well, challenging (and it’s the reason I abandoned Trainspotting. Sorry, Irvine). But please don’t be put off by it, because in continuing, you will discover a wonderful debut about adolescence, family, music, emerging sexuality and war. (Sex and death: what else is there?)
It is the morning after the night before. Bobby Cassidy, massively hungover, has received some rather unusual birthday presents. One, a rather unfortunate set of tattoos, will not be spoken of again. The other, a phone number on his leg, will set him off on a DJing adventure around Ayrshire (naturally). Whose number is it? What does the unfortunate tattoo say? Patience, guys! You’ll just have to read it, won’t you?
Of course, being young, Bobby and Joey, his DJing partner in crime, have little business sense. By the time they’ve hired someone to get them to their gigs, help shift the equipment and ventured to Cold Comfort Farm’s Scottish equivalent to actually get the equipment (which makes for one of the novel’s most entertaining passages), they are left with less money than they started with. But they have far bigger problems than being broke, and the main one comes in the shape of Fat Franny Duncan and his gang of cronies, who were, until Bobby and Joey turned up, the number one DJs in Ayrshire. After all, if you can throw your rivals’ mate into the river, then what future awaits your rivals?
Just as you think things can’t get any more disastrous for our DJing couple, a family secret is uncovered which threatens to rock the Cassidy family to its core. Worse still, Gary, Bobby’s brother, is called to serve in the Falklands, leaving behind not only a new relationship in London, but also a brother who may or may not have turned to crime, and a mother who may or may not be going crazy.
The Last Days of Disco is a strange mix of drama and farce. From about halfway through the novel, the Eastenders-esque drum bash moments, revelations where your mouth will drop, come thick and fast. That said, Ross is the master of bad taste comedy. Fancy a children’s entertainer who makes phallic balloon animals? Or sex in a shed involving a dry ice machine? Honestly, they say you couldn’t make it up, but Ross really can.
I can’t wait to see the return of Joey in Ross’s next novel, and I’m hoping that some of the other characters join him for a boogie and a Pernod, too.
Thank you to Karen at Orenda Books for the review copy.