While dipping my writing toes into the dangerous, oil slicked waters of the underground flash fiction Noir scene this year, one name kept cropping up time and time again. That name was McDroll. The style was uniquely Scottish and I discovered McDroll’s work didn’t restrict itself to the Noir scene but crossed over into tales of colourful slice-of-life drama seamed with sharp barbs of satire and substance-abuse soiled pathos. McDroll’s stories can be found on web sites like Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect, and Near to the Knuckle. Other stories can be found in the anthologies – Off the Record, The Lost Children, Burning Bridges, and True Brit Grit. McDroll is also the author of the crime novella The Wrong Delivery and the short story collections Kick It Together and Kick It With Conviction. McQuade looked quite scared before undertaking this interview. After reading the transcript I can’t say I blame him.
|Strachan McQuade R.I.P.|
McQuade: What? You're not an actual Troll? By Jove! You mean to say I've been shivering under this foul smelling old bridge catching my death of cold for nothing? The research team will be hearing about this and no mistake. Anyway, McDroll - despite not eating people alive or for that matter bearing no resemblance to Shrek although your skin does have an unusual green pallor, you do have a habit of setting your stories in the social gutter where poor people with questionable IQs get up to all sorts of lo-jinks. Why write this type of tale? Surely it only encourages these underprivileged benefit-scroungers to stay rooted in their own reeking swill instead of aspiring to improve their lives by seeking gainful employment in the Civil Service - or at least to shop somewhere other than Pound Land.
McDroll: Listen Rev, you’re hardly going to catch your death of cold out here; I can come up with far more interesting ways to do you in, if you weren’t already dead. All you have to do is ask. Have you no imagination? Being a man of the cloth, I thought you would have been more au fait with ‘the social gutter’ than me. Perhaps your taste is more for the landed gentry, the huntin’ and shootin’ brigade, ee gads, there’s enough of them around in Argyll. Would you really have me write about pheasant shoots and government subsidised hydroelectric schemes? You see, I’m not a native of Argyll but a citizen of Kilmarnock, the Ayrshire town that makes Ayr look posh; the land of the Killie pie and the florescent tracksuit. These people have a message that must be heard; a passion to be shared and a unique creativity that is employed to fill their empty days with utter garbage.
McQuade: Kilmarnock? By Jove, that explains much. I seem to remember one Christmas Eve carol service where I had a few too many sherrys and instead of using my impressive baritone to lead the choir in a stirring rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, I got confused and sang My Big Kilmarnock Bunnet by mistake. I believe I still remember the words. (Clears throat)
Wae ma big Kilmarnock Bunnet As I ran to catch the train.
I'll never forget the trick that was played on me by Sandy Laing
He said "Mind Jock when ye get tae the toon speir ye for Katie Bain,
Ma Loon, she bides at number eichty street in Glesca.
Magnificent wasn’t I? I have to say the acoustics are very clear under this bridge.
|A Big Kilmarnock Bunnet|
McQuade: Lies! Lies! Lies! If you must know all I did was ask a prostitute if she had the time as my watch had stopped. And I’ll thank you for never mentioning that incident again. Now, McDroll, you recently contributed a story for the charity anthology 'A Night at the Movies' where all the stories were named after famous film titles. I did submit a smashing story to that same collection called ‘Memento’ but the editors turned me down flat probably due to my age or lack of a pulse. My version of Memento is however available for perusal on the McStorytellers Web site and here on Watson’s badly written blog page. Your choice of movie title, was Gregory's Girl. Any specific reason why you chose this title? Perhaps the usage of the name Gregory combined with the central theme of the movie focussing on a teenage date - a juxtaposition which in my mind conjures up an allegory of the Gregorian calendar. Am I close?
McQuade: Bella, bella indeed. In truth I only watched the film for the cameo appearance of Chic Murray who gave true meaning to the word 'Droll'. If anyone deserved to take the name McDroll it should have been him. You’re a poor second choice but you've got the name now. So take good care of it please.
McDroll – Ah yes, my dear old grandpa. He played the headmaster in Gregory’s Girl and since then has been a role model for many a misguided head teacher.
McQuade: Back to business. One unnamed reviewer (Editor – It was McQuade!!!) described your work as an alternative version of the Sunday Post aimed at the psychotic and criminal underbelly of Scottish culture. Did you read the Sunday Post as a child and perhaps still harbour a grievance over its parochial and twee style of news coverage? Please note that I refuse to hear a single harsh word said against The Broons. By the way you have what appears to be a used condom stuck to your shoe.
