Mono Mania – A SWH! Podcast Special: The Glasgow Launch Of David Keenan’s For The Good Times…

Ali & David Keenan: Photo Credit Imogen Pelham

Last month in Mono there was the Glasgow launch of David Keenan’s latest novel For The Good Times. A night of two-halves, SWH!’s own Ali Braidwood was on chairing duties as first Chris McQueer (below) then David himself (above) read from HWFG and For The Good Times respectively before talking in depth about their latest work. It was a really special night and if you weren’t able to make it we hope what you are about to hear is the next best thing.

Ali & Chris McQueer: Photo Credit Imogen Pelham

Thanks to Craig Stoddart who made these recordings while doing a fine job with sound and music on the night. Cheers to Stephen, Tara, and all at Mono for hosting us and making it such a special event, and to Faber & Faber for putting it together.

You can read the SWH! review of For The Good Times here, and Ali’s recent one-to-one podcast with David can be listened to by clicking here . We’re saying it’s one of the best yet, and so are other people, but you can make your own mind about that. However, not until you’ve listened to David, Chris & Ali talking books before a live and attentive Mono audience.

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back-catalogue of podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

The next podcast is a fascinating interview with the poet Nadine Aisha Jassat which you won’t want to miss…

Book Now To Avoid Disappointment: A Preview Of Aye Write! 2019…

From today (14th) 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 vast majority of events are at the festival’s spiritual home of The Mitchell Library, The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall also has its fair share. 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 10 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.

Robin Robertson – 14th Mar 2019  •  7:45PM – 8:45PM  •  Mitchell Theatre 
Robin Robertson returns to Aye Write! with the most decorated book of his career. Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize, The Roehampton Poetry Prize and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, The Long Take is one of the most remarkable – and unclassifiable – books of recent years.

The book’s protagonist Walker, a D-Day veteran, is brutalised by war, haunted by violence yet resolved to find kindness again, in the world and himself. As he moves from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco we witness a crucial period of fracture in American history, one that also allowed film noir to flourish.

You can read the SWH! review of The Long Take here

Stuart Cosgrove & Ken McNab – 15th Mar 2019  •  7:45PM – 8:45PM  •  Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
A momentous year in musical history has given rise to two new books. Stuart Cosgrove completes his trilogy with Harlem 69: The Future of Soul in which a Rabelaisian cast of characters including Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone feature in a tale of crime, gangsters and a darkly vengeful drug problem. 

Ken McNab’s And in the End is the story of the last acrimonious days of the Beatles played out in 1969, the year that saw the band reach new highs of musical creativity and new lows of internal strife.

You can read the SWH! review of Stuart Cosgrove’s Harlem ’69 here

Anna Groundwater – 16th Mar 2019  •  11:30AM – 12:30PM  •  Mitchell Library
Anna Groundwater is a cultural and social historian of early modern Scotland at the University of Edinburgh and acts as a consultant for historical television and radio programmes, appearing on Scotland’s Clans and In Our Time. 

Her book Scotland Connected is a user-friendly and thought-provoking guide to the key events in Scottish, British and World history, readily demonstrating the connections between the three.

SWH!’s Ali Braidwood will be in conversation with Anna Groundwater for this event which is must for anyone with an interest in Scotland’s history and heritage…

Stephen Millar & Alan McCredie – 17th Mar 2019  •  4:45PM – 5:45PM  •  Mitchell Library
Finding himself faced with a feeling of disconnection from his city of birth, Stephen Millar set out on a mission to capture the heart and essence of Glasgow, meeting with members of a remarkable variety of clubs and sub-cultures from pagans, to cosplayers and traditional musicians who make up the fabric of the city. 

His book Tribes of Glasgow moves beyond stereotypes and delves deeper into the origins of these tribes. Scottish photographer Alan McCredie brings these stories to life through a blend of portraits and candid snaps.

This event is chaired by Ali Braidwood from SWH! so please join all three for what will be a fascinating insight into Aye Write!’s, and SWH!’s, home turf…

David Keenan & Michael Hughes – 17th Mar 2019  •  6:30PM – 7:30PM  •  Mitchell Library
David Keenan’s For the Good Times follows Sammy and his three friends in the Ardoyne, an impoverished, predominantly Catholic area of North Belfast. It is a book about the devastation that commitment to ‘the cause’ can engender.

