Book review: Bobby March Will Live Forever by Alan Parks
Bobby March Will Live Forever - Alan Parks
We've reached July 1973 in Alan Parks' gritty Glasgow detective crime series and things don't seem to be getting any better for Harry McCoy. In fact it all seems very much business as usual for any reader familiar with the first two books (Bloody January, February's Son), but if Bobby March WIll Live Forever doesn't progress much further in its look at the development and connection between crime and drugs, or how crime impacts differently on the wealthy and lower orders of society in the city, it very much holds ground in what is turning out to be a terrific series.
Bobby March is or was a promising (fictional) local rock star who in once auditioned for the Rolling Stones. Like many others his career has been cut short by the rock 'n' roll lifestyle and when Harry McCoy is called in the morning after his last show in Glasgow, he's not all that surprised to find March dead from a drug overdose in his hotel room. Most of the police and the city are more concerned about a missing child, but McCoy has been side-lined on that case and is indifferent about the predictable end of another junkie rock star casualty. He's seen it all before, and much worse.
Same goes for the other minor cases he's been given to look at, an unsolved and probably unsolvable series of bank raids, and - as a favour for his former boss Chief Inspector Murray - he's been asked to locate the wayward 15 year old daughter of the Chief's brother. She's been seen in the company of a disreputable small-time hood who, when McCoy goes to check up on him, finds that someone has already closed that line of enquiry in the traditional manner that also seems to be the eventual fate of this type of character.
70s rock stars doing drugs, kidnapped children, local criminal gang leaders getting carved up, corruption at high levels, it's pretty much par for the course for Harry McCoy, and for Alan Parks too if we're honest. Even the showdown conclusion here feels very familiar. Which isn't to say that there is any lessening in the quality or the authenticity of the writing. Parks captures the attitudes and seedy character of Glasgow in the seventies brilliantly, getting to the roots of a significant period that highlights the kind of social divisions that crime (and politics) would come to thrive on in the subsequent years, and not just in Glasgow.
If there's not a great deal of progress, Bobby March Will Live Forever is not treading water by any means either. The sectarian problem in Glasgow has been touched on before, but here Parks pushes it briefly into a new area and new location that is handled with the same authenticity for the underlying terror that is beginning to rise to the surface. There's no fake seventies glamour here but it's not all gloomy nihilism either, and although severely tested, McCoy still just about is able to hold on to his humanity. Like the legacy of Bobby March, if there's a lesson in this third Harry McCoy book it's that we have to remember the good, believe in it and desperately cling to it in spite of everything else.