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Book Review: Dashboard Elvis is Dead – David F. Ross

It must be difficult to follow a critically acclaimed novel. David F. Ross’ There’s Only One Danny Garvey was widely regarded as his best to date; shortlisted for the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award last year, and making it on to many best books of 2021 lists. With his latest, Dashboard Elvis is Dead, what Ross has done is to move the majority of the action stateside, giving a more expansive feel to his writing. It’s a transatlantic affair, with a number of storylines on the go in both Scotland and the US. The novel takes in the wide open spaces of America, paying homage to its culture and history and links it back home to Scotland. It also looks at how chance encounters and coincidences can shape and change people’s lives.

There’s a wonderful cast of characters, including political climber Anna Mason, musician Jamie Hewitt and his band, The Hyptones, who are ready to self-implode just as fame and success are within their grasp, and the enigmatic artist Rabbit.

However, in photojournalist Jude Montgomery, Ross has given us one of the most memorable characters of recent times. Through her journey across America she seeks to find answers, and find herself. As she does so, we get to see famous and infamous events in the country’s history from an individual’s perspective; her experiences highlighting the human cost behind the headlines. It’s a difficult task to have multiple characters and storylines and keep them all relevant, and few writers manage to keep all the plates spinning as skilfully as Ross does here. You are invested in each and every one, so when everything is brought together the effect is all the more powerful.

Dashboard Elvis is Dead is a rich and rewarding novel that takes in the culture and social history of both Scotland and the USA, beautifully weaving stories over decades before bringing them together in a manner that is devastating. The result is an epic yet intimate novel, one which manages to be both panoramic and personal.

Dashboard Elvis is Dead will be published 8th December by Orenda Book

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