INSIDE ALBERT SHIFTY
DO-IT-YOURSELF - HOW ELSE?
Two paperback editions came out on Star in 1977 & possibly a hardback edition on WH Allen but never seen one...
The first (and most common) paperback edition features a bright yellow cover, the familiar Star Stanley Morgan logo and a lady's thumb and forefinger, scarlet painted nails, holding...um...a screw...geddit? Just unearthed is a rarer Star paperback second cover that fits the theme of the other Star Tobin/Horn/Randy Comfort books - ie a semi-naked lady this time with what I believe would commonly be referred to as "pendulous breasts" - hammering a nail into the floor for no particular reason. 3/10 for the first edition and even less for the second (she needs to have a health & safety at work assessment I reckon).
The premise is simple - Albert Shifty is an odd-job man who lives in a boarding house, has a daft mate and gets into scrapes (mainly revolving around the ladies). Other than that not a lot actually happens but how many book do you read these days where loft-ladders get such frequent mentions?
It's not especially clear as to why we are "Inside" Albert Shifty, but I've a feeling it was a parody of another 70s book title where you get supposedly get "inside" the mind of a character. Here there is not much going on "inside" Albert other than the stirrings in his trouser-region. Actually compared to the Randy Comfort books, where every chapter has Randy on the go in some form or other - there are quite a few chapters where the characters aren't horizontal. Stan squeezes in a quick ScoobyDoo-esque ghost story caper and even a trip to the golf driving range to break up the...ahem..action. Of course Albert is found drinking plenty of Vodka Tonics a la Russ Tobin (see pages 98, 110 and 130) and like Randy Comfort he also dreams of escaping his relative poverty via the coming together of his handyman skills and some lonely housewives.
There is a great bit where Albert splashes out on some fancy clothes and the description (in hindsight) sounds hideous. "Cecil Gee suit of dark green velvet, swiss lawn shirt in patterned primrose yellow, a green silk tie and a pair of tan italian shoes" Nice!
But by far my favourite part is where Stan describes a pair of homosexual gents who share Albert's boarding house. As it was written in the 1970s you start to cringe at what sort of out-dated stereotypical nonsense might be coming next but not Stan, he simply states "Lovely lads. Don't care what people say, if the world was populated by Harrys and Peters it'd be a lot nicer place." In a 1970s comedy novel about a red-blooded heterosexual chap that's an amazing message to slip in there. Stan was a complete legend at times.
In all honesty this isn't one of the greatest books in the Morgan canon but it is a good read and has some great set-pieces. Only a slight variation from Randy Comfort character-wise, Stan was obviously trying to expand his repertoire, but therein lies the problem with both Albert Shifty & Randy Comfort. They seem like little more than 2nd rate Tobins - which is a real shame. All three characters share their physical looks and cheery happy-go-lucky view of life, but whereas Randy had Sylvan Glade Mansions as his workplace, Albert has the entire Belview housing estate. This provides a little more scope for Albert, but not much. By the end of the book It's hard to believe that Stan could have wrung much more out of the character without simply repeating the story.
6/10 Albert as a stand-alone one-book adventure is fun, but in the shadow of the giant that is the Russ Tobin series