David Ross: The Man Who Loved islands


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I'll start this piece with a confession: David Ross is a friend. Well, a 21st-Century type of friend that is, someone I've spent a lot of time in social media & email conversation with over the last few years, but have never actually gotten round to meeting. We bonded on Twitter over a mutual love of the Smiths & The Jam (& The Style Council!). Shortly after that, we decided to get our Boaby out.

I should probably clarify that last statement: somewhere amongst the midst of our early twitter conversations, David came up with an idea in jest about a mythical Glasgow-based private detective called Boaby Souness. We started to develop a little bit of a backstory on this guy & in collaboration with another Tweeter called Hugh Mulholland soon came up with a concept of a twitter-based daily story.

The original plan was one tweet & one accompanying soundtrack tune per day, with a handful of writers, telling an evolving story tweet-by-tweet over the course of a month. Over the course of a couple of years, we told 4 distinct stories and a separate Christmas special, each set in a different year, eventually roping in rock stars, authors, actors and a cast of great Twitter people to tell them.

The Boaby experience was a fantastic one, and in amongst this time David was also working on the ideas that would eventually become his Ayrshire Trilogy of novels, The Last Days of Disco, The Rise & Fall Of The Miraculous Vespas, and now the third in the series, The Man Who Loved Islands. David's novels are special in their own right, but to me I feel them very personal because of our history.

There's lots of really great writing in amongst the current Blog Tour for the novel which looks more at the story and the characterisation embedded in the novels: I feel like I'll just be repeating the work of better writers than me if I go down a similar road. Hence, I'm going to look at some of the key soundtrack moments in the book, and how I think they fit with the story & with David himself.

David's writing is intertwined with music: it informs it, stimulates it, enriches it. His own backstory is woven through moments across the three books, and the love of music that he shares with his characters brings the writing alive for a music junkie like me. I therefore thought I'd pick out some of my favourites from this book's soundtrack to discuss...

First up...The Jam. I think I'd be right in saying David's favourite band of all time, and well up my own list also. The book begins with a lyrical quote from this very song, and acts as a bridge between the events of the last book & the prologue to this one. The themes of the song's lyrics are absolutely apt for the story David wanted to tell. This is Thick As Thieves.

David has his own secret history as a DJ, and weaves in various references to the noble art of spinning discs across both this book and his previous work. In this, one of my favourite musical references comes in one of the early chapters when he's talking about the happening sounds for a DJ in Ibiza in the late 1980's: this is a tune I loved then & still do. De La Soul with Me Myself & I.

The book delightfully & lovingly catalogues a number of encounters with famous rock & pop figures, chief amongst these being the encounter in a hotel lift with the singer of this band which yields a white label promo of this song, an absolute dance-floor classic at the time & one of the key hedonistic anthems of the 1990 club scene David depicts in this portion of the book. New Order, Fine Time.

My favourite line in the book relates to my favourite band of all time: "Who really gives a fuck about the lyrics, anyway!" thought Bobby. "Only miserable peely-wally cunts who have never got over The Smiths split" As one of those aforementioned peely-wally cunts, I wholeheartedly agree. This is Bigmouth Strikes Again.