For the first podcast of 2019, Ali caught up with Peter Kelly, better known as singer/songwriter Beerjacket, to talk about Silver Cords (out now on Scottish Fiction) which is not only the name of his latest collection of songs, but also of the accompanying book of short stories, (see below – & there’ll be a review on these pages soon).
The two talk about the project from its early days through to completion, how the stories work with the songs, the reason Peter chooses to work under a pseudonym, the complex nature of the creative process, and why Beerjacket is now back after some time away.
They also discuss how essential it is to give art value, the cultural weight of physical things, the complex relationship between dreams and reality, just how important collaboration is, the enduring power of songs, and a whole lot more. Continue reading →
Once again Montgomery Scott raises a glass to see out the old year and ring in the new and that means it’s time for Scots Whay Hae!’s annual selection of New Year’s Eve treats. It’s an alternative to the Hogmanay telly, so if there’s little you fancy on the box there might be something here to your liking.
There’s been a lot of programmes looking at the life and times of Billy Connolly recently, so it seems apt to post a link to what is, in my opinion, the funniest hour of TV that there has ever been. It’s the legendary An Audience With Billy Connolly:
One of our podcast guests of 2018 was filmmaker May Miles Thomas whose film Voyageuse was one of the best of the year – rightly winning awards and critical acclaim. Here’s the trailer, along with a link to where you can watch the full film:
This year we lost the great Tom Leonard, a poet who changed the perception of Glasgwegian literature, and who was part of a generation of writers who shaped modern Scotland. Here is some rare footage of the man himself reading at the CCA, then known as the Third Eye Centre, in 1976. Rest in peace:
2018 was the year of Muriel Spark 100 with 12 months of events celebrating the centenary of her birth, as well as the republishing of all her novels by Birlinn. One of the most entertaining is Spark’s comic take on the Watergate Scandal, The Abbess of Crewe, which was later made into the film Nasty Habits, starring Glenda Jackson. Sounds unlikely? Here’s the trailer:
A slice of SWH! podcast gold now as we go way back to 2013 and our interview with the writer James Robertson. He was principally there to talk about his novel concerning the Lockerbie disaster The Professor Of Truth but ended up discussing a whole lot more:
A superior alternative to that there Hootenanny is surely Roddy Hart‘s Best of 2018 which will act as the perfect soundtrack to your evening, sans excess boogie-woogie piano:
But if that’s not enough for you, here’s more music to ease you into 2019 from bands who are set fair to have a cracking 2019. First off are OK Button, who made quite a splash in late 2018. Here they are with their recent single ‘Beds’:
Perhaps the album we are most excited about is from Half Formed Things which is on its way in the new year. Why are we so excited? Because they make music like this:
Cloth are another band who came to everyone’s attention in 2018 with their releases on Last Night From Glasgow receiving praise far and wide. This is ‘Old Bear’ taken from their BBC Music Introducing Session in November, and it highlights what a fine live band they are as well as on record. Expect an album soon:
And finally, this year Ali was asked on to Sunny Govan Radio by Disco Dale to take part in his ‘Well Kent Faces’ show, where he had to nominate three songs which reminded him of Glasgow in some way. If you missed it I won’t tell you what they were yet as it will be available online in the new year, but here’s one he definitely missed:
And that was 2018. We’ve no idea how 2019 is going to pan out (who could?), but whatever happens we’ll be there reviewing, commenting, and in conversation with some of those who are going to shape it.
From everyone involved with Scots Whay Hae!, Happy New Year and we’ll see you on the other side…
The workplace has long been a rich source of material for writers. A publishing house in Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry From Kensington, the bus depot in James Kelman’s The Busconductor Hines, a Post Office in Charles Bukowski’s novel of the same name, or even George Orwell’s Animal Farm – they are all used to reflect the society and politics of the time. However, the everyday drudgery of modern office life is rarely portrayed in literature, perhaps for the very reason that it is seen as a place where the dramatic is often hard to find.
