Des Dillon - Me and Ma Gal (1995)
- Alan Bissett
- 1 January 2005
100 Best Scottish Books of all Time
Me and Ma Gal is a novel which continues to defy the odds. Published by a small Scottish press in the mid-90s, re-published by a large London firm in 2001, the novel twice failed to make Des Dillon as trendy as Irvine Welsh or as fêted by critics as James Kelman. What it became instead was a dearly loved novel among those who read for fun. As Dillon's cheeky-chappie of a book was read and re-read by the kind of people who pay little attention to broadsheet reviews or bestseller charts, its lustre brightened. It should be no surprise, then, that on World Book Day 2003 it was voted by the public as the novel which best portrayed today's Scotland. It was promptly reissued by its third publisher, but this time awoke, blinking, as a sort of modern classic. It is not hard to see why.
Dillon's book is arguably one of the most frenetic and kinetic, living and breathing of all Scottish novels. Like its lovable narrator, Derek, it just won't sit still. Heeding advice given to him by Edwin Morgan that he should write the way he talks, Dillon lets fly with the kind of tongue wielded in pubs and school playgrounds from Airdrie to Dunoon. But when it's used in the mouth of the freewheeling Derek - the Coatbridge kid with his trusty sidekick Gal on the run from local psycho Septic - it becomes a literary language of its own, rarefied and true. The whole novel crackles with this verbal energy, and nowhere else is childhood friendship evoked with as much vitality as it is here.
Me and Ma Gal is a great Scottish book because, true to the dog-eared spirit of its homeland, it has triumphed over adversity, testament to the power of the way Dillon tells 'em.
View the complete list of the 100 Best Scottish Books.