Country by Michael Hughes is set in 1996 when, after 25 years of conflict, the IRA and the British have agreed an uneasy ceasefire, as a first step towards lasting peace. But if decades of savage violence are leading only to smiles and handshakes, those on the ground in the border country will start to question what exactlythey have been fighting for.

You can read the SWH! review of For the Good Times here, and David was a podcast guest earlier this year which you can catch up with right now

Murray Pittock – 23rd Mar 2019  •  4:45PM – 5:45PM  •  Mitchell Library
Murray Pittock is Bradley Professor at the University of Glasgow and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Royal Historical Society. His latest book is a study of enlightenment in Edinburgh like no other. 

In a journey packed with evidence and incident, he explores various civic networks – such as the newspaper and printing businesses, the political power of the gentry and patronage networks, as well as the pub and coffeehouse life – as drivers of cultural change. His analysis reveals that the attributes of civic development, which lead to innovation and dynamism, were at the heart of what made Edinburgh a smart city of 1700.

SWH!’s Ali Braidwood will be in conversation with Murray Pittock for this event, and it would be great if you could join them, and join in…

Donald S Murray – 24th Mar 2019  •  4:45PM – 5:45PM  •  Mitchell Library
In the small hours on 1st of January 1919, at the entrance to Stornoway harbour, the cruelest twist of fate changed at a stroke the lives of an entire community. On that terrible night the HMY Iolaire smashed into rocks and sank, killing some 200 servicemen on the very last leg of their long journey home from war.
 
As the Women Lay Dreaming is a deeply moving novel about passion constrained, coping with loss and a changing world, it explores how a single event can so dramatically impact communities, individuals and, indeed, our very souls.

You can read the SWH! review of As the Women Lay Dreaming here, and Donald was a memorable podcast guest last year, a conversation which is still available for you to listen to

Shaun Bythell Introduces… Daisy Johnson and Alan Trotter – 24th Mar 2019  •  6:30PM – 7:30PM  •  Mitchell Library
Shaun Bythell, owner of the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland and author of Diary of a Bookseller introduces these two extraordinary debuts.

Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under turns classical myth on its head and takes readers to a modern-day England unfamiliar to most. As daring as it is moving, the novel is a story of family and identity, of fate, language, love and belonging that saw Daisy shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize in 2018. 

Drunk on cinematic and literary influence, Alan Trotter’s Muscle is a slice of noir fiction in collapse, a ceaselessly imaginative story of violence, boredom and madness

You can read the SWH! review of Alan Trotter’s Muscle here

Beerjacket – 29th Mar 2019  •  7:45PM – 8:45PM  •  Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Nearly five years since the release of his last album, Darling Darkness, Beerjacket returns with his most ambitious project and album to date, Silver Cords. 

Accompanying the 12 songs are a collection of 12 short stories; intertwined with the music The combination of sound and print creates an ethereal tone which binds the stories with a dreamlike, magic realism quality, and certain recurring themes of isolation, now-ness, interconnectedness, loss, and fear. 

Ali Braidwood is delighted to be chairing this event so why don’t you join Beerjacket & he for what promises to be a musical and literary treat.

You can read the SWH! review of Beerjacket’s Silver Cords here, and the man himself was a recent podcast guest which is still available for your listening pleasure

Charly Cox and Nadine Aisha Jassat – 30th Mar 2019  •  4:45PM – 5:45PM  •  Mitchell Library
In She Must be Mad, Charly Cox captures the formative experiences of today’s young women from the poignant to the prosaic in writing that is at once witty, wry and heartfelt. Written for every woman surviving and thriving in today’s world, for every girl who feels too much, her poems say ‘you are not alone’. 

Nadine Aisha Jassat was recently named as one of 30 inspiring young women under 30 in Scotland. Her spoken-word piece Hopscotch was made into a film in 2017, and Let Me Tell You This is her debut poetry collection.

Let Me Tell You This is out now, published by 404 Ink, and Nadine will be a guest on the SWH! podcast in the very near future…

That’s all folks – and if you do make it to one of the events Scots Whay Hae! is involved with please come and say hello.

