For the latest podcast Ali met up with the American novelist Andy Davidson before his event at The Edinburgh International Book Festival. In an ironically dreich Charlotte Square the two discuss Andy’s terrific debut novel In The Valley Of The Sun which is among the best of the year so far.
Published on the Contraband imprint of Saraband Books, In The Valley Of The Sun is set in the small towns of the Texas desert. We’re calling it a vampire thriller unlike any other, but, as you’ll hear, that’s not necessarily how Andy sees it.
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, among many other cinematic and literary influences. 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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
From the 12th – 28th August in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square Gardens once more becomes the place for book lovers to meet, greet, and be merry as this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival takes up its annual residence. It’s an oasis of calm and conversation in a city gone daft, and it is one of SWH!’s favourite places to be. With that and much more in mind, and 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.
We have tried to avoid the already sold-out and high-profile to give you an alternative and achievable schedule.
FICTION’S MASTER CRAFTSMAN: James Kelman
– Fri 18 Aug 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Having said we have tried to avoid big names, the first pick is one of Scottish literature’s living legends. James Kelman is in town to talk primarily about his latest collection of short stories That Was A Shiver, and Other Stories. There is a body of thought, to which I belong, which believes that while Kelman is one of our great novelists he is an even better short story writer – a master of the art. It is a form which suits not only his style but also the content. What is unarguable is that this is a rare chance to listen to a true artist read and discuss his work. Astonishingly tickets still available at the time of writing, but I would get in there quickly to avoid disappointment. Continue reading
Two of the West of Scotland’s major obsessions are music and crime, so it’s a smart move on the part of David F. Ross to write about both in his second novel The Rise & Fall Of The Miraculous Vespas. Any one who has been involved in or around the music business will know it’s also fairly apt.
The Miraculous Vespas are an up and coming band led by the charismatic and unstable Max Mojo, known to his parents as Dale Wishart, who puts together a disparate bunch of misfits who bring their idiosyncratic personalities to a group determined to make it big, by fair means, but more often by foul.
Their rise (& fall) is set against the backdrop of localised criminal activity which is controlled and fought over by a small number of families all after the lion’s share of ever decreasing spoils. Imagine the Cosa Nostra on the Costa del Clyde and you have some idea as to what these families aspire to.
A lot of the comedy in Ross’ novel comes from the distance between the fantasy and the reality of crime in 1980s Scotland. Opening up video stores rather than casinos, sporting nicknames such as ‘Flatpack’ Frankie and Wullie ‘The Painter’, rather than ‘Lucky Luciano’ or ‘Spats’. Ross never shies away from the fact that threats and violence are never far away, and he is not glorifying such behaviour. Rather he is trying to give a realistic portrayal of a time and place, and the lengths some people would, and will, go to to make a living, often using methods which are not strictly legal. The thought that this may involve homo-erotic initiation ceremonies only adds to the overall sense that the serious and the absurd are never far from each other. Continue reading
The Scottish traditional children’s song ‘Three Craws’ is a classic example of folk tradition being run through with dark themes. If you are unfamiliar with the fate of the birds then, depending on the version, one “canne find its maw”, one “fell and broke its jaw”, and the other “couldnae ca’ at a'”. Disney, it is not. However, nothing which befell those famed corbies matches the fates of the ‘three craws’ in James Yorkston’s novel of that name. If it’s a children’s lullaby you’re after, look away now.
Equal parts pitch-black comedy and tragedy, Yorkston’s Three Craws concentrates on the intertwining lives of Johnny, Stevie and Mikey. The first two are close childhood friends – bonded by the bad times more than the good. Johnny is returning home after trying and failing to make it in London as an artist. Home is Strathhillock in Fife, where Stevie, himself only recently returned due to the death of his aunt and uncle, has promised to give him a room should he want to visit. This is all the encouragement Johnny needs to leave a life of out-of date sandwiches and less than welcoming boozers behind. Continue reading
For many people, today’s the day that Edinburgh’s Festivities really kick in with the first day of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
For 16 days Charlotte Square Gardens becomes an oasis of relative sanity and calm in a city gone pleasingly potty.
This year’s programme is as rich and diverse as ever. However, there is often the problem as to who to see on any given day, especially as, at this late stage, many of the ‘headline’ events are sold out.
If you aren’t one of those organised people who book their festivals with military precision, or if you happen to find yourself in Edinburgh with time on your hands, then the Scots Whay Hae! one-a-day guide is just for you with a suggestion for each day of the festival (tickets still available at the time of writing).
13th – Edward Ross
Comic book artist, writer and illustrator, Edward Ross has created something special in his fantastic voyage through cinema. Filmish looks at the ideas behind famous movies; at big issues such as censorship and at great directors like Hitchcock and Tarantino. The book takes the form of a graphic novel, taking a visual approach to serious filmic challenges like time, propaganda and different ways of looking. Continue reading
For the past decade or so, I’ve been counting down my years in Edinburgh Book Festivals rather than birthdays. It’s a much less painful system, it means over two weeks of celebration, and the real birthday is in there somewhere for traditionalists.
While the Fringe rages all around it, this festival is an oasis of bookish bonhomie populated by like-minded folk, all obsessed with the written word. The festival team know they have a formula which works, so don’t overly tinker with it. The secret of that success? Invite the best writers available and get them to talk about their books all in the one place. What could be better?
This year it all happens between the 15th – 31st August, and, as usual, there’s far too much of the good stuff to mention it all here. I suggest reading the whole programme at edbookfest.co.uk, but not before you’ve read Scots Whay Hae’s preview of this year’s festival.
Scotland’s greatest writers are out in force, with Ali Smith and John Burnside leading the way on the opening weekend. If you have to beg, borrow and steal to see those two (and you may have to) then no jury in the land would convict you. Janice Galloway has a new collection of short stories, Jellyfish, which I highly recommend and she is always worth listening to. Others include previous SWH! podcast guests Louise Welsh, James Robertson, and Karen Campbell whose latest novel Rise is one of the best of the year so far. Michel Faber appears on the 29th, the author of Under the Skin and last year’s unforgettable The Book of Strange New Things. The day before, the equally charismatic Andrew O’Hagan will be talking about the inspiration behind his latest novel The Illuminations.