For our Review of the year in Scottish writing and all things bookish Ali was once again joined by Booky Vikki herself, Publishing Scotland’s Vikki Reilly, to discuss their favourite books of the year and the state of Scottish writing and publishing. While doing so they try to identify the themes and trends of the last 12 months, look into what’s coming in the new year, forget the names of things (mostly Ali, to be fair), talk music, “Mayhem”, and explain why 2018 belonged to Muriel. It was quite the year and hopefully we go some way to summing it up and rounding it off for you.
The podcast is the perfect companion piece to our earlier post ‘The Good Word: Scots Whay Hae!’s 10 Best Books Of 2018 (+1)…’ (see right), where you’ll be able to link to reviews of many of the books and writers that Vikki and Ali discuss. There’s a lot of love for writers and publishers alike, and although we didn’t manage to cover it all, we hope you’ll find something to pique your interest. 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
Most of our music reviews are a mixed bag when it comes to style and content, but the one you are about to experience definitely has a theme. It features great singers and great songs – deceptively simple yet they are all the more powerful for the manner they are produced and presented. This is music which stays with you longer after the last note sounds. Put simply, all of the people you are about to hear – they mean it, man.
Stay on till the end for a bonus track which is a fitting conclusion to this review. It’s not just thrown together, you know…
Alasdair Roberts has featured on these pages many times before, either for one of his many solo projects or in collaboration with others, such as with Ross Whyte, and The Furrow Collective. The latest of the latter sees him alongside composer Amble Skuse and Concerto Caledonia head-honcho David McGuinness for the album What News which the three played in full at the launch at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe. Roberts is known for staying faithful to the folk traditions, but this latest record, with McGuinness’s wonderful piano and Skuse’s understated electronica, breathes new life into old songs.
To my untutored ear, there is something about the loops of all three which works together beautifully – the structure and format of the ballads enhanced and developed by the new accompaniment, and lending the stories themselves extra strength and vigour. Whatever the reason, the result is a quite remarkable record – one of the best of the year, and one of the best of Roberts’ career to date. I urge you to seek it out, and if you get the chance to see them live then make sure you book your seats in good time. To give you a taste as to what to expect, this is ‘The Fair Flower Of Northumberland’:
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
For the latest podcast, Ali spoke to Aye Write! Book Festival programmer, Bob McDevitt (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
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 on Twitter or on Facebook. Tickets can be bought here and you can click the links below for further details on the individual events.
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
Belle and Sebastian are one of those bands who are surrounded by myth and legend, often of their own creation. Their forming for a college music project, the Machiavellian hand of a former Associate, Stuart Murdoch’s rumored fondness for heavy metal, Christian fundamentalism, Chris Geddes being only 12 years old when he joined; that’s just a few of the truths, half truths and lies which have been put out there over the years.
Add to this the (fictional?) liner notes which accompanied the early releases, and you couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a band who understood the power of music mythology, and who were determined to be in control of theirs.
Stuart David knows what happened, cos he was there; one of the founder members of the band formerly known as Lisa Helps The Blind. His latest book, In The All-Night Café: A Memoir of Belle & Sebastian’s Formative Year is exactly that, and it deals with many of these myths, not with the intention of debunking them particularly, but simply by telling the truth of his part of the story.
He starts at the very beginning, setting out his own musical influences and dreams, and how they brought him from Alexandria to Glasgow to meet others who shared both. What unfolds is a story of persistence, luck, happenstance and talent which serves as a reassuringly recognisable tale to those who have once been in, or around, bands, and as a handbook for those who still dream about it. The former will shake their heads in disbelief as an amazing story of “where it all went right” unfolds, and the latter will be reassured as to what is possible. Talent, self-belief and luck; they run through the book as through a stick of rock.
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.
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.
In the latest Scots Whay Hae! podcast, Ian and Ali are joined by Looper’s Stuart and Karn David. It’s a timely chat as we discuss Stuart’s recent book In The All-Night Cafe about the early days of Belle and Sebastian, as well as Looper’s handsome new 5 CD box-set, These Things, which has just been released.
However, as usual, we stray from the main topics to talk about other interesting things such as the lost art of letter writing, literary and local musical influences, writing fiction, making films, and the problems that face the introverted artist.
Stuart reminisces about his first musical forays and the formation of the band who would become Belle and Sebastian. In doing so he sets out the chain of events which led from he and Stuart Murdoch’s first meeting, their finding a band of musicians who could share their vision, the importance of ‘Richards’, the making of their classic debut Tigermilk, the album’s initially cool reception, to his decision to make very different music away from the band.