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Where were you in '82?

6th May 2015 - David F Ross


The intensity of our teenage years often leaves an indelible mark upon us. For David F Ross, those years were the early 1980s and it's the music and the politics of that time that he sought to recreate in his new novel, The Last Days of Disco, in which the 7-inch vinyl single experiences its final throes of glory in a small town in Ayrshire.



The Last Days of DiscoPerhaps everyone has a time in their life when they felt at their most alive. For me, that time was in 1982, when I turned eighteen. Although I didn't know it at the time, most of the major decisions that would influence the direction of my life were made in that year. I decided to set my first novel – The Last Days Of Disco – in 1982, because I could easily tap into the emotional memories of what was a pivotal year for me, but also one now universally acknowledged as a year of major political and cultural change. The book attempts to capture similar conflicting hopes and fears for two teenaged best friends growing up in the industrial Scottish town of Kilmarnock. It’s a story fundamentally about people; their relationships and how they attempt to make the best of the constraints and opportunities afforded by their environment.



The book's timeline takes place over a period of six months as Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller attempt to start a mobile disco business, against the backdrop of the looming Falklands conflict, and the emerging pressures of a cabal of local small-time gangsters, led by Fat Franny Duncan. There were three principle drivers for me in telling this story: Margaret Thatcher, the music, and the often complex and contradictory personal relationships that were a factor of my own life.


The Thatcher Government was extremely unpopular, particularly in Scotland. The opportunism of diverting domestic attention away from this unpopularity, to have the public rallying around a senseless war 8000 miles away was staggering to me. In The Last Days of Disco, this had to become as central to the story as those who lived in the town itself.


The changing musical landscape of 1982 is reflected in the initial attempts of the two fledgling DJs to establish qualitative benchmarks for the music they will play. Unsurprisingly, this fails as early as their first night working as Heatwave Disco.


Finally, fractured relationships and an inability for family members to communicate is at the heart of the book. Gary Cassidy – Bobby's elder brother – only joins the Army in an attempt to win his father's grudging respect. He is despatched to the Falklands, unaware that darker family secrets are the real reason for his father's apparent lack of interest in him.


Writing The Last Days of Disco was a real labour of love. It took me back to a time and place when I felt I had the world at my feet, even though I had no idea what I would do with such an opportunity.


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