McDroll: At last Rev, you have hit pure gold; you are now in a rich cultural seam, the life-blood of Scottish literary heritage. This bridge that we now stand under is the very place where Oor Wullie took his life. This is not a generally known fact, the Dundee mafia have covered it up for years but Wullie eventually grew up. His wee black dungarees didn’t fit him anymore and his galvanised bucket was beyond repair. One dark night, he threw the pail over the bridge and watched it sink to the bottom of the river. He then slowly cocked his leg and climbed over the sandstone parapet and for the last time, he made sure his hair was sticking up in perfect spikes before he slowly wiggled over the edge and fell to his doom. He’d turned to a wee fly puff on the crack pipe and he just couldn’t look his mammie in the eye anymore. It’s for Wullie’s memory and the other wee boys like him that never managed to get a step up in the ladder of life that I want to tell the world about their hardships and pain.
McQuade: What a sad tale. Pity it's a load of unadulterated rubbish which I suspect you made up on the way to this interview. However, here is a true tale which also features a galvanised bucket. When I was a young lad, the older ruffians would sometimes tie me to a tree with a bucket stuck over my head and then proceed to play Cowboys and Indians. They of course pretended to be Red Indians while I was…… Pail Face.
McDroll: Was that a joke Rev McQuade? My goodness, you must have been at the sherry!
McQuade: I’ll have you know that thigh-slapping anecdote went down very well at the Young Mothers Association and was the cause of many a damp gusset, especially among those who hadn’t been sticking to their pelvic floor exercise regime. What are you doing McDroll? Are you actually eating sandwiches down here in this disgusting hell-hole? While you masticate upon your fish-paste budget-priced high-starch bread sandwich please ponder upon this question. Which writers in particular made you want to vent your own stories of crime and social decay upon the world?
McDroll: Other than Oor Wullie, I’d have to say it would be that master of Cumbrae literary fiction Douglas Lindsay, the posh boy from Ayr, Tony Black and the Godfather of Orkney, Allan Guthrie. But I’ve got a couple of things they haven’t got and I have no qualms when it comes to using my huge advantage.
|Tony Black ...erm we think|
McQuade: Hmmmm. Not too huge an advantage I hope. (Editor – Behave, McQuade) Good heavens, it's uncomfortably cold even for a dead man standing here under this draughty bridge. Let's wrap things up so I can return to my centrally heated coal bunker. You, I imagine will head for the nearest public house. So tell me McDroll, what's your next book about? A change of style hopefully? Why not write about a country vet who gets into hilarious scrapes with rabid animals and their rich owners? It worked for James Herriot, you know.
McDroll: I see you have a predilection for the tweed jacket set. But no, I cannot be tempted and anyway, I prefer to kill dogs in my stories not fix them up. My current WIP is set fair and square in the heartland of Kilmarnock with a little foray up the road to Irvine. It begins, as a lot of my stories do with a dead dog, this one being used as target practice by the hapless Beeny, a typical Killie lad who only washes his hair when the sun can be seen in the sky. This gormless youth and his mental superior Jango, scrape by on petty crimes in between the odd tin of extra strong value lager. As the story progresses, the demon duo become sucked into a world of crime way beyond their understanding and I see it as my challenge to record their bumbling antics as they swim with the sharks.
McQuade: Yes, indeed I do enjoy wearing my tweed jacket. I feel it elevates one above the common throng. I do remember my late wife Edith requesting Tweed for her birthday and she looked most disappointed on the big day when I presented her with a herringbone patterned tweed hat instead of perfume.
McDroll: At least you didn’t give her the Kilmarnock Bunnet that got you into all that trouble. Did your wife ever forgive you for that little escapade?
McQuade: Never, if you must know. But she's long dead so who cares. Anyway, good luck with the new book. Just remember to have Beeny and Jango sing a few verses of 'My Big Kilmarnock Bunnet' when they've finished shooting holes in dead dogs. Such an addition I'm sure would add a touch of poignancy to the proceedings. You'll be very glad to know this interview is now finished and you can return to whatever wretched Argyll hamlet you call home and have your weekly bath.
McDroll: I think, in your honour, I’ll have both of them wear Kilmarnock bunnets and I think I’ll search through the archives of the Sunday Post just to refresh my memory of just what exactly you did get up to that night in Glasgow. How long was it before the police released you from that lamppost?
McQuade: That was no lamppost, McDroll. That was my… (Editor – That’s quite enough, McQuade) For your time and trouble I would like to present you with this ivory handled Potato-Peeler, which may have been used by Scottish actor Alec Guinness in the Star Wars movie. I hope it assists you in the peeling of raw potatoes before you spoil them by turning them into fat-laden chips or fritters.
McDroll: I hope it’s a left-handed one…
McQuade: And do be careful, McDroll, about that loose paving stone at the edge of................................
McQuade: Ah well. No need to take that weekly bath after all, McDroll. I'll bid you goodnight.
Check out McDrolls Stuff on Amazon.co.uk
Check out McDrolls Stuff on Amazon.com
Go visit McDroll’s Blog