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Interview: Author Peter May on The Chessmen, the final part of The Lewis Trilogy

12 Sep 2013

Scottish author on living in France, writing about China and his journey as a writer

The Chessmen, the final part of Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy, opens with an unlikely but true natural phenomenon. Overnight a loch disappears and a small plane, thought to be lost at sea many years before, is uncovered. ‘It was something that actually…

Patrick McCabe - Hello and Goodbye

20 Sep 20134 stars

A twin set of Hallowe'en stories that terrify the reader using subtle and intelligent methods

Propelled into the literary limelight by his violent 1992 novel The Butcher Boy, Patrick McCabe returns with a duo of Halloween stories, Hello and Goodbye. 'Hello Mr Bones' tells the tale of two lovers, feminist Chris Taylor and Irish teacher Valentine…

Adrian Searle and David Barbour - Look Up Glasgow

18 Sep 20133 stars

A book befitting the beauty of Glasgow's under-appreciated skyline

This inventive book looks not at the buildings that have defined Glasgow’s enviable architectural heritage but at the detail contained within them, or to be more accurate, atop them. Writer Adrian Searle and photographer David Barbour have teamed up to…

Peggy Hughes remembers Seamus Heaney 1939–2013

25 Sep 2013

Programme Director at Dundee Literary Festival on the legacy of the Nobel Laureate

What to say at the passing of Seamus Heaney, Nobel Laureate, luminary and seer, a figure dear to the imaginations and hearts of poetry lovers around the globe. I could consider his poetry, but there’s not enough room. A few favourites, even? Ditto…

Miaoux Miaoux, Abandoman and Howard Marks among highlights at The Pleasance Sessions

23 Sep 2013

The gig series also plays host to Conquering Animal Sound, Three Blind Wolves and Chris Ramsey

Probably best known as a mobbed venue for August Fringe shows, The Pleasance is often overlooked during the other 11 months of the year. Now, the Edinburgh University Student Union plans to raise its status as one of the best entertainment venues in the…

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Interview: Jeff VanderMeer, author of Wonderbook

20 Sep 2013

The American writer is looking to inspire others with his 'illustrated guide to imaginative fiction'

You describe Wonderbook as 'an illustrated guide to creating imaginative fiction'. How would you define 'imaginative fiction'? I think using terms like ‘realistic’ or ‘fantastical’ fiction sets up a kind of false opposition. You can find flights of…

Flash Fiction: Result, by William Letford

20 Sep 2013

The newest instalment in our series of ultra-short stories

The voice of a thousand cigarettes crackles over the intercom. ‘Speak,’ it says, and something can be inferred from that one word. Normal people say, ‘Hello’, but in my Aunty Mary’s psyche, that relinquishes control. ‘Speak’ is a command. If I don’t…

Douglas Coupland - Worst. Person. Ever.

20 Sep 20133 stars

The Generation X author lets out his filthy side to hilarious effect

Since his hugely influential 1991 debut Generation X, Canadian author Douglas Coupland has proven himself an expert at appraising the life and culture of the affluent, technology-infused West with scathing humour and subtle compassion. For his 13th…

Alison MacLeod - Unexploded

20 Sep 20131 star

WWII love story suffers from unimaginative narrative, heavy-handed themes, bad prose and flat chara

With its cover imitating the design for Ian McEwan’s bestseller Atonement, there’s clearly a hope that Unexploded can capitalise on that success. However, with its unimaginative narrative, heavy-handed themes, bad prose, and flat characters, it‘s…

Carl MacDougall and Zoe Strachan (eds) - New Writing Scotland 31: Black Middens

20 Sep 20133 stars

A diverse collection of writing suggesting there is more to Scottish writing than Scottish identity

As ever, the latest edition of New Writing Scotland presents a diverse collection of writing produced in and about Scotland. Part of the joy with this series is that entries are anonymous, guaranteeing a fighting chance for all writers, and giving…

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Peter May and David Wilson - Hebrides

20 Sep 20134 stars

May's text takes second place to Wilson's stunning photography of the Scottish islands

It's understandable that Scottish city-dwellers, in their landscape of concrete and streetlights, can forget that they're living in a breathtakingly beautiful country. Luckily, David Wilson's photographs are here to remind us. With images of moody…

Kyle Minor - Praying Drunk

20 Sep 20133 stars

The US author's short story collection is by turns raw, complex, unpleasant and highly interesting

Kyle Minor is well-known in the US underground lit scene, and the stories from Praying Drunk have been popping up in literary magazines and anthologies for several years. At first glance, this is a collection of angry-young-American tropes: pistol…

Is Dundee the most literary city in Scotland?

19 Sep 2013

A look at the city's literary heritage as campaign to be named City of Culture 2017 gains momentum

As part of Dundee's bid to be named City of Culture 2017, the city has been making the most of its cultural credentials, not least by appointing its first makar last week. WN Herbert has pledged to focus on mixing literature and technology, with the…

Tim Dee - Four Fields

19 Sep 20134 stars

A deeply personal look at the man's effect on nature across four different environments

In Four Fields, Tim Dee explores human relationships with the environments around us: meditations on where and how we live. His stop-start sentences sing with an eager curiosity as he writes of four very different fields, each uncommon ground for…

Roddy Doyle – The Guts

19 Sep 20133 stars

The Commitments sequel frustratingly feels like part of a bigger story as yet untold

When Roddy Doyle's debut novel The Commitments was first published in 1987, it was a new voice in the Irish writing of the time. Unlike his mostly disconsolate peers, Doyle took pleasure in observing life as it's actually lived, combining an utter lack…

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The best upcoming books and book events for autumn 2013

19 Sep 2013

New books from Courtney Love, Lesley McDowell and Rosa Rankin-Gee

When the nights draw closer I like to get cosy with the sort of books that make the rest of the world go quiet. I'll be starting with Lesley McDowell's psychosexual Gothic treat Unfashioned Creatures, then Rosa Rankin-Gee's complex and dark The Last…

Chris Turney - 1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica

19 Sep 20133 stars

An ambitious history of polar exploration that falls short on presentation of maps and new evidence

This ambitious book summarises all five expeditions to the Antarctic around 1912, the year that Scott and his men died, having been beaten to the Pole by Amundsen. What is much less well known are the contexts for these expeditions and Turney argues…

Sophie Hardach - Of Love and Other Wars

19 Sep 20133 stars

A deftly-written tale of love, science and Quakers in World War II

What’s that, another novel about World War II? Yes, but this one’s different. It features Quakers, scientists and, as the title implies, tumultuous tales of love. The Quakers are Charlie and Paul Lamb, two brothers who both sign an oath of pacifism. The…

Juan Gabriel Vásquez - The Sound of Things Falling

19 Sep 20133 stars

A moving and enlightening novel set against the backdrop of Colombia's seediest years

Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s third novel is a compelling thriller which explores the psychological effects of Colombia’s turbulent political past. Antonio Yammara, a young law lecturer, finds himself embroiled in the mysterious life of Ricardo Laverde, an…

5 reasons to spend... An Evening with Ray Mears

18 Sep 2013

The TV survival expert is on a UK tour to promote his new book, My Outdoor Life

1 He’s bringing the outdoors indoors Titled An Evening with Ray Mears: The Outdoor Life, this theatre show / opportunity to flog a few copies of his book My Outdoor Life sees this bushcraft and survival technique expert discussing his life in the…

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Night cycling, Joanna Lumley and food foraging among the highlights of Wigtown 2013

18 Sep 2013

The book festival also welcomes Fred MacAulay, Peter Snow, Simon Garfield and Sara Maitland

Refreshingly, this year's expansive Wigtown Book Festival is not just about the traditional book festival events format. You know the game: author talks to chairperson about their book, with time at the end for questions (and for one audience member to…

Interview: Will Storr - Author of The Heretics on his encounters with those who question the facts

12 Sep 2013

Throwing new light on our belief systems

You experienced a number of genuine revelations while researching The Heretics - did the book ultimately take a different shape than the one you were expecting? I suppose the main surprise for me was in the fact that the atheist-sceptical community are…

Interview: Margaret Atwood on new novel MaddAddam

11 Sep 2013

The Canadian author on prehistoric communities, misogyny, e-books and the Bible

The great Canadian author Margaret Atwood surely needs no introduction. She has been an influential novelist, poet and essay-writer since the early 1970s, winning many prizes including the Arthur C. Clarke Award for The Handmaid’s Tale in 1987 and the…

Jim Crace, Colm Toibin and Eleanor Catton on shortlist for Man Booker Prize 2013

10 Sep 2013

NoViolet Bulawayo, Jhumpa Lahiri and Ruth Ozeki also in running for prestigious literary prize

The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize 2013 has been announced, with NoViolet Bulawayo, Eleanor Catton, Jim Crace, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ruth Ozeki and Colm Toibin all in the running for the prestigious literary prize. The six authors were chosen from a…

Valve and Octavius: two literary magazines giving students a space to write

5 Sep 2013

The two Scottish writing mags have sprung from the minds of creative writing students and graduates

‘We all studied journalism, as well as creative writing, and people’s first response was always, “do you write for the student newspaper, then?” There was never the same response to creative writing,’ says Charlene Moore from Octavius. ‘We wanted to…