Stranger Things: A Review Of Helen McClory’s Mayhem & Death…

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One of Scots Whay Hae!’s Best Books of 2017 was Helen McClory’s novel Flesh Of The Peach, which should have reached a much wider readership but it became a casualty of the sudden demise of Freight Books, being published but with little or no publicity. I urge you to get a copy, if you still can, and treasure it. Thankfully, 404 Ink are publishing her latest collection of short fiction, Mayhem & Death – an apt title, taken from the powerful opening story ‘Souterrain’, as there proves to be plenty of both between its covers.

McClory’s stories share DNA with those of Kirsty Logan, particularly those in The Rental Heart and A Portable Shelter, and Ever Dundas’ excellent novel Goblin, but they are also reminiscent of Angela Carter and Alison Lurie, often looking to the natural world and animal kingdom, and the accompanying mythology, fantasy and fables, to examine themes of grief, alienation and loneliness. In fact Mayhem & Death has a dedication which reads ‘For The Lonely’, and it’s a subject which McClory returns to and examines throughout these tales. Continue reading

Fowl Play And Finery: A Review Of Stuart David’s Peacock’s Alibi…

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Two of the most challenging types of writing are crime and comedy. For the first you have to avoid repeating well-worn clichés while still making it as recognisably belonging to the genre. For the second, well, it’s got to be funny – perhaps the most difficult trick to pull off on the page. A successful crime/comedy, therefore, is something which is to be celebrated.

Christopher Brookmyre and Douglas Skelton are two writers who get the balance right, combining the dark side of life with the blackest of comedy, but they are rare. A worthy addition to that niche section of your bookshelves arrives in the shape of Stuart David’s latest novel Peacock’s Alibi. Set in Glasgow, and with an unerring ear for what the word on the street should sound like, Peacock’s Alibi is like a lost Taggart script as written by John Byrne. Like Byrne, David writes dialogue that isn’t how people speak, but how they wish they spoke – funnier, wittier, and with a better line in the last word. Continue reading

Man Of Letters: The SWH! Podcast Talks To Aye Write! Programmer Bob McDevitt…

 

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For the latest podcast, Ali spoke to Aye Write! Book Festival programmer, Bob 3G0X4Ir0_400x400McDevitt (right) in Glasgow’s CCA (which explains the background ‘atmosphere’). This year’s festival starts on Thursday 15th March, and the two discuss the history of the festival and how it has gradually spread its influence throughout the city from its home at the Mitchell Library. You also learn about what to expect this year, Bob’s personal highlights, the challenges of festival programming, his similar role for Bloody Scotland and the Pitlochry Winter Words Festival, and much, much more.

There are mentions for individuals as diverse as Brett Anderson, Gail Honeyman,  Sir James MacMillan, Chris Bonington, Scotland’s Makar Jackie Kay, Dr Adele Patrick, and even some Men In Kilts.  As a precursor to Aye Write! 2018 it’s the perfect listen, especially when married to the SWH! preview which is over at the website right now. Continue reading

Talking Books: A Preview Of Aye Write! 2018…

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For 10 days in March (15th – 25th) Glasgow’s Book Festival Aye Write! is the only show in town for lovers of fact, fiction, food, poetry, prose, biography, comics, and any other form of writing that takes your fancy.  While the majority of events remain at the festival’s spiritual home of The Mitchell Library there is also plenty occuring at the CCA, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Tramway, City Halls, GFT and Glasgow University Chapel. 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 the city.

Here are SWH!’s carefully selected daily highlights to give you something to think about, but you can peruse the full programme at your leisure here.

You can also keep up to date with events as they unfold by following @AyeWrite on Twitter or on Facebook. Tickets can be bought here and you can click the links below for further details on the individual events.

619at83IyAL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Thursday 15th – Stuart David, 7.45 – 8.45pm, University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel
Ex-Belle & Sebastian and current Looper, Stuart David is arguably better known as a musician than a writer, but his debut novel Nalda Said is one of the most-underrated Scottish novels of the last 20 years, and his memoir about his time in Belle & Sebastian, In The All Night Cafe is a must for any Scottish pop music fan. Now his latest novel, Peacock’s Alibi, is being published by Polygon, and SWH!’s very own Ali Braidwood will be in conversation with Stuart on the 15th to discuss the new book, the true story of Peacock Johnson, the Ian Rankin connection, and so much more. If you have a burning question you’ve always wanted to ask Stuart please come along as this is your chance to do so.

Peacock’s Alibi is published by Polygon Books, and you can hear Stuart and Karn David talking to the SWH! Podcast back in 2015. Continue reading

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

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The hope is always that our monthly music reviews offer something of interest to all, but, without wanting to go overboard (although, “Why stop now?”, you may ask), this has been perhaps the most enjoyable to put together due to so much good music being released in the last month. It may be the multivitamins talking, but it feels like this could be the best New Musical Success…ever!

It’s certainly been difficult to reach a final eight. There’s some great tracks which just missed out, but hopefully that makes the final cut all the better. Featuring firm SWH! favourites, and with the warmest of welcomes to old friends and new, if there is a unifying theme to the music featured it is one of hope in these most difficult of times, and that should gladden your heart. But enough of this preamble – let the hyperbole begin!

Regular readers will know that our love for all things L-Space knows no bounds. They are a band who seem incapable of making anything other than magical music – a place where classic electronic pop meets the future. Their sound is as much influenced by movie soundtracks as other bands, lending it an epic, expansive feel which makes them stand out from the crowd. With each new release they give a glimpse of what is promising to be a wonderful bigger picture in the shape of their first album, due to be released on Last Night From Glasgow later in the year.

