I finished this book a few days ago and I’ve not stopped thinking about it since. Yes, Welcome to the Heady Heights is seedy, unsettling and shocking, but it is also funny and authentic. At times I was howling with laughter. This is an intelligent, gritty read that skillfully uses comedy and Glaswegian wit to portray the most depraved institutional corruption that has plagued modern British society.
Welcome to the Heady Heights is described on it’s cover as a ‘twisted love letter to Glasgow’ and yes, as someone from just outside Glasgow, I definitely agree. Although, with the story set in the mid 70s full of bookies, gangsters and corrupt politicians, it it not quite the Glasgow of my childhood. But the brilliant use of the Glaswegian patter made me laugh out loud, skillfully capturing the scene and making me feel so nostalgic. For this, I truly loved Welcome to the Heady Heights.
It tells the story of Archie Blunt, a bus conductor who dreams of fame. When he looses his job, he takes on a new role as a driver with a local gangster and finds himself chauffeuring around Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks, who’s TV show (think of a 1970s type X-Factor) has made him the top UK entertainer of the time. When Archie accidentally saves Heady’s life he uses it to his advantage to seize his chance of fame. Archie forms The High Five, a boy band made up of working-class teenagers that are unruly, hilarious and oh so Glaswegian.
Yet Archie soon finds himself out of his depth as he discovers more about Heady and his associates than he wants to know. It is this strand of the novel that I found truly unsettling, but this is a candid and shocking portrayal of 1970s showbiz and institutional power.
I loved Archie as a character. A toothless, middle aged widower trying to deal with his dad’s senile dementia, all he really wants to do is make his dad proud. His hapless and naive approach, as well as his loyalty to his equally hapless friends is truly endearing.
I also loved the female characters in this novel. I’m not going to lie, as a woman I found this a difficult read at times as the manner the female characters are treated is misogynistic and horrifying. However I have to celebrate the author, David F. Ross for his raw and disturbing portrayal of institutional sexism in 1970s British society, especially as he makes the female characters the true heroines of the novel.
Welcome to the Heady Heights is definitely a book I’ll be reading again. I thoroughly enjoyed it first time around but this is a story with so much depth, pathos and Glaswegian humour (something I sorely miss), I am sure it will be even better second time around. It will also make a brilliant screen adaptation; down to earth, heartbreaking, dark and hilarious.
Welcome to the Heady Heights was published recently on 21 March 2019 by Orenda Books, so if you want a poignant, gritty read that also gives you great laughs, go out and get your copy now.
Thank you Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books for organising the Orenda Roadshow, enabling me to buy an advance copy. I truly loved Welcome to the Heady Heights.