A hilarious, dark and heart-warming drama about the elusivity of stardom, in an age when ‘making it’ was ‘having it all’ …
‘A real new talent on the Scottish literary scene’ Press and Journal
Welcome to the Heady Heights …
It’s the year punk rock was born, Concorde entered commercial service and a tiny Romanian gymnast changed the sport forever.
Archie Blunt is a man with big ideas. He just needs a break for them to be realised. In a bizarre brush with the light-entertainment business, Archie unwittingly saves the life of the UK’s top showbiz star, Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks’, and now dreams of hitting the big-time as a Popular Music Impresario. Seizing the initiative, he creates a new singing group with five unruly working-class kids from Glasgow’s East End. Together, they make the finals of a televised Saturday-night talent show, and before they know it, fame and fortune beckon for Archie and The High Five. But there’s a complication; a trail of irate Glaswegian bookies, corrupt politicians and a determined Scottish WPC known as The Tank are all on his tail…
A hilarious and poignant nod to the elusivity of stardom, in an age when making it’ was ‘having it all’, Welcome to the Heady Heights is also a dark, laugh-out-loud comedy, a heart-warming tribute to a bygone age and a delicious drama about desperate men, connected by secrets and lies, by accidents of time and, most of all, the city they live in.
David F Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over 30 years.
He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night.
His debut novel The Last Days of Disco was shortlisted for the Authors Club Best First Novel Award, and received exceptional critical acclaim, as did the other two books in the Disco Days Trilogy; The Rise & Fall of the Miraculous Vespas and The Man Who Loved Islands.
David lives in Ayrshire.
Gail Proctor drove her battered green Mini up the slope. She sat forward in the seat, with her back almost vertical, and her shoulders tense. But it appeared that her surveillance was nearly over. The long black car containing Big Jamesie Campbell had turned in through the gates and up the long, tree-lined road leading to Daldowie Crematorium. She watched her target’s car disappear around a bend. She crunched the gears and followed.
Gail pulled into a side space and watched Big Jamesie Campbell get out of his car. He appeared agitated. The pallbearers were waiting, apparently for him. He ambled over and held out his hand to each of them, like a Sicilian don; it was taken awkwardly. Gail made notes. There were four full notebooks in the back seat of her Mini.
‘Ye cannae park yer motor there, hen.’
The man startled her, approaching her from behind.
‘The next cortege’ll be comin’ up the road in about ten minutes.’
‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘I was just, em…’
‘Ye’ll need tae get a shift oan if yer gaun in. The doors’ll be gettin’ shut.’
‘I will. Thanks.’
She pulled out of the space and found another.
She got to the heavy mahogany doors just as they were being closed. Giving the doorman a whispered apology, she moved over to a seat right at the back of the committal hall. Around half the available seats were occupied. Piped accordion music filled the vaulted space. She could see Big Jamesie Campbell – the back of his massive head. He was at the front, with a few people making a point of going to him to offer a Welcome to the Heady Heights.indd 15 06/02/2019 12:34 16 David F. Ross hand. Gail wondered if it was a Campbell relative being mourned, such was the obvious deference towards him. She also briefly considered the possibility that the deceased was someone that Big Jamesie Campbell had had murdered. She already knew that he was capable of it. Proving it beyond all doubt was another thing altogether. But she would persist. She owed it to her uncle, if not her deluded mother, living on the other side of the country in a near-constant state of denial.
The minister outlined the quiet life of Fred Calton, cut short as many of his genetic background had been, by heart disease. Fred was fifty-six when he succumbed, Gail learned. ‘A man of principle, integrity; a decent, honest, dedicated family man,’ said the minister, clearly reading from a prepared text. It seemed to Gail that a life summed up by a man of God who had apparently never met Fred was the ultimate in hypocrisy. How could he possibly know the destination of Fred’s soul, yet he offered certainty to a front row of weeping adults who Gail presumed were Fred’s immediate family.
Big Jamesie Campbell was invited to say a few words. Gail learned that Fred had been a central part of the Campbell campaign that, in the mid-fifties, saw the then councillor first elected to serve his local community. Campbell said that Fred had espoused the egalitarian qualities they both believed Labour represented. ‘Opportunities for all,’ said Big Jamesie. True to form, though, Big Jamesie then used the platform for his own ends, turning a family’s personal grief into a campaign pitch for his new party. Gail could scarcely believe it when he concluded his valediction by urging those present to sign up and join him in building a new political force; one that would follow the virtuous example of working-class people like Fred Calton. He went so far as to trail an upcoming press conference where all would be revealed.
Big Jamesie Campbell’s arrogance dominated the room. His selfishness, a product of a stolen privilege that required no accountability. Gail Proctor left quietly before the final hymn and the minister’s empty blessing.
Gail climbed the cold concrete stairs in complete darkness. Four weeks since being formally notified about it and the landlord still hadn’t fixed the tenement’s defective lighting. He would be holding out for the clocks going forward, no doubt. Despite having now had a lot of practice opening her door in the dark, she still had to use her free hand to locate the keyhole and guide the key into it. Once inside, the street lighting made the search for a match more straightforward. Candles lit, she dropped her bag on the bare wooden floor of the front room before dragging the metal tub across the room and sitting it in front of the single-bar fire, which was slowly providing a little more localised illumination. It took half an hour to fill the tiny bath to a useful level. She used the time between kettle boils to read her newest notes, and to summarise them into something that might make sense to someone, someday. To make of these fragments some kind of route map. Currently it had a destination, but no identifiable points on the way – the roads to them hadn’t been built yet.
The starting point of her journey, though, was always in her mind: a letter to her mother from her uncle Alec that ended with the sentence: I might not see you again. Take care of the wee one. I love you. Alec. Less than a month after the letter was sent, he was dead.
Gail hadn’t seen her uncle Alec much when she lived in Edinburgh. She had seen more of him when she’d briefly worked in London, but still only sporadically. They were a distant family. Her dad had abandoned his wife and daughter when she was only two years old. Gail hadn’t heard from him in twenty-six years. Alec, though, was simply a loner, apparently in love with the solitude that the life of the investigative journalist – of writing and research – required. He had always smelled strongly of alcohol. It was the first thing she recalled when thinking about him. He was also socially awkward and would never meet the adult Gail anywhere other than a library. But for all this she had liked him. And she realised now that she shared many of his traits and binary attitudes. She hoped that she was conducting her quest to uncover the truth about his death with the same spirit and the same determination and drive that he had demonstrated as a journalist. This hope was often the only thing that kept her going.
Gail had struggled with her English literature course at university. She found herself lacking the discipline and academic stamina it required. Nonetheless, she graduated, and, despite Alec’s warnings, drifted towards journalism. She picked up a few inconsequential, amateurish commissions, which were published in the Sundays. While the payments barely covered her rent, these jobs gave her a hint of the addictive excitement she thought Alec must have experienced. And now, even though she had a personal agenda driving her, Gail couldn’t deny the exhilarating, thrilling rush of pursuing someone like Big Jamesie Campbell; of stumbling upon some new piece of shocking information – information she could use to pave the road she was following. She was still mindful of her inexperience, though. She knew she would have to bide her time until a proper opening presented itself. Big Jamesie Campbell’s inappropriately loose tongue earlier that day might just provide one.
Meantime she’d exist frugally in this freezing-cold structure with its damp, peeling wallpaper, temperamental water supply and no lights. She’d taken to cleaning the stairs and the flats of some of the elderly tenants, and this, combined with periodic shifts at the Press Bar in Trongate, provided her with just enough money to survive. She ate like a small bird. She had no television and the lack of lighting meant her bills were small. Her one vice – a taste for Rémy Martin – was accommodated by her boss at the pub; he’d given her a bottle on her last birthday.
Now, she drained the last of this bottle into a small, cracked china teacup, balancing it on top of her typewriter as she eased herself into the lukewarm water of her half-filled bath. Radio 4 played quietly on a pocket transistor radio. The glow from the single bar of the fire made her pale-white skin look healthier. She sipped the last of the cognac and relaxed as the warmth from it coursed through her. She put her preoccupations aside and thought of nicer, more feminine things: the nape of Bardot’s neck or the curve of Raquel Welsh’s breasts, the dramatic cheekbones of Faye Dunaway. As she did, her right hand slipped into the milky grey water and down between her thighs.