Isle Be There: A Review Of David F. Ross’s The Man Who Loved Islands…

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Those who have read David F. Ross’s first two novels The Last Days Of Disco and The Rise & Fall Of The Miraculous Vespas  will approach his third with anticipation, excitement but also a little regret as it promises to be the closing part of his “Disco Days” trilogy which means no more Max Mojo, Bobby Cassidy or Joey Miller and no more music from Heatwave Disco or The Miraculous Vespas. But put aside those fears for now and rest assured that if The Man Who Loved Islands is to be their swan song, they are leaving the stage in some style.

This is a more mature book than the other two in both content and approach. Having previously been taken back to the ’80s we are now in, or are at least quickly approaching, the present day, aside from some timely flashbacks to explain how we got here. While once the main characters had their life before them, for the most part full of promise and potential, Ross now concentrates on them as 50-something men reflecting back on their lives and finding them wanting. Continue reading

New Musical Success Special: The Premiere of The Strange Blue Dreams’ In My Nature…

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We have long been fans of The Strange Blue Dreams at SWH!, so new music from them is always greeted with whoops, cheers and hollers. Previously on these pages we have said, “Taking ’50s influences and rockabilly stylings and adding a dash of country, (and even some southern gothic), to proceedings, they are one of the tightest and most captivating bands around. Exuding effortless cool, and knowingly noir – if you get the chance to see them live you really must.”

Well now you can see if they are as good as our word as Holy Smokes presents the launch of The Strange Blue Dreams’ new EP Towards The Warm Place at MacSorleys in Glasgow, Saturday 8th April. If you need further convincing, here is an exclusive play of one of the tracks, ‘In My Nature’:

Yesterday Once More: A Review Of David Keenan’s This Is Memorial Device…

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What makes a cult novel is hard to define, but here goes. It will alienate as many people as it attracts. It will pitch itself against the status quo, answering the question “What are you against?” with “What have you got?”. It will display attitude, angst, anger and alienation. Such novels are often culturally aware and precisely of their time, yet the best ones are timeless. They are also unapologetic in their attitude of not giving a fuck. You either get it or you don’t. If you don’t, move on – nothing for you here.

Great Scottish cult novels include Alexander Trocchi’s Young Adam, Toni Davidson’s Scar Culture, Martin Millar’s Lux The Poet, and Duncan McLean’s Bunker ManAnd then there’s Trainspotting, which is a reminder that cult does not necessarily mean unknown. Way before the film it was a book which was handed around school playgrounds, and shoplifted from John Menzies. Cult novels should be infamous, not necessarily unfamous or obscure. A Clockwork Orange, Naked Lunch and American Psycho can all be called cult, but are also best-sellers. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road is his great cult novel, rather than the lesser known Doctor Sax. This is because the former chimed with and helped define the Beat Generation, and the latter shows that hanging out at William Burroughs’ house can seriously damage your muse. Continue reading

New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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The early months of a Glasgow year require a lot of moving around the city between festival events. January has Celtic Connections, February means Glasgow Film Festival, and in March the focus moves to Aye Write!. Few other cities in the world can boast that sort of festival action occurring before the clocks change, and a quality soundtrack is required to accompany the necessary toing and froing. Luckily for all concerned a very classy one emerged as some fine, and particularly melodic, new music was released.

We’re going to begin by going back to late February when Glasgow band Quick brought out their EP This I Know. It’s a beautiful collection of songs which stride that line between melancholy and inspiriting. The harmonies in particular are almost tangible as they wrap themselves around you, immediately improving your lot in life.

At times travelling to the more alt side of country, reminiscent of The Cowboy Junkies and Jessie Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter, at others dealing in the more traditional, Quick don’t just remind me of some of my favourite bands, on this evidence they are quickly going to join them. Listen for yourself, and for goodness sake if you like what you hear get yourself a copy. That goes for all the music featured in these reviews. Support your local musicians – we’ll all miss them when they’re gone. Here endeth the sermon, from now it’ll be just the music all the way – promise:

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Literally Literary: A Preview Of Aye Write! 2017…

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For 10 days in March there is only one place to be as Glasgow’s Aye Write! takes up its annual residency in the Mitchell Library between 9th-19th to cement its reputation as one of the best book festivals around. Pedants will point out that there are also events at the CCA, Kelvin Hall and Royal Concert Hall, but it is only right that Glasgow’s most famous library is the focus point for a book festival which is international in scope, but has its roots firmly planted in this city.

Here are a few selected highlights to give you something to think about, but you can peruse the full programme at your leisure here. They are all at the Mitchell unless stated otherwise. Continue reading

Carter The Unstoppable Killing Machine: A Review Of Russel D. McLean’s Ed’s Dead…

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Is there a more unreliable narrator than one who is themselves a writer? The idea of a fiction within a fiction, of stories being told, are more pronounced. In Russel D. McLean’s latest novel, Ed’s Dead, struggling writer Jen Carter earns herself the title of “The Most Dangerous Woman In Scotland”, yet even she is unsure whether it is deserved or not. Is she discovering she has innate and previously unused skills as a cold-blooded killer, or is she simply and spectacularly unlucky? If it’s the latter, that’s a hell of a lot of broken mirrors.

It’s no spoiler to say that in Ed’s Dead, Ed dies. He is Jen’s boyfriend, a man who is at one-moment keen to seem her knight in shining armour, the next he is looking around for another potential conquest, doing so in plain sight. Jen is swiftly coming to the realisation that everything he does is what’s best for Ed – what makes him feel good and look good. As his associate Dave puts it, “He’s a dick. But he’s cool too, aye?”. At least one half of that statement rings true to Jen and she decides enough is enough. However she soon finds out that with some relationships, like the mafia, just when you think you’re out they pull you back in. Continue reading

You Have Been Watching…Benny

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Any informed discussion of the greatest all-time Scottish sports stars will throw up familiar names. Alongside the likes of Alan Wells, Liz McColgan, the Lisbon Lions, Andy Murray, Denis Law, Jackie Stewart and John Thomas ‘Jocky’ Wilson will be that of boxer Benny Lynch. However, the passing of time increases the risk that those who have been members of this elite group for the longest are in the greatest danger of being forgotten. The fact that the Lynch legend has lasted this long is testament to his impact on sports fans and beyond. Like Ali, Leonard, McGuigan and Chavez, he transcended the sport of boxing to become a national icon and hero. But Lynch last fought in 1938, lest we forget.

Andrew Gallimore’s documentary, Benny, which previewed at the Glasgow Film Festival last week, is timely for this very reason. It is not only a reminder of a great boxer, arguably one of the very best, but of a time and place, namely Glasgow in the 1920s and ’30s, which is also in danger of being forgotten. Glasgow was overpopulated, ripe and rotten, and at the heart of it was the Gorbals, which had a population density six-times higher than anywhere else in the city. Continue reading

Talking Movies At GFF17 – #3: An Interview With Bodkin Ras Director Kaweh Modiri…

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The third of our interviews with directors at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival is with Kaweh Modiri, a Dutch filmmaker of Iranian descent. Strange then, perhaps, that his film Bodkin Ras is set in the town of Forres in the north of Scotland, but such movement of people and place has been a feature of the films we have been highlighting at at this year’s festival, and those who have made them.

Our previous interviews have been with David Graham Scott, whose film The End Of The Game begins in Caithness and then moves to South Africa, and Hope Dickson Leach, who wrote The Levelling in Glasgow but filmed it in Somerset. You could make the claim, so I will, that they typify the Glasgow Film Festival in that they mix home with the international. Continue reading

You Have Been Watching…The End Of The Game

 

Our first film review of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival is of David Graham Scott’s The End Of The Game. And what a place to start. When documentary is at its best it trumps fiction every time as it gives us stranger and more telling tales. It is certainly the case that if someone was to write a character such as ‘Sir’ Guy Wallace, the focus of The End Of The Game, then an editor would dismiss him as being unbelievable. But when faced with the real thing, he is impossible to ignore.

He is a man whose story needs a film-maker as fair and even-handed as Graham Scott for audiences to see behind the facade and try to understand just what makes the man who he is. It would have been all too easy for the director to hold his subject up to ridicule. There is a lot of humour in the film, but it is as much pointed to the man behind the camera as to the one it is trained on, and much of it comes from their two very different  worlds colliding. But, as with the likes of fellow documentarian Jon Ronson, Scott tries to understand the personality and the driving passion of his subject. It is the result of an inquisitive mind, and one which is keen to see the best in people, even when initial evidence may prove otherwise. Other filmmakers could learn a lot in terms of approach and perspective Continue reading

Talking Movies At GFF17 – #2: An Interview With The Levelling Director Hope Dickson Leach…

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Hope Dickson Leach’s excellent The Levelling is at the GFT from the 12th – 18th May. Below is an interview with the director from earlier this year…

The Glasgow Film Festival offers something for everyone, but each year there are films which arrive having  created a buzz through word-of-mouth and critical reception. This certainly applies to The Levelling which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and it has been earning rave reviews wherever it has been shown. Continue reading