On Christmas Day, 1995, The Miraculous Vespas appeared on the live festive edition of Top of the Pops. After more than ten years in the musical wilderness, the band’s re-released, remixed debt single ‘It’s a Miracle (Thank You)’, was back in the UK Top Five……
Those of you who have read David Ross’s debut, The Last Days of Disco, will already be familiar with some of the characters in The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas. However, Vespas, as it is not a sequel to Disco, but rather a parallel story, can be read independently without prior knowledge of Disco being required.
The novel begins with an interview with the manager of the eponymous band, The Miraculous Vespas, the pretentiously named Max Mojo. Mojo is certainly the quirkiest character in the novel. As a result of an attack, he has developed a combination of what appears to be Tourettes and schizo-affective, and is pretty rigid when it comes to control of the band and its image. In terms of structure, the novel alternates between the band’s infancy in 1982 and the interview, which takes place in 2014.
Those of you who are unfamiliar either with Ross’s earlier work or Trainspotting, for instance, may struggle initially with the Scots dialogue, but do read on: there is both much humour to be found in the rise and fall of the band, and darkness in the shape of Alzheimer’s and gang warfare.
I enjoyed Vespas enormously; Ross expertly details the pitfalls of being in a band, namely playing grotty venues and being the support act to a nobody. He also doesn’t shy away from depicting the realities of teenage love, as proven in the love scenes between the band’s lovebirds, Maggie and Grant. Moreover, it was good to see the return of Disco’s lovable rogue, Fat Franny Duncan, battling to find who has stolen his money and unsuccessfully trying to get his girlfriend to move in with him.
Many thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for the review copy.