Into Books Review: There’s Only One Danny Garvey by David F Ross

Book: There’s Only One Danny Garvey
Author: David F Ross
Publisher: Orenda Books

There’s Only One Danny Garvey by David F. Ross

There once was a time, at the death rattle of Thatcherism’s first wave and just before the start of Blair’s Neo-Liberal grift, when football didn’t need to come home. It was always there.

Glasgow born, Ayrshire based author David F. Ross follows up his 2019 novel ‘Welcome to the Heady Heights’ with another long throw back to those dim and (not so) distant days. His latest tale, ‘There’s Only One Danny Garvey’, is as dark as a Glenbuck mineshaft, with more twists than the fabled road to the Barshaw Bridge.

After more than a decade in exile, once promising footballer, Danny Garvey, is lured back to his hometown with the offer of a job managing the junior side where he made his name. Garvey’s roads to redemption and reconciliation are littered with obstacles; primarily, his troubled relationship with an infirm mother and the portentous spectre of his violent, manipulative sibling. If that wasn’t enough though, the shadow of the historic and as yet unsolved disappearance of Garvey’s classmate hovers like an ill wind. If the picture I’ve painted thus far sounds unbearably bleak, like Kelman but without the gags, worry not.

Ross not only captures the anger and intensity but the crisp, sharp humour, black as pitch, of an athletic pursuit not yet strangled by the grip of commercialism while breathing bitter, acrid life into a cast, wearied by a painfully clothed half-life. As with much of his work, Ross tends to eschew purple prose in favour of the black and blue kind and here, it’s as raw as a raked stud on a shin.

I often find that one of the most compelling ‘characters’ in a book is its setting. The mythic village of Barshaw itself, like the soul sapped, infested Greenock of Peter McDougall, is so grim that the titular lead actually pines for Arbroath. Barshaw frames Ross’ work, like a tape covered stanchion against a perfect slate grey canvas, creating a brutal beauty more Nega-Doon than Brigadoon. A hard place where kindness is viewed with suspicion, it is curiously redolent of a still beating version of Scotland, one we haven’t as yet left behind. Barshaw brings dimension to Ross’ piece in the way Little Italy and Brooklyn does, in a cinematic sense, for Martin Scorsese.

Without wishing to give too much away, the final third of the book moves from the vaguely opaque to the deceptively transformative, confirming Ross’ growing reputation as a storyteller to be reckoned with. If I am permitted to remain on that filmic theme, the Loachian layers of the story’s formative chapters peel away to reveal…well, that’s for you to figure out. All I’ll say is try to imagine David Fincher being diverted to Prestwick then taking a few left turns thereafter…

SKY once claimed that ‘It’s a whole new ball game’. It wasn’t. Football is still eleven versus eleven but going by the brave, revelatory climax to ‘There’s Only One Danny Garvey’, it certainly will be when it comes to the wider world’s appreciation of the work of David F. Ross.

George Paterson
@gfpaterson

Exclusive excerpt read by David F Ross for Into Creative:

 

‘There’s Only One Danny Garvey’ by David F. Ross
Published by Orenda Books, eBook released on 21.11.20.

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