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Archie was fifty-two years old. One of life’s natural procrastinators, he was aware that life was passing him by. It was happening slowly, and without any real abrasion, but even in his positive moments, he acknowledged that he should do something about it. There were essentially four routes for his kind: the factory shift worker, the Corporation transport worker, the gangster, or the alcholic waster. Occasionally someone managed to break free – to move up west where the air was cleaner and the prospects more obvious. … But in every case Archie was aware of, the booze or the bookies dragged them back. Escaping the fate of the East End weegie was harder than breaking out of Colditz.”

 

I would have probably been enamoured with David F. Ross’s Welcome to the Heady Heights based on the playlist alone – Mike Post, The Three Degrees, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, really what’s not to like? And yet there are so many, many, many other reasons to love it.

Set in Glasgow, mainly during the horrendous heatwave of 1976 (the summer that brings to mind euphorically prancing under the spray from banned garden hoses in my sister’s stolen Barbie pants), it follows the fortunes of Archie Blunt, a man ‘constantly in the right place’ at the ‘wrong time’.

After saving the life of Hank ‘Heady’ Hendriks, Archie’s luck may be changing. Suddenly, he’s holding the fates of The High Five in his hands, a group of working-class kids intent on making it big on Hendrik’s talent show. However, Archie’s on lots of people’s radars, including corrupt MPs, angry bookies and a young WPC, and they’re not terribly happy with him.

Ross evokes the atmosphere, politics and culture of a particular time in Glasgow’s history. He writes with warmth and dark humour, his affection for the city and its people shining through, and reading it brought to mind Colin MacInnes’ wonderful London novels.

One of our best reads in a very long time, Welcome to the Heady Heights will join our Old Familiars, the books we revisit time and time again.

… And please listen to that playlist!

 

 

Welcome to the Heady Heights | David F. Ross | Orenda Books | 21 March 2019 | paperback original | £8.99 |

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Music sample: Mike Post’s Rockford Files theme tune

 

Acknowledgements: Quoted book text © David F. Ross 2019. This review is published as part of the virtual book tour arragned by lovely Anne Cater of Random Things Tours. And many thanks also to the publisher for sending us a book proof. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.

 

Also of interest: Falling from the Floating World’; ‘Blood Orange’; Beton Rouge’; ‘Gallowstree Lane‘; The Lost Man‘; ‘Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing’; ‘The Story Keeper, Anna Mazzola’s Gothic novel‘; ‘Midland‘; ‘A Greater God‘; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”’; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.