Christina Neuwirth understands this and subverts it brilliantly with her novella Amphibian. It is the perfect parable for our times, with themes of corporate control, individual apathy and uncertainty, and a general dissatisfaction with modern living, told with wry humour and a gentle surrealism that doesn’t intrude but only enhances the story. Not so much magical realism, more a commentary on capitalism in a modernist style. If Kafka had worked for an Edinburgh finance company this is the book he would have written. Continue reading →
For our Review of the year in Scottish writing and all things bookish Ali was once again joined by Booky Vikki herself, Publishing Scotland’s Vikki Reilly, to discuss their favourite books of the year and the state of Scottish writing and publishing. While doing so they try to identify the themes and trends of the last 12 months, look into what’s coming in the new year, forget the names of things (mostly Ali, to be fair), talk music, “Mayhem”, and explain why 2018 belonged to Muriel. It was quite the year and hopefully we go some way to summing it up and rounding it off for you.
The podcast is the perfect companion piece to our earlier post ‘The Good Word: Scots Whay Hae!’s 10 Best Books Of 2018 (+1)…’ (see right), where you’ll be able to link to reviews of many of the books and writers that Vikki and Ali discuss. There’s a lot of love for writers and publishers alike, and although we didn’t manage to cover it all, we hope you’ll find something to pique your interest. Continue reading →
I know you’re bombarded with ‘Books Of The Year’ lists around this time, but we like to think that Scots Whay Hae!’s selection is one for the more discerning book lover. It’s a good old-fashioned Top-Ten, but, as with Nigel Tufnel’s amp, this one goes to 11. Which is one better…
These are the publications which stood out against the stiffest competition in 2018, consisting of four new novels, three short fiction collections, the conclusion of a soul music and civil rights trilogy, a book of spell poetry, a history of Scottish pop, plus our bonus entry – a re-issue of a modern Scottish classic.
They will transport you to Harlem, Lewis, Bangour, and post-war America, with detours to Orkney, the Scottish Borders, Edinburgh, Paris, Moscow past and present, and through the looking-glass, along the way. Taken as a whole they are a testament to the artistic diversity and cultural imagination at large in Scotland today and proof that Scottish writing is in fine fettle indeed. Need further convincing? Here’s what we thought at the time:
Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar is a crime novel for those people who think they don’t like crime novels. It is also a novel of manners, a comedy, a romance, (although not necessarily a romantic-comedy), and a work of science fiction. With so many influences at work, and genres juggled, it really shouldn’t work but it never falls down and Olga Wojtas should be praised for pulling such a feat off. I’m pretty sure I won’t read anything like it this year, unless it is ‘Miss Blaine’s Prefect’s’ next mission impossible, and I’m hoping that we won’t have to wait too long for that.
All good things must come to an end, and this is sadly true for Stuart Cosgrove’s epic and engaging soul and civil rights trilogy. What began with Detroit ’67: The Year That Changed Soul, and moved to Memphis ’68: The Tragedy Of Southern Soul, ends with Harlem ’69: The Future Of Soul, and while it is a crying shame that, for the moment at least, we won’t find out more of what happens next (although, as suggested in the title, Cosgrove does touch upon the future), as James Brown knew, when you depart the stage do it in style and leave them wanting more. Cosgrove is leaving us in the finest style, job done.
Anyone who has read the previous books will know what to expect in terms of form. Cosgrove takes us through the year of 1969 chronologically, month by month, and looks at events which may have begun in Harlem but which had ramifications way beyond the neighbourhood boundaries. His cast of characters are a Venn diagram of the well-known, the lesser-known, the expected, and the unexpected. For every Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Gil Scott-Heron, and Donny Hathaway, there’s someone such as Fat Jack Taylor, Betty Mabry, Arthur Conley, and Afeni Shakur (born Alice Faye Williams) whose stories are vital – indeed they, and others like them, are the spine of Harlem ’69. Continue reading →
When is a book of short stories not a book of short stories? When it is written by Andrew Crumey. As those who have read his previous work, (which includes Sputnik Caledonia, Pfitz, and The Secret Knowledge), will know he is a writer who appears to derive great delight in the undertaking of writing and the possibilities it offers, and also in playing with the expectations of readers. He unashamedly embraces ideas and examines them with a forensic, yet playful, eye. This has never been shown to better effect than with his latest book The Great Chain Of Unbeing – a collection of stories which are bound intrinsically, yet almost imperceptibly, by interrelated situations and characters. Just who, how, why, where and when – these are all for you to uncover and unpick.
