This collection of 35 short stories - most of them being published in this country for the first time - has been selected and arranged by James Kelman himself from over two decades of his work. The stories of Busted Scotch are set in the working-class milieu of Scotland and England - the pubs, betting shops, tenements, bedrooms, snooker parlors, and decaying industrial workplaces. They range widely in length from a few paragraphs to twenty-plus pages, in style from the deceptively offhand to the highly farcical, and in subject matter from the casual everyday tragedies to the heartbreaking vicissitudes of romance and language.
The title of this collection of 35 highly original stories by the Booker Prize-winning author of How late it was, how late comes from a one-page vignette about an unnamed Scot in a cabaret who blows his week's wages on one hand of blackjackand he's one of the sunnier of his countrymen on display here. From the pool-hall habitus of "Remember Young Cecil" to the hallucinating alcoholic of "O Jesus, Here Come the Dwarfs," to the emotionally crippled young father of "By the Burn," Kelman's protagonists are desperate, angry people who live in industrialized settings that afford them no breathing space or peace of mind. Despite fancying himself a "natural born beggar," the narrator of "Not Not While the Giro" finds himself so hard up for a smoke that he sucks his thumb to taste the nicotine residue there. Even his dreams are feeble: he longs to become an enigmatic figure who, with his feet, traces the coastline of Scotland while living off the good graces of the townsfolk he meets. Kelman is a brilliant aural portraitistwith the rhythm of his countrymen's speech apparently ingrained on his psycheand a writer utterly unfazed by risk. (One story trails off mid-rant, another transforms a man's pushing his son into a vat of acid into an act of love.) Thirteen of these stories have appeared previously in the States (10 in Greyhound for Breakfast), but even these are worth re-reading. All told, this collection provides a tasty sampling of Kelman's finest fancies. (May) FYI: Kelman will take part in a five-city Great Scots Reading Tour, along with Irvine Welsh and Duncan McLean.