The latest single ‘Suneaters’ is the perfect example of this. Sci-fi dream pop at its finest, while it stands alone as a great single, when added to what has gone before, and what is surely to come, it only confirms L-Space as a band to see us through tough times. I’m a believer:

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Tsars On Sunday: A Review Of Scottish Opera’s From Russia With Love…

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As Boney M once exclaimed, “Oh those Russians”! Although this is Scots Whay Hae! my first literary loves are 19th century Russian writers, and I am a little obsessed with the culture of that place and time. This being the case, Scottish Opera and the National Opera Studio’s From Russia With Love, the latest of The Sunday Series of concerts. With libretti adapted from writers such as Pushkin and Gogol, and music from Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Mussorgsky, it was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The Prelude to ‘The Golden Cockerel’ set the tone with a caricatured Donald Trump, in the exagerated style of Terry Gilliam, on stage lending things a modern and satirical twist, something which carried on throughout. There were visceral scenes of torture reminiscent of a scene from Reservoir Dogs (‘Kashchey The Immortal’), references to #MeToo (‘The Bear’), and demonic possession in the style of the Ringu films, or even The Exorcist (‘Khovanshchina’). You may have an idea of what opera is, but Scottish Opera make you think again, regularly proving that they are one of the most innovative and impressive companies around. Continue reading

You Have Been Watching…You Were Never Really Here.

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Lynne Ramsay is to film what The Blue Nile are to music – discuss. She has made four films in 18 years, and it’s been seven between her last, We Need To Talk About Kevin, and her latest You Were Never Really Here. The Blue Nile released their four albums over 20 years, with the longest gap being 8 years between Peace At Last and High. Most importantly both proved to have put their time to good use, producing work which is of the highest quality in their respective fields.

You Were Never Really Here proves, if anyone were in any doubt, that Lynne Ramsay is one of the finest filmmakers around. From her unforgettable debut Ratcatcher, through Morvern Callar (one of the best ever film adaptations of a Scottish novel), to BAFTA & Global Globe winner We Need To Talk About Kevin, she produced a run of films to rival any other director. Could she keep it up? If you believed the recent rumours and hype surrounding Ramsay (leaving, or being asked to leave, various projects) then you may have thought this unlikely. However, if you simply look at the work – which is what matters – how could you doubt it? Continue reading

Bon Accord: A Review Of Alan Taylor’s Appointment In Arezzo: A Friendship With Muriel Spark…

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As mentioned in SWH!’s recent review of Olga Wojtas’ novel Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovarthis year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the writer Muriel Spark, and as well as all the events which are happening under the banner of #MurielSpark100, Polygon Books are republishing all 22 of her novels which, if you only know The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, (or nothing at all), offers you the chance to more fully acquaint yourself with the work of arguably the greatest Scottish writer of the 20th century.

However, not much is known about the writer herself. To help rectify this Polygon have also published journalist, and founding editor of The Scottish Review of Books, Alan Taylor’s Appointment In Arezzo: A Friendship With Muriel Spark, an account of his relationship with Spark in her later life. A notoriously private woman, the book is a fascinating insight into how she viewed the world, and how the world in turn viewed her. Continue reading

Whisky Business: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To Rachel McCormack…

chasing-the-dram-9781471157233_lg.jpgFor the latest podcast Ali met writer and broadcaster Rachel McCormack at Glasgow’s Iberica restaurant to talk about her recent book, the excellent Chasing The Dram: Finding The Spirit Of Whisky.

Over a glass of wine the two discuss Rachel’s book, their first memories of whisky, the perception of the drink at home and abroad, the mythology which has grown around it, the numerous ways it relates to Scottish history and culture, and a whole lot more. Put simply, she separates the truth from the fiction, and there is plenty of both when it comes to our original national drink.

The talk also turns to food, travel, friends, family, memory, and how they are intertwined. It’s a fascinating conversation on how drink and food play a vital role in our lives beyond simply being fuel, and why it should be seen as culturally significant for individuals as well as on a societal and national level.

A food expert, with a special love and knowledge of Spanish cuisine, Rachel (below) is a regularMcCormack-Author-Cropped- panelist on BBC Radio 4s The Kitchen Cabinet and has broadcast on From Our Own Corespondent, the Food Programme as well as appearing as an expert guest on BBC Radio 2 on both the Simon Mayo show and the Chris Evans show.

She has also written for, amongst others, the Evening StandardBBC Vegetarian Food Magazine, New Statesman, the Financial Times, RED magazine and the Guardian. Bringing all that experience and knowledge to the podcast, it was a real treat to talk with Rachel and even if you’re not a whisky drinker we’re sure you’ll still find something to interest you. Continue reading

House Rules: A Review Of M.J. Nicholls’ The House Of Writers…

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The last novel standing of 2017’s “must read/review” pile is M.J. Nicholls’ The House Of Writers, and it proves to be apt as it meant the year was bookended by two novels which shared a subject but differed in approach, (the first being David Keenan’s This Is Memorial Device).

Both novels look at the importance of art in society, but where Keenan creates a mythical musical scene for 1980’s Airdrie, The House Of Writers is set in a dystopian future Scotland, one which is trying to recover from societal breakdown, and which is now one enormous Call Centre called ‘Scotcall’. There are some authors left and they reside in a designated communal tower block. All genres are here, separated on a floor-by-floor basis, but no matter what they write they are viewed with anything between suspicion and outright contempt. Continue reading