Disco from the late 1970's / early 1980's being a formative part of my early years, some of the sheer enjoyment that BLACK SAILS, DISCO INFERNO provided could be put down to nostalgia, but there's a lot more to it than that.
Based on the ancient story of Tristan and Isolde, with a pulp / noir sensibility, there is a strong sense of homage and a deep understanding of the original medieval romance. The setting employed here is an unnamed city, sectioned off into the territory of rival crime families the Holts and the Cornwall's. Issy (Isidor Junior) is the playboy heir of the Holt family. Trista Rivalen a trusted niece and heir to Marcella, head of the Cornwall family. The switching of the gender of the two main characters is a device that works seamlessly, even if you're steeped in the original tale, because of all the things that BLACK SAILS does well, it absolutely excels at character. Issy's background is pretty simple - the only child and heir, a boy with all the advantages and not a lot of responsibilities, his relationship with his parents is strained. Similarly Trista's relationship with her parents is difficult, and she's mostly been raised by faithful lieutenant Governal. His idea of extra-curricula education might seem a little peculiar, but Trista has a future that needs to be considered. Needless to say, around the two main characters of Trista and Issy, there's a wonderfully elaborate cast of good and bad, villains and the slightly misunderstood.
The cast is then placed in a setting which is all about atmosphere, with location names that echo the Irish / Cornish roots of the original. The plot then revolves around the bones of a grand old family feud, covering off the scenarios of the original, enhanced with some complications you'd expect in noir set in the 70s. There's plenty of twists and turns built into that - including a very interesting twist on the adultery storyline, and the tragedy of the ending.
Into this go the sorts of cultural hat-tips that Bergen excels in, including my very favourite - the references to disco songs that are now so deeply embedded as earworms, they are pretty well all I've been able to hear since reading this book. It has all come together into something that's extremely addictive reading.
Having loved, but gleefully not understood parts of an earlier book by Andrez Bergen (Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat), and having seen the early publicity for BLACK SAILS, DISCO INFERNO I was expecting it to be good. It exceeded good by a very big measure.