It begins at the ‘Unbeginning’ and ends with an ‘Unending’. Between the two are the stories which make ‘The Great Chain Of Unbeing’, a title which hints at the connections which run through these tales, and which asks questions about what we can claim as real. “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?”. Crumey tackles that question, but not head on – more a tackle from the side. These connections are not linear, they are a network with strands leading you in unexpected directions. Continue reading →
As Harper Lee, The Stone Roses, or Sam Raimi will tell you (and that’s a dinner-party I’d like to attend), it’s not easy following up a cultural touchstone. When your debut strikes a chord with a wider public and becomes higher profile than anyone expected then there’s bound to be added pressure to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. Chris McQueer’s short story collection Hings was just such a debut, one which found its way into the hands of people who don’t normally bother with literary fiction.
As with lain Banks’ The Wasp Factory, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, and Alan Bissett’s Boyracers, Hings is a book with a reputation which spread in no small part by word of mouth, praised and quoted in the workplace and passed around the playground. It received mainly glowing reviews on sites such as this one, and in print, but so do many other books which don’t manage to achieve the profile Hings did.
In the age of social media such a reach can be more readily measured, with people posting pictures holding their copy on a variety of social media, often accompanied by messages professing that it’s the first book they’ve read in ages, a claim also made for those mentioned above. It feels as if Chris McQueer is reaching an audience outside of the usual Scottish literary scene in a manner not witnessed since Allan Wilson’sWasted In Love received similar attention in 2011. But now we get to find out if McQueer can follow Hings. That’s the question which inevitably arises with the publication of his latest collection, HWFG. Continue reading →
For SWH! podcast 101 Ali speaks to the writer Chris McQueer about his latest collection of short stories, HWFG. If you haven’t heard of or read Chris’ work, where have you been? His previous book Hings took the world of Scottish writing by storm announcing a fresh and exciting new voice. HWFG, (Here We Fucking Go, if you haven’t worked it out yet,), sees him build on the success of Hings introducing readers to new characters as well as bringing back firm fan favourites.
It was fascinating to hear what inspired Chris to write, his influences, the difficulty in following a hit, the highs and lows of being reviewed, the importance of writing not only what but who you know, the crucial relationship between writer and editor, how vital a great cover is (see right), and his plans to branch out from writing fiction. He also kindly reads ‘Brexit’, one of his new stories, which gives the uninitiated a great introduction to Chris McQueer and his work.
For those of a sensitive nature, I should say, the podcast contains the sort of language you might expect when discussing a collection with the full name Here We Fucking Go, for once fully earning the ‘Explicit’ tag iTunes often gives us, seemingly randomly. Continue reading →
The city of Glasgow has a complex relationship with real crime, one which probably explains the popularity of crime fiction not only in the city, but about the city. There are few places who aggrandise and almost celebrate its violent reputation, and those who are responsible for it, in the manner Glasgow appears to. Sicily and Chicago are two others which spring to mind.
As those who live in or visit the city will know, Glasgow is (with well-known and notable exceptions) a generally friendly and supportive community, large enough for many diverse people and opinions, but small enough for most of the populace to find some sort of connection with less than six degrees of separation. However, a braggadocious attitude to the brutal is never too far away, perhaps best summed up by folk hero and baggage handler, John ‘Smeato’ Smeaton, who, after kicking a burning man in the ‘nads, warned any other potential terrorists that, “This is Glasgow; we’ll set aboot ye”.
Many Glaswegian gangsters have become celebrities, if not exactly celebrated, and there is a penchant for giving those involved in crime nicknames – The Godfather, Blind Jonah, Fat Boy, Babyface, The Licensee. One of the city’s most notorious serial killers was known as Bible John, due to his use of quotations from the Scriptures, and he became a bogeyman like figure to Glaswegians in the late-’60s and the ’70s – his police composite drawing peering eerily down from walls and out of phone boxes. To this day the legend endures, not least because he was never caught, and the case remains unsolved. It’s a classic example of the blurring of lines between fiction and fact when it comes to Glasgow and crime. Continue reading →