I’m delighted to be reviewing The Ballad of Fat Labrador by Dave Holwill on the blog today. My thanks to the author for asking me to review the book and for providing me with a digital copy, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
It’s been a blissful ten years since George put down his bass, left the Artful Badgers and vowed never to play in public again. But when tragedy strikes his best friend he’ll do anything to help.
Unfortunately that means going back out on the road, and this time he’s taking his daughter with him.
Alice has realised she wants more from her best friend than she is prepared to give and the band they have spent so long building up may not survive the fallout.
Luckily her dad has the perfect plan to take her mind off of it.
It might feel more like a support group than a band, but if George can’t keep it under control then it could destroy his best friend’s life, his daughter’s happiness and what’s left of his own sanity.
Join George, Alice, Tim and a whole host of familiar faces as George is dragged back into a world to which he hoped he’d never have to return.
This book is ostensibly a sequel to Dave’s first book, Weekend Rockstars. That is actually the only book by Dave Holwill that I haven’t read, so I am in a strong position to say that The Ballad of Fat Labrador works perfectly well as a standalone. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on any back story or was confused about what was going on because I hadn’t read the first book.
This is the third book I have read by this author and, although they have all been different as far as plot and genre and tone go, they all have one thing in common, and this is that they are completely driven by character. This author is a genius at drawing likeable, compelling and realistic characters that work brilliantly to bond with the reader and carry the plot. This book is peopled with … well, people that I fell in love with and was happy to spend several hours in the company of, sharing their adventures. In fact, I was very sad to part company with them at the end of the book.
We follow the adventures of George, a retired guitarist from covers band The Artful Badgers, who now works for the Post Office and manages his 17-year-old daughter’s musical duo. Then events conspire to upset the ordered progress of his life and he finds himself back in a band to support his bereaved best friend through his grief, and his daughter whose band splits. Cue a litany of mishaps as a ragtag group take to the road in search of fame and glory and peace of mind. It is a wonderful premise for a plot and, given the detail of what goes on, the author has obviously included a lot of personal experience in the writing of this novel.
This book is written with such warmth and affection that reading it is like snuggling down under a blanket with a bottle of wine with your best friend for an evening reminiscing about your misspent youth, as seen through a couple of pairs of rose-tinted spectacles. The characters felt like real people, and people you want to spend time with, and they evidently care deeply about each other. Through the bickering and mishaps and bad decisions, what shines through in this book, is a real sense of love and family and, when it boils down to it, that is what this book is about. Friendship and family and being there for one another through good times and bad. And how family is more than just the immediate people you are born to or married too. It is messy and sprawling and complicated and just yours, whatever you make it and however you make it work, and it is what keeps you going through the ups and downs of life.
As well as all the philosophical and soppy, mushy stuff, this book is hilariously funny. It is a warts and all look at the life of a low level band, playing covers in pubs and working men’s clubs, musical differences, shifting line ups, no sex, a few drugs and not very rock and roll. And lots of men called Lawrence. I came away from reading it with a huge smile on my face and a Ready Brek glow around my heart. A lovely piece of work that deserves attention.
About the Author
Dave Holwill published his first book, Weekend Rockstars: a romantic comedy loosely based on 25 years as a gigging musician, in 2016. He followed this up with dark comedies The Craft Room and Gap Years before bringing out the sequel to Weekend Rockstars, The Ballad Of Fat Labrador, in 2020. He lives in Devon with his wife and a not inconsiderable number of pets.
Connect with Dave:
Facebook: Dave Holwill