GLASGOW FAIRYTALE BY Alastair D McIver Black & White Publishing, 182pp, £9.99
Dear reader, bear with me: slip under the duvet, disengage your critical faculties, then read yourself to sleep with Glasgow Fairytale. Failing which, you could read it aloud to yourself; this book, by one of Scotland's best-known storytelling talents, is to be declaimed. It is big on plot, small on complexity, a debut novel that makes you smile.
We've been here before. It's the kind of pastiche that's the stock in trade of the English novelist, Jasper Fforde, who exploited kids' nursery rhymes as a basis for his Nursery series of hard-boiled detective pastiches.
McIver draws on those old familiars: the three little pigs, the big bad wolf, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Rapunzel, a magic mirror la Snow White, plus a pocket-sized part for Thumbelina – it can get claustrophobically crowded in here. Meanwhile, the plot strands, creating a thriller, a chase tale, a quest that has to be satisfied before love, (the book's crowning glory and constant heartbeat), could usher the narrative towards the Happily Ever After World where fairytales belong. And there's more: Scarlett Hood, known as Wee Red Hoodie, a lassie terrorised by her granny, is on a mission to woo the wolf.
What makes Glasgow Fairytale starkly different, though, from the novels of Jasper Fforde is the sharp sense of social awareness; wider issues arise from the stories of the characters, who themselves are rarely more than neatly etched; at one point one of them (who else but the Fairy Godmother?), says to another: "Isn't it obvious? I'm a plot device." Harry Charmaine scores for Scotland and stars for Celtic. Cinderella is a fan, while Jack and his Maw are Rangers true bloods. Jack's girlfriend, Rapunzel ("well, at least she's not a Catholic") is an asylum seeker, held at Dungavel Detention Centre, and latterly placed in care with the Crabbit family who bully young Ella.
McIver's affection for the book's eponymous city is never in doubt. He crowds too much in, but more than makes up for it with wit. Such is its soap operatic sense of occasion, perhaps the cast of River City will adapt this Glasgow fairytale as their pantomime for Christmas.