*Beyond Good And Evil: A Review Of David Keenan’s For The Good Times…

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*A version of this review first appeared on the Books From Scotland website. Head there & sign up to their newsletter to never miss an issue.

As regular readers will know, David Keenan’s debut novel This Is Memorial Device was not only Scots Whay Hae!’s favourite book of 2017, but many other right-minded people’s considered choice as well. It announced his arrival as a novelist in such a barnstorming manner that you couldn’t help but wonder how he was going to follow it. Well now he has, and, as we should have expected, he does so with élan, subverting all expectations. His novel, For The Good Times, is set mainly in 1970s Northern Ireland (some memorable away days aside), slap bang in the middle of that none more euphemistically titled time, ‘The Troubles’. 

For those who lived in Ireland and the UK in the ’70s-’90s there are many of the familiar and widely reported touchstones – the H-Block prison and hunger strikes, the Europa Hotel (infamous as the most bombed hotel in the world), Republican & Loyalist groups known best by three letters, gun-fire at funerals, sectarian songs, balaclavas, bombast, and bomb-blasts. Keenan captures the time and place perfectly, not only with such knowledge and detail, but also using music, fashion, and other cultural references to great effect.

The story focuses on narrator Sammy and his closest friends, a group of young Jack the Lads who just happen to be running violent, and sometimes deadly, errands for the Provisional IRA and other offshoots if they’ll have them. Buying into the more extreme mythology of the Republican cause, these boys are playing dangerous games, with a desire to be the cock of the walk as long as that walk isn’t Orange.

Obsessed with the life and style of the singer Perry Como, and dressed in only the best of gear, violence is second nature to them justified by the belief that they are committing it for a worthy cause. To most they are seen as gangsters, thugs, and smugglers, but they have a strong sense of their own worth and shared identity. If Shane Meadows and Martin Scorsese collaborated on the film adaptation of Bernard McLaverty’s Cal then the script may have been something like this, walking the fine line between condemning, or at least demonstrating, the terrible effects of self-righteous violence, and romanticising it.

This may seem like a fairly straightforward premise but Keenan uses it to explore cultural mythology and memory, place, masculinity (toxic or otherwise), the psychology of gangs and groups, and the need for individuals to belong, but also stand-alone. Just when you think you have a grasp of what is going on and understand the essence of what you are reading, things shift just enough to discombobulate. This will not be unexpected to those who read his previous novel which showed a writer almost bursting with ideas – so many that at times what unfolded came close to being overwhelming.

For The Good Times is leaner in terms of ideas and style allowing the story and the characters more time and space to breathe. The result may be a more conventional narrative (it would have to go some not to be), but it makes for an equally satisfying read, if not more so. If you tried This Is Memorial Device and found it wasn’t for you then you should give Keenan a second chance. He’s too good a writer not to.

That’s not to say that he has dispensed with the literary flourishes altogether. There are songs, poems, and comic book stories, and not many other writers would have quotations from the aforementioned crooner Como, Aleister Crowley’s ‘The Master Therion’, and Friedrich Nietzsche. They may seem incongruous bedfellows, but all tell you something about what you are about to read. There are also séances, astral connections, perversions, and rumination on the nature of art, as well as further evidence that Keenan may have an obsession with mannequins.

All of these unexpected detours remind you that this is a writer who is pushing everyone involved out of their comfort zone. He is a player of games but with serious intent, and it forces you to ask questions about what is written, and how. In my review copy the numbers on the Contents page were all “00”. I have since found out that this isn’t deliberate, but with Keenan I wouldn’t have been surprised. With doppelgangers, the bureaucracy of institutions, betrayal, the power of sex, seduction and obsession, and the need to find an identity when others simply want you subsumed, it has clear echoes of George Orwell, Franz Kafka, John Fowles and Milan Kundera.

However, for all the artistry this novel wouldn’t work without the characters being believable, especially when they are thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Keenan shows he has a keen ear for how people speak, but to do so in an accent other than your own throws in another ball to keep in the air. It’s always a risk to take on the voices of a time and place which is so infamous, but from the first sentence to the last the mask never slips, and you absolutely believe these are lives lived. He also understands how people act in their different groups, and how they think and act when they are alone. The bold and the brave versus the insecure and uncertain – this is a world where front can literally be a matter of life and death, and makes you realise that the time and place has been chosen for good reasons.

For The Good Times is a multi-layered novel of extremes set in the most extreme of times (it is also extremely funny). It plays with form and structure, yet, for all its sensational subject matter and style, it is a keen examination of the human psyche, offering hope which is as welcome as it is surprising. But more than anything else there is a truth at the novel’s core. Every sentence – every word – is there for a reason. Clearly written from the heart it will force you to reflect on the people and places which made you, for better and for worse. For David Keenan it is another magnificent, and memorable, achievement and cements his growing reputation as one of the finest writers around.

For The Good Times is published by Faber & Faber Books

David Keenan was a recent guest on the Scots Whay Hae! podcast which you’ll find here – SWH! Podcast With David Keenan.

Talking Books & Telling Stories: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To David Keenan…

For the latest podcast Ali spoke to writer David Keenan about his latest novel For The Good Times. After the success of his previous book This Is Memorial Device, (Scots Whay Hae!‘s Book of 2017), it was always going to be fascinating to see how he would follow it, but he has done so in fine style.

The two discuss the setting of Belfast in the ’70s, the personal connections Keenan has to that time and place, and the way language shapes the story. They also consider as diverse and disparate subjects as masculinity, magic, Modernism, sectarianism, Sufism, and song, and that only scratches the surface of their conversation.

It’s always a pleasure, and an education, to listen to David Keenan as there are few writers who talk with the insight, honesty, knowledge and passion about their work as he does. So make yourself comfortable and strap in – this is a podcast not to be missed.

You can read Ali’s initial review of For The Good Times over at the excellent Books From Scotland website. A slightly longer version will appear on these pages in the coming days.

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back-catalogue of podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

Our next podcast will be with one of the most exciting and inventive bands around at the moment. We’ll tell you who that is very soon…

The Good Word: Scots Whay Hae!’s Best Books Of 2017…

 

dsc_06491.jpgYou 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:

DSC_0382David 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

Write On: Scots Whay Hae!’s Top 10 Picks Of The Edinburgh International Book Festival…

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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
UnknownHaving 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

Back And Forth: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To David Keenan…

bHQj2XzwFor the latest podcast Ali spoke to writer David Keenan about his novel This Is Memorial Device. Anyone who has read the Scots Whay Hae! review of the book will know how highly we rate it, and it’s fascinating to hear David talk about the influences behind it, why it was always going to be an Airdrie novel, the reasons the book is structured as it is, and so much more.

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The two race through many subjects, including the legacy of post-punk, the importance of the art and music of Scottish small towns and David’s compulsion to write. This includes further novels, his journalism, and non-fiction,  (England’sHidden Reverse  is especially highly recommended) although whether talk of a West Of Scotland take on Lord Of The Rings is serious we’ll leave for you to decide.

We’re calling it one of the most interesting and engaging podcasts yet, but listen for yourselves and see if that’s a bold claim or not. If you aren’t intrigued enough by the end to read This Is Memorial Device then, frankly, we haven’t done our job. Continue reading

Yesterday Once More: A Review Of David Keenan’s This Is Memorial Device…

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What makes a cult novel is hard to define, but here goes. It will alienate as many people as it attracts. It will pitch itself against the status quo, answering the question “What are you against?” with “What have you got?”. It will display attitude, angst, anger and alienation. Such novels are often culturally aware and precisely of their time, yet the best ones are timeless. They are also unapologetic in their attitude of not giving a fuck. You either get it or you don’t. If you don’t, move on – nothing for you here.

Great Scottish cult novels include Alexander Trocchi’s Young Adam, Toni Davidson’s Scar Culture, Martin Millar’s Lux The Poet, and Duncan McLean’s Bunker ManAnd then there’s Trainspotting, which is a reminder that cult does not necessarily mean unknown. Way before the film it was a book which was handed around school playgrounds, and shoplifted from John Menzies. Cult novels should be infamous, not necessarily unfamous or obscure. A Clockwork Orange, Naked Lunch and American Psycho can all be called cult, but are also best-sellers. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road is his great cult novel, rather than the lesser known Doctor Sax. This is because the former chimed with and helped define the Beat Generation, and the latter shows that hanging out at William Burroughs’ house can seriously damage your muse. Continue reading