Mickey stubs out his roll-up and lies on his back watching the clouds drift across the sky over Slioch. On the iPod the faint rough voice of Rufus Wainwright singing Across the Universe.
Mickey Bell is an HIV-positive, 35-year-old, single, gay man living on benefits in Drumkirk–a fictional suburb of Glasgow–with his wee collie dug, Tyke. With nothing else to do and no one to care, they set out on the adventure of a lifetime: to climb all 282 Munros. Only thereâ€™s one small problemâ€”the DSS is hot on their trail trying to prove that Mickey is no longer deserving of his disability living allowance.
While Mickey is sick, heâ€™s not quite as sick as his overzealous but well-meaning benefits worker made out on his form. Since Mickey accidentally let slip to his psychotic ex-boyfriend Jonny that heâ€™s been climbing the Munros, Jonnyâ€™s vengefully grassed on him. When the head office of the DSS gets wind of it, they decide to make an example of Mickey. But collecting evidence of Mickeyâ€™s supposed benefit fraud requires sending one of their top officers on a mission to the Highlands, to personally tail Mickey as he climbs the Munrosâ€”a challenge with hilarious consequences.
Largely successful in the telling, Mickeyâ€™s journey from out of work Glaswegian to accomplished Munroist is reminiscent of the American Beat stories about life on the road, were that road trip to instead take place across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. If I have a criticism of the work it is that, at times, the storyline feels slightly disjointed. But then, the daring experimentalism of the narrative counters this and gives the book its unique flavour. MacInnes navigates the steep terrain of both the Munros and of modern day perceptions of what Scotland is and what it should be.
The Making of Mickey Bell is published by Sandstone Press and is available as an ebook and a paperback. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Mickey-Bell-Kellan-MacInnes/dp/1910985279
Kellan MacInnes lives in Edinburgh and can be found at: https://kellanmacinnes.com/