Way back in April 2015, my Book of the Month was the hilariously, yet poignantly brilliant The Last Days of Disco by David F.Ross. Since then, I’ve eagerly awaited Ross’s follow up novel, The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas. When it arrived in the post with a vinyl record of the Miraculous Vespas one-hit wonder and containing an interview with Max Mojo (voiced by Colin McCredie), band manager and one of the main protagonists of the book, I was beside myself with excitement. (I’m actively searching for someone who would be willing to offer their record player so I can actually listen to this wonderful blast from the past!)
The Rise of the Miraculous Vespas picks up where The Last Days of Disco leaves off, although a lot of the main characters from the first book are only bit parts in this next instalment, as the focus shifts to the criminal Kilmarnock underworld, with it’s rich, often-eccentric characters and tells the tale of how Max Mojo and his big ambitions for the Miraculous Vespas come to be part of a larger plan to protect the fragile Kilmarnock criminal status quo against the threat of the McLarty gang, who have previously been ousted from Kilmarnock but are planning a big comeback.
Like it’s predecessor, this book is incredibly funny and had me giggling to myself at regular intervals. Ross has a real flare for comedy and I knew this would be a really enjoyable read, purely based on his hilarious one-liners and amusing build up of farcical situations. There are two many brilliant one-liners to mention but a particular favourite of mine was: “He now resembled a fine bottle of red, where before he had been a shook-up bottle of Vimto.”
Yet Ross hasn’t just written a book to make his readers laugh. As with The Last Days of Disco, there are a number of poignant moments throughout the book that seem to creep up on the reader when they least expect it. The narrative is so well balanced in terms of generating an array of emotions in the reader that even when Ross evokes an image of sadness, the reader knows that there will be a moment of hilarity just around the next page.
However, it is the characters that make this novel so brilliant. Max Mojo is a young man with a dream and serious mental health issues following a head trauma. He has moments of complete lucidity and other moments where he is battling with his inner voice telling him to lose control in any given situation. The other Miraculous Vespas band members are also intriguing for a variety of reasons; a complete bunch of misfits equally as individual as each other. In comparison to the Old Firm of criminals such as Washer Wishart (Max Mojo’s dad) and Fat Franny Duncan, it seems that confidence and individuality breeds success, which gives the reader a sense of hope that despite Max Mojo’s and his Vespas issues, they could just succeed. Ross’s characters complement each other so well and the picture he creates of 1980’s Kilmarnock life containing the nostalgic reminders of the news of the day, with musical markers along the way, makes for a really interesting and enjoyable read.
Like The Last Days of Disco, Ross takes the reader on a journey, but with the added perspective of a nostalgic Max Mojo, as he gives an interview alongside the narrative, giving his own perspective in his own, vulgar way. The interview sections are indicated by an italic font, making clear where the interview starts and stops. The interview, in full dialect, is a really funny vehicle to show that over the years, Max Mojo hasn’t really changed much. I am massive advocate for dialect in novels, particularly those that are trying to capture the essence of a locality, as the Disco Days novels do, and whilst it can take a little longer to read while the reader deciphers the meaning, it is generally not all that difficult to get the gist. Quite frankly, it adds an extra facet to the characters that gives the novel that extra spark of brilliance. Max Mojo’s interview links the chapters together nicely, giving a retrospective view of the events that make this story.
The overlap between The Last Days of Disco and The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas is to such a degree that you would not necessarily have to read one to understand the other. There are the odd character overlaps and general story-line links but The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas is a fine story in its own right. Ross gives us an update at the beginning of the novel to describe how one book links to the other, which is a great tactic for making sure the reader is up to speed.
The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas is a perfectly constructed sequel to The Last Days of Disco. The reader is not left with a big cliffhanger to wonder about, yet there is enough scope for further tales to be told. As there is apparently one more Disco Days book to come, there is more to look forward to, which I’m very glad about. Ross’s skill for balancing comedy with action and poignant moments is fantastic and I can’t imagine that he could write anything that I wouldn’t enjoy. There’s enough action to keep the story moving and with the multi-faceted characters and nostalgic reminders of times past, this is a truly brilliant narrative. I’ve genuinely been looking forward to this book for a long time and it didn’t disappoint one iota. I felt I had one more advantage in being able to picture Max Mojo in my mind. My four-year-old daughter is one of the biggest Woolly and Tig fans and has Woolly and Tig on constant replay on BBC iPlayer, so Colin McCredie, who is Tig’s dad (and the voice of Max Mojo on the record that I received with the book), is an image that I can recall with considerable ease. To imagine Tig’s dad in the interview, all belligerent and cocky as Max Mojo, is an image to behold! I can highly recommend watching an episode of Woolly and Tig before reading, so you too can have this added extra image in your head when you read this amazing book! If you don’t fancy watching five minutes of toddler’s drama, it certainly won’t lessen your experience of this wonderfully funny novel. Ross has done a mighty fine job of following up the brilliant The Last Days of Disco and I’m very much looking forward to reading the third and final Disco Days novel. I would recommend this book as strongly as I recommended reading The Last Days of Disco.
If you’d like an opportunity to win a copy of The Last Days of Disco and The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas, as well as read a fantastic short story, Waterloo Sunset, written by David F. Ross, drop by my Facebook Blogaversary Party on Friday 4th March. Segnalibro Blogaversary Facebook Event