David F. Ross is one of literary Scotland’s most distinctive voices. From his 2015 debut, ‘The Last Days of Disco’, recently reimagined as lockdown film, ‘Miraculous’, to last year’s critically acclaimed, ‘Welcome to the Heady Heights’, Ross continues to challenge and entertain in equal measure.
His latest work, There’s Only One Danny Garvey is an elegiac, humorous and bittersweet tale of unfulfilled promise, set against the hard, unflinching world of the Ayrshire Juniors.
David shared his thoughts with Into Creative, on his inspiration and the sounds which underpin the story of ‘Danny Garvey’
Music is a vital part of the books I’ve written. It’s a constant in my life that I couldn’t live without. I can’t go anywhere or do anything – including writing – without music playing somewhere. Most of the best memories in my life are underscored or associated with music. The last ever concert by The Jam at the Brighton Centre, meeting Ray Charles and Elvis Costello in Montreal, spending a few hours buying records at the greatest place on earth … Amoeba Records at Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco etc etc…
There’s nothing else quite like a piece of music to pin-point a significant memory, or to take you back to how you felt about a particular time. My books are rooted in the cultural and political context of when they were set so recalling the emotions and attitudes of the events that form the background (and often permeate the foreground) of the story is essential.
The books that I love and cherish most are ones which prompt interests outside of the story and the characters, either related to the cultural context or the physical place that they inhabit. I guess that might be to do with my natural interest in the architecture of a book, and in the universal truth that environment influences behaviour. Books which send me off in different directions to discover new things, especially about myself or preconceptions I harbour about all forms of creative human culture are the ones that stay with me longest.
I’ve always wanted my books to be immersive experiences, whether it’s in the identification of attitudes that characters have for the times in which they live or simply the reinforcement of those times and how they shape actions, all of it is to cement the authenticity of the story for the reader, and to make them feel that my characters are believable and representative. Their attitudes to music, or film, or literature is an important facet of this, not perhaps in the same way that Patrick Bateman expands on Genesis, as essays unrelated to the plot of American Psycho, but to similarly reinforce personal characteristics.
‘There’s Only One Danny Garvey’ is set in 1996 and is about a talented young footballer returning to his home village – and a host of dark and complicated family secrets – to manage his local Junior team after his playing career has ended abruptly. Danny’s loneliness and isolation are reflected in the music he finds solace in. His taste of music – exemplified in a composition that forms the book’s playlist at the end of the book – helps set the novel’s tone and the atmosphere. The songs are extremely important to Danny, in helping him to articulate feelings and emotions that he doesn’t quite have the vocabulary for.
In terms of my selection as the writer, three are probably more notable as the ones that help form the direction of the story.
As the novel opens, an old, disorientated man is playing a melody on an discarded piano at the Barshaw village dump. The eight-year-old Danny hears it and recalls how it made him cry. I imagined that melody to be very similar to this one:
‘Magellan’ by Felt.
As a young footballer, Danny was regularly referred to as a special talent. The word special was used to describe the positive attributes he had on the field. After returning to Barshaw, he comes into contact – and increasingly identifies – with his brother’s ten-year-old autistic son, Damian. Damian (or Damo) is also referred to as special but in a way that far more negative connotations.
‘I Couldn’t Bear To Be Special’ by Prefab Sprout begins to sum up Danny’s increasing alignment with Damo.
The book is about personal isolation, of a gradual appreciation of the difference between loneliness and aloneness, and of trying to find redemption before it’s too late.
‘Isolation’ by Joy Division, and it’s crushing lines, ‘Mother I tried, please believe me, I’m doing the best that I can. Ashamed of the things I’ve been put through. Ashamed of the person I am’ were a thread of influence running through the writing of the book.
‘There’s Only One Danny Garvey’ by David F. Ross will be released on Orenda Books on 21 January 2021 and is available to pre-order HERE.
As told to George Paterson @gfpaterson.
The soundtrack to the book: