The title, and its mirrorball-with-lit-fuse cover image, might evoke svengalis, faded stars and musical revolutions in hip New York nightclubs, but the actual settings for David F Ross's first novel are far less glamorous, consisting of 18th birthday parties, silver wedding anniversaries and a Conservative Club knees-up.
Welcome to Kilmarnock. It's 1982.
Chic's Good Times is still a reliable floor-filler, but singles by groups as diverse as The Specials and The Associates are heralding the start of a new era. Ayrshire teenager Bobby Cassidy dreams of running a successful mobile disco and teams up with his pal Joey Miller to launch Heatwave, its equipment paid for out of his dad's compensation payout for losing three fingers at work. A mobile disco can only operate in the Kilmarnock area with the consent of Fat Franny Duncan, a gangster so small-time that he's forced to bask in the glory reflected back at him from bottom-of-the-bill cabaret acts and children's entertainers. But he has the town sewn up, so the boys have to play by his rules.
Loading article content
Bobby and Joey's clumsy early efforts to make Heatwave a success take place against the backdrop of Bobby's family life, which is strained and more complicated than it at first appears. Events from before his older brother Gary was even born have cast a shadow over the Cassidys, creating tensions that have spurred Gary to enlist in the army to try to win his father's long-withheld respect.
This is all taking place at the time when Argentina had just invaded the Falkland Islands, and quotes from Mrs Thatcher are liberally inserted between chapters. At a time of rising unemployment, the options for young men are limited. At the same time as Bobby is pursuing the crazy idea of joining the entrepreneurial culture by starting a disco, Gary is undergoing training which will culminate in him being dropped into a war zone.
Ross's social commentary, however, is applied as judiciously as his humour, as he does his best to balance the threads of his story so that Bobby's aspirations for his new business don't overshadow his home life, and nor is the Cassidy family's tragic arc crowded out by Fat Franny's business difficulties. More than just a nostalgic recreation of the author's youth, it's a compassionate, affecting story of a family in crisis at a time of upheaval and transformation, when disco wasn't the only thing whose days were numbered.