I’ve made a (temporary) move away from SF this week. I follow some crime related blogs and No Mean City was mentioned in one of them. I’d heard of this novel before, it kept cropping up here and there. And of course I can’t think of No Mean City without hearing Maggie Bell singing the theme from Taggart.

So on impulse I bought it from Amazon with free shipping and it has arrived. I’m going through it at a rate of knots. It’s a weird book. Set in the twenties in Glasgow it supposedly deals with the life of Razor King Johnny Stark. But there is very little narrative structure. Characters come and go; pages get devoted to people and then they’re off. It’s the product of a baker and a journalist, (Alexander McArthur and H. Kingsley Long) brought together no doubt by the publisher way back in the thirties. The publisher says it’s copyrighted but I think it’s one of those orphan works, where the owner can’t be contacted as there are no dates on the copyright page. It was first published in 1935.

It is oddly compelling though and there is strength to the writing that comes through even across the decades. Even through the matter of fact way things are explained (with explanations in English in brackets for those that don’t understand certain words) and the lack of a serious plot, the character of those people living their lives in the twenties shines out. The simple thing is that a lot of it rings true, and the book is all the more powerful for that. (Full disclosure: although I make fun of the Weegies as often as possible I do have to admit that I am half Weegie myself, my mother coming from Glasgow, and I did visit her home town a few times when I was young.)

Another link to this book is that I am a fan of Ronnie Montrose. He had a group in the early eighties who released three albums, imaginatively entitled Gamma 1, Gamma 2 and Gamma 3 (there was the obligatory reunion which resulted in Gamma 4). I actually saw them in concert at the Edinburgh Playhouse when they supported Foreigner. Good stuff. Anyway, on their first album, released in 1979, is the song Razor King, all about Johnny Stark. They played that live in Edinburgh, Davey Pattison, the singer from Glasgow, calling it a ‘Scottish Folk song’.

I found myself struggling to keep up with the blogs I was following on Google reader and stopped following about ten or so. I wanted to get the number under 40 but failed by a couple. Having said that I sign on over the last couple of days and instead of the fifty or sixty blog posts I have to read there are now less than a dozen. Those ones I now actually read rather than skimming through. Maybe subconsciously I was pruning the ones that posted the most.

Urlg. If I win all the things I’m bidding on at eBay I’ll have to fork out over sixty quid. Thankfully the ending times are spread over a week. I hope I win them all, I don’t want to be outbid for any of them; some of the things I’m getting are very cheap and I want them. If I win them I’ll post about them.

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