Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Mr Alfred M.A. by George Friel (Calder & Boyars 1972)

He saw a new rash break out on the scarred face of the city. Wherever the name of a gang was scribbled the words YA BASS was added. The application of the phrase caused some dispute at first. Nobody doubted YA BASS meant YOU BASTARDS. But the grammarians who discussed it were undecided about its vocative or apostrophic use. Some said COGS YA BASS meant O COGS! YOU ARE BASTARDS! Others said it meant WE ARE THE COGS, O YOU BASTARDS! A fifteen-year-old boy charged with assault and breach of the peace, and also with daubing TONGS YA BASS on a bus-shelter, said in court that YA BASS was an Italian phrase meaning FOR EVER. But the sheriff didn't believe him.

Some of the intelligentsia seemed to believe him.

Following a fashion, as the intelligentsia often do, they wrote the names of miscellaneous culture-heroes in public places and added YA BASS. Thus soon after the original examples of COGS YA BASS, TOI YA BASS, TONGS YA BASS, FLEET YA BASS, and so on, which were plastered all over the districts where those gangs lived, a secondary epidemic occurred on certain sites only. SHELLEY YA BASS suddenly appeared in the basement of the University Union. In a public convenience near the Mitchell Library MARX YA BASS was scrawled in one hand, LENIN YA BASS in another, and TROTSKY YA BASS in a third. When The Caretaker was put on at the King's Theatre PINTER YA BASS was pencilled on a poster in the foyer. BECKETT YA BASS, later and more familiarly SAM YA BASS, was scribbled on the wall of a public-house urinal near the Citizens' Theatre the week Happy Days was on. When the same theatre presented Ghosts somebody managed to write IBSEN YA BASS in large capitals on the staircase to the dress-circle.


mikeovswinton said...

Is this one worth tracking down Darren?

Doing nicely with the Rebus's - finished Fleshmarket and onto Black Book. I think I rather prefer the older ones - there struck me as being a touch of "Rebus by numbers" to Fleshmarket, which could have lost a fair few pages in my view. But as a worshipper at the shrine of the late Gregory Macdonald, I would say that.

So- here's the one - if you were Coyle, would you rather have trounced Spurs or anhilated Aberdeen yesterday? Again, my answer is clear.

Darren said...

Hi Mike,

this is a really brilliant book, and well worth looking out for. I love the caustic humour of the writer, which I think is hinted at by the passage I reproduced on the blog.

If you buy books online you'll catch a good deal on the book secondhand, as it was published with two other of Friel's books in one volume a couple of years book by Canongate under the title of 'A Glasgow Trilogy'.

With regards to Rankin, though Black and Blue is obviously the breakthrough novel, I think his novels pretty much hold up all the way through to the end of the series.

I take the "Rebus by numbers" point, but isn't that part of the reason people love their detective fiction? That familiarity of the characters, the settings and the in-jokes . . . but that's enough about the SPGB.

It's a no brainer about the footballing question. The answer is I'd sooner be a supporter of FC United. ;-)

robert said...

A belated comment...
On the strength of this blog I got the 'Glasgow Trilogy' from Santa ... not started it yet, but it's there on the 'to-do' pile ;>)
Cheers Darren, and ta for the SpOpen post!

Darren said...

I've enjoyed all the novels of his that I've read. You're in for a treat.