Bobby March Will Live Forever by Alan Parks

February 19, 2021

Please note, though this is a standalone novel it is the third book featuring detective Harry McCoy. I’d recommend reading Bloody January and February’s Son before picking this book up. I’ll guarantee that if you do when you do read Bobby March Will Live Forever you’ll enjoy it all the more.


The papers want blood.

The force wants results.

The law must be served, whatever the cost.

August 1973. The Glasgow drugs trade is booming and Bobby March, the city’s own rock-star hero, has just OD’ed in a central hotel.

Alice Winters is twelve years old, lonely. And missing.

Meanwhile the niece of McCoy’s boss has fallen in with a bad crowd and when she goes AWOL, McCoy is asked – off the books – to find her.

McCoy has a hunch. But does he have enough time?

It is universally understood that the people of Scotland do not function well in high temperatures, so finding Harry McCoy attempting to solve multiple crimes in the midst of a blistering heatwave does not bode well. When we join the detective, he is attempting to locate a missing child, unravel the story behind a suspect overdose and find a teenage runaway. All the while fending off the interests of a rival officer who is keen to cause McCoy as much grief as possible.

What keeps bringing me back to these novels? I think it is Harry himself. I picture him as a bit lived in. His profession is all-encompassing, and it has left a mark. Perhaps he even looks older than his years. What with all the cigarettes, drinking and recreational drug use, that seems likely. Harry may be ‘polis’ but he’s no angel. There is a moral ambiguity to Harry’s character I’ve come to really enjoy. Our protagonist has his own definition of right and wrong which leads to a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to the letter of the law.  As a detective, petty crimes, though frowned upon, are pretty much ignored. Prostitution and shebeens (illegal drinking dens*) are a necessary evil. They are part of the fabric of Glasgow. McCoy’s lifelong friendship with everyone’s favourite gangland sociopath, Stevie Cooper, is another example of this attitude towards the criminal fraternity in the town. When McCoy needs to keep someone safe and he is uncertain who he can trust he turns to Cooper for help. The bond that exists between the two men transcends the fact they are on either side of the law. For all intents and purposes, they are brothers. I get the distinct impression they would do just about anything for one another. Perhaps in time, we’ll learn how far that pseudo-familial bond can be stretched before it breaks. This complex relationship is the backbone of the entire series and I love it.

Throughout the main narrative of Bobby March Will Live Forever, there are flashbacks cataloguing the eponymous rock star’s hedonistic journey through years of sex, drugs and rock and roll. From an idealistic musician keen to escape his childhood Glasgow home, to a jaded star on the decline. How did the man who nearly joined The Rolling Stones end up a member of the 27 Club?

I enjoy how the author chooses to frame each new novel. Events move constantly forward into the next year of the decade. Bloody January begins in 1971, February’s Son is set in 1972 and so on. This means when the over-arching story picks up with a new case there are gaps that can be used to flesh out the main players. We get to learn that McCoy’s personal life continues to be utterly shambolic. Like all the best detectives, he is a mess of a human being. McCoy’s partner, Wattie, is becoming a more seasoned member of the team who struggles with the realisation that police work is not always a matter of black and white. Meanwhile, Stevie Cooper continues to spiral out of control. I’m sure there will undoubtedly be a reckoning there at some point. We only see snapshots of these people’s lives, but Alan Parks allows then to evolve in our absence. They don’t exist in a bubble. It makes each new book something to genuinely look forward to.

Growing up in the west coast of Scotland during the nineteen seventies and eighties, Glasgow was the closest city and it will always have a special place in my heart. For want of a better term, it’s my spiritual home. Alan Park’s vision of the city is never sugar-coated, I can’t deny it can sometimes be bloody grim but his writing also has a hell of a lot of heart. It frequently reminds me of where I’ve come from. I don’t think I ever expected a crime novel to prompt such a level of introspection. I’m even willing to admit that I couldn’t help but get a bit misty-eyed when ‘The Bullet’ in Central Station got a mention.

Bobby March Will Live Forever is published by Canongate and the paperback edition is available from 25th February. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been a bit late discovering this series. The only benefit to this gross oversight is I won’t have to wait long until the next Harry McCoy novel, The April Dead is released next month. Lucky book reviewer that I am, I already have a copy on my Kindle. You can be damn sure I’ll be reviewing it. I can’t wait.

My musical recommendation to accompany Bobby March Will Live Forever is the 1973 debut album Once in a Blue Moon by Glaswegian singer/songwriter Frankie Miller. Seems only right and proper that one Glasgow singer should accompany another.

*See, my reviews are educational as well as insightful. You’re welcome.

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