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Interview: John Cooper Clarke on how poetry and music work

31 Oct 2013

The punk poet on Arctic Monkeys, the return of spoken word and when not to combine poetry and music

My introduction to John Cooper Clarke came via Neil Innes, who performed his haiku: 'Expressing yourself / in seventeen syllables / is very diffic-' at a show back in 2004. Parallels can be drawn between the two men. Physically, sure, Innes is the…

Interview: David Vann, author of Goat Mountain

21 Oct 2013

The novel, written in Cormac McCarthy-esque prose, tells of a tragedy on a hunting trip

American writer David Vann’s new novel Goat Mountain is a stunning piece of writing. In sparse, intense prose reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy, Vann revisits the titular scene of his childhood hunting days, fictionalising a father-son deer hunt from his…

Rosa Rankin-Gee - The Last Kings of Sark

18 Oct 20133 stars

This bitter-sweet love story is effective at first, but falters as it swerves into darker territory

Jude is invited to the remote island of Sark to tutor socially awkward teenager, Pip. Also staying with the family is Sofi, an eccentric and captivating cook who leads them on daