You may have had your fill of ‘Books Of The Year’ lists, but we like to think that Scots Whay Hae!’s selection is small, beautifully formed, and well worthy of your attention.
These are the books which stood out against stiff competition in 2017. The list could easily have been longer but we like to stick to a traditional Top Ten. Consisting of five novels, two short story collections, a musical/historical biography, a collection of journalism, and a peerless book of essays, they take you to Memphis, Airdrie, Springboig and the Alsace, with detours to Firhill, London during the Blitz, New Mexico and Millport along the way. Taken as a whole they are a testament to the breadth of artistic and cultural imagination at large in Scotland today. Need further convincing? Here’s what we thought at the time:
David Keenan – This Is Memorial Device
This Is Memorial Device is spot on in terms of time and place, but it’s so much more than that. It’s rare for a writer to capture both in a manner which avoids nostalgia and feels relevant, but Keenan manages to do so. This is a novel which is about what it means to be young, about the hows and whys – the when and where is less relevant. It’s about youth. Real youth, not the sort of arrested development that is all too common these days. I’ve read it twice and will do so again before too long. At the age of 46 it’s had a palpable effect on me. If I had read it when I was 15, (as happened with The Busconductor Hines and The Wasp Factory), there’s every chance it would have changed my life. That’s your definition of a cult novel right there.
You can hear David Keenan talking about This Is Memorial Device on the SWH! podcast. Continue reading
In the latest podcast Ali talks to writer J. David Simons, initially about his latest novel A Woman Of Integrity but also his ‘Glasgow To Galilee‘ trilogy (see bottom of page) and the near perfect An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful. It’s always interesting to talk with David, and the conversation turns to his life as a writer and the colourful and varied path he has travelled along the way. The two also discuss, publishing, promotion, and the problems with both, and there are questions from a very special reader/listener. All this and much more.
They also meant to, but clean forgot, discuss the Scottish Book Trusts’ Bookfellas initiative that, in the Trust’s own words, “..brings together 50 men and aims to raise £50,000 to ensure that everyone in Scotland has the same opportunity to thrive through reading and writing. We want to encourage more men to read for pleasure and highlight the importance of dads reading to their children”. You can find out just what David is doing along with many other writers, here, and Ali gives further details in the podcast intro. Continue reading
Running two narratives throughout a novel can be risky. They have to be distinct and equally engaging or readers will rush through one to get back to their prefered story. It’s a delicate balancing act but when it works, as with Ajay Close’s recent The Daughter Of Lady Macbeth, then it gives you two stories for the price of one, each of which feed into and enhance the other.
J. David Simon’s latest novel, A Woman Of Integrity, gets the balance right as he moves between the early-mid years of the last century and the present day. Both narrative strands concentrate on women fighting to keep their dignity and self-respect and struggling to achieve their aims and ambitions in the face of mostly, but not exclusively, male betrayal, prejudice and deceit. As the book unfolds Simons makes social and cultural comparisons between the two ages, and it becomes clear that the more things have changed the more they have stayed the same.
We first meet Laura, an actress who has just been unceremoniously dumped by her agent and who believes her career is, if not very nearly over, then very really over. At a dinner-party held by an old-friend and rival (the two often one and the same in her world) she is offered the chance of her dream role, to play a Hollywood silent-movie star who went on to become someone who, through an extraordinary life, helped define the 20th century. Her name is Georgie Hepburn, and we learn about her as Laura does while she researches her life, loves, highs and lows. Continue reading