Graeme Macrae Burnet & Graham Lironi
In the latest podcast, Ali talks to writers Graham Lironi and Graeme Macrae Burnet about their latest novels (Oh Marina Girl and His Bloody Project respectively), both of which have been published on Saraband Books’ crime imprint, Contraband.
The three go on to discuss crime fiction and subverting readers’ expectations, genre fiction, the problem with labels, the importance of editing, unreliable narration, the health or otherwise of the Scottish writing community, and what’s really important in the life of a writer. They struggle manfully not to give away any plot spoilers, and just about manage it.
Clocking in at just over the hour, the time just flew by and we hope you enjoy the chat as much as we did recording it. We’re calling it “a must listen for anyone interested in reading, writing and all things bookish”, and we wouldn’t lie about something like that.
Already established as a name to trust, Contraband Books are consistently proving that crime fiction doesn’t need to be stereotypical, formulaic and one dimensional, and Oh Marina Girl and His Bloody Project are perfect examples of this. Both feature in Scots Whay Hae’s Best Books of 2015 list, and mark Graham Lironi and Graeme Macrae Burnet as among the more innovative and interesting writers around today, and Saraband as one of our best publishers.
You may have had your fill already of ‘Books Of The Year’ lists already, 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 a lot of stiff competition in 2015. It could have been longer but we decided to stick to the traditional Top Ten. Consisting mostly of novels ,with a couple of music biographies thrown in, these books will take you to North Korea, Detroit, the Firth of Forth, the 17th century and Millport. 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:
A Book Of Death And Fish – Ian Stephen
There is a geographically thorough representation of Scotland as well as a historic and cultural one as we are taken from Shetland to the Solway Firth, West Coast to East Coast, and all around the coast as well. The land and the sea; the one constantly affecting the other, and this relationship comes to define Peter MacAulay’s life… This is an epic novel in more ways than one, but then this is the story of a man from cradle to grave and as such it deserves due consideration. Some people may be put off by the scale, but the writing is concise, accessible and memorable. Give it your time and you will not regret it for one moment. You may well think back on your own life in a different manner as a result.
Rise – Karen Campbell
Campbell is a writer who always manages to wrong foot you, seemingly for fun, and the results are never less than thrilling. She builds tension, often unbearably, as lies are threatened to be uncovered, and, even worse, so is the truth. All of her characters are fully developed and all-too believable, and this makes you take closer notice than you may have done otherwise as the various dilemmas unfold. You can not be a passive reader of a Karen Campbell novel. She refuses to let you. Rise is steeped in Scottish culture, but makes no big deal about it, just as it should be. Primarily it is a novel which is thought-provoking and involving, and never less than thoroughly entertaining. Spread the word; Karen Campbell has quietly become one of Scotland’s very best writers, and deserves to be considered as such. Consider it done.
Pulp fiction often gets a bad press as it is seen by some as shorthand for bad, or at least sensational, writing which deals in cliches and stereotypes. Nonsense, of course (I believe the term refers to the cheap quality of paper that was used in the original magazines which gave birth to the genre, fact fans). What defines pulp fiction is its tendency to deal with the darker, lurid and sensational side of life, often showing the worst in human nature. The best examples, from The Big Sleep to American Psycho, do so with a mastery of language and literary style that belies the popular perception of how such subjects are approached.
Alice Thompson’s The Existential Detective and Burnt Island could be described as pulp fiction, but they are also two of the best Scottish novels in recent years. To those, add Graham Lironi’s Oh Marina Girl. Like Thompson, Lironi plays with language, character, structure and ideas of intertextuality, using all of the above to wrong foot readers. Although the themes of murder, suicide, kidnap and torture are pitch black, they are presented in contrasting ways; at times with appropriate seriousness, at others with a sensationalist glee. Continue reading