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No Mean City

Mitchell Library, Glasgow Collection

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No Mean City

The front cover of the paperback edition of the controversial novel No Mean City, published by Corgi in 1957. The first edition was published by Longmans, Green in 1935. The title comes from a quotation in the Bible. In Acts ch 21, verse 19, Paul introduces himself: "I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city..."

Alexander McArthur was an unemployed baker with a drink problem who live in the Gorbals. He sent some short stories based on his observations of local life to Longmans, who despatched H Kingley Long, an experienced London journalist, to Glasgow in order to collaborate with McArthur to produce a lurid tale that would appeal to a wide audience.

The novel tells the story of Johnnie Stark, son of a violent father and a downtrodden mother who becomes the "Razor King" of Glasgow's pre-war slum underworld. The grim tale of violence, gang fights, drunkenness and immorality had all the ingredients required to become a best seller, and it gave Glasgow, and Gorbals in particular, an image which it has struggled to live down ever since.

Reference: Mitchell Library, GC 823 MCA

Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow City Council, Libraries Information and Learning

alcoholics, authors, bakers, books, gangs, Johnnie Stark, journalists, No Mean City, novels, Razor King, slums, violence

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