From the 11th – 27th August in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square Gardens (and George Street) once again becomes the place for book lovers to meet, greet, and be merry as the Edinburgh International Book Festival takes up its annual residence. It’s always an oasis of calm and conversation in a city gone daft, and it is one of SWH!’s favourite places to be.
There’s a lot of great events to choose from, so to help you find something just for you here are Scots Whay Hae!’s Top Ten Picks of what to see at this year’s book festival (with a bonus extra because you’re special).
Robin Robertson, Sat 11 Aug 12:00 – 13:00 – The Spiegeltent
A renowned poet whose work often hauntingly evokes the lives of Scottish outsiders, Robin Robertson strikes out with a breathtaking new project, The Long Take. In this verse novel, Walker is a war veteran from Nova Scotia who sets out for Los Angeles in 1948. Robertson’s book demonstrates the origins of ‘noir’, presented here with period filmic and musical accompaniment.
And you can read the SWH! review of The Long Take here.
Graeme Macrae Burnet, Sat 11 Aug 19:15 – 20:15 – Spark Theatre on George Street
The Scot who came to international attention when His Bloody Project was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Graeme Macrae Burnet has followed up that astonishing success with an elegant and evocative thriller The Accident on the A35. Set in a sleepy town in southern France, it’s a sophisticated mystery that evokes Maigret, Camus and perhaps a whiff of James Hogg. Chaired by Jane Fowler.
Here’s Graeme on the SWH! podcast talking about The Accident on the A35 and much more, and you can still read the SWH! review:
Spark, Sex and Shopping, Mon 13 Aug 13:30 – 14:30 – Baillie Gifford Main Theatre
‘I sensed romance, sex,’ Muriel Spark said in her autobiography, recalling her teacher Miss Christina Kay. Shopping, too, was another lifelong preoccupation; her novels are replete with memorable scenes when characters shop and…shoplift. Louise Welsh and Zoë Strachan, who have written the introductions to Aiding & Abetting and Memento Mori, consider the importance of such essential – and pleasurable – activities in Spark’s life and work. Chaired by Alan Taylor.
Part of the Muriel Spark 100 series of events
Here’s Dr Colin McIlroy on the SWH! podcast talking about Muriel Spark #100 and the NLS’s Muriel Spark Exhibition:
Sasha Dugdale & Jenni Fagan, Mon 13 Aug 20:30 – 21:30 – Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre
‘This is not narrative, this is time boiling over’, explains one reviewer of Sasha Dugdale’s poetry. It’s a style put to brilliant use in Dugdale’s new collection, Joy. It’s also an apt description of the Truth Poem Jenni Fagan wrote while in America for our 2017 Outriders project. Today, Fagan brings us her new collection The Witch in the Word Machine, an exploration of words as spells, incantations, curse and solace. These viscerally performative poets come together to present their work.
“This is a must-attend event. Jenni Fagan is one of the finest and most interesting writers around and any chance to hear her, and her work, should be grabbed with all available hands.” – Ali B, SWH!.
Stuart David & Teresa Solana, Wed 15 Aug 20:30 – 21:30 Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre
Co-founder of Belle & Sebastian, Stuart David revisits Peacock Johnson, a character he created who then appeared in an Ian Rankin novel. In Peacock’s Alibi, our hero has an idea that may make him rich even if the enterprise is dodgy. Staying on the comic side of crime writing, he’s joined today by Teresa Solana whose The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories delivers a wittily gruesome set of short tales.
And you can read the SWH! review of Peacock’s Alibi here.
Ron Butlin & Alan Spence, Thu 16 Aug 15:45 – 16:45 – Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre
Two heavyweight figures of Scottish literature are here to look afresh at their early works. Considered ahead of its time in 1987, Ron Butlin’s The Sound of My Voice has since been mightily hailed by Irvine Welsh while finding an adoring audience across Europe. A decade earlier, Alan Spence brought Glasgow to vivid life in a short story collection, Its Colours They Are Fine. Chaired by BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor.
And you can read SWH!’s appraisal of The Sound Of My Voice here.
Vic Galloway, Thu 16 Aug 20:45 – 21:45 – Spark Theatre on George Street
Rip it Up tells the story of Scottish pop music from the 1950s to now, taking in Lonnie Donegan, Simple Minds, Cocteau Twins and Franz Ferdinand. BBC Radio broadcaster, journalist, author and all-round music devotee (as well as musician) Vic Galloway shares his material in the enthusiastic and informed manner which has beguiled listeners for many years, and considers whether musically we’ve punched well above our weight.
Part of the Music Matters series of events.
And you can read SWH!’s review of Rip it Up: The Story Of Scottish Pop here.
Peter Ross & Tania Skarynkina, Sun 19 Aug 15:30 – 16:30 – Writers’ Retreat
One’s a leading Scottish journalist, the other an acclaimed Belarusian poet, but Peter Ross’s and Tanya Skarynkina’s essays feel equally relevant to the English-language reader post-Brexit. The Passion of Harry Bingo collects Ross’s quirky interviews with unusual British characters, while A Large Czeslaw Milosz with a Dash of Elvis Presley (translated by Jim Dingley) presents Skarynkina’s oblique cameos of life on the Polish-Belarusian frontier.
Here’s Peter Ross on the SWH! podcast talking about The Passion of Harry Bingo, and you can still read the SWH! review:
Stuart Cosgrove, Wed 22 Aug 20:45 – 21:45 Spark Theatre on George Street
BAFTA-winning broadcaster and journalist Stuart Cosgrove presents the second instalment of his award-winning Soul Trilogy, this time focusing in on 1968. At that time, a deeply divided Memphis was identified as a soul town but was soon to be forever linked with the assassination of Martin Luther King. Against that backdrop, Cosgrove looks at the fate of Stax Records which lost its most revered artist, Otis Redding, at the end of the preceding year. Chaired by Phil Harding.
And you can read SWH!’s review of Stuart Cosgrove’s Memphis 68: The Tragedy Of Southern Soul here.
Camilla Grudova & Helen McClory, Fri 24 Aug 18:30 – 19:30 – Writers’ Retreat
Camilla Grudova’s latest work, The Doll’s Alphabet, is a collection of surreal, dystopian horror stories linked by a grimy, squalid atmosphere and a sense of the familiar being distorted. In Mayhem & Death Helen McClory returns, delving deeper into mythical yet recognisable stories woven from dark and light, human fear and fortune. For fans of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. Chaired by Sasha de Buyl.
Here’s Helen McClory on the SWH! podcast talking about Mayhem & Death and her life as a writer, and you can still read the SWH! review:
Bonus Track: Andy Davidson & Ahmed Saadawi, Mon 13 Aug 19:00 – 20:00 Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre
Frankenstein in Baghdad, set in the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Iraq, is Ahmed Saadawi’s third novel, winning the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. In the Valley of the Sun is Andy Davidson’s first, and has Travis Stillwell wandering the back roads of Texas searching out women to feed on. Two centuries after Mary Shelley created Frankenstein, the authors each offer a modern take on her fascinating and enduring tale, which they discuss today.
“Published on the Contraband imprint of Saraband Books, Andy Davidson’s In The Valley Of The Sun is one of the best novels of the year. Set in the small towns of the Texas desert, it’s a vampire thriller unlike any other. If you want a point of reference think Kathryn Bigelow’s 1987 film Near Dark, or even Jim Jarmusch’s 2013’s Only Lovers Left Alive. Dripping with blood, sweat and tears, it is as shocking as it is compelling, and in Travis Stickwell Davidson has created an anti-hero for the ages. If you are a fan of horror and/or crime fiction then you don’t want to miss out on this one.”
– Ali B, SWH!
You can vote for In the Valley of the Sun in the First Book Award.
You can peruse the full programme here, and follow the festival on Twitter & Facebook as well as YouTube & Instagram.
You can still read Scots Whay Hae!’s Top Ten Picks Of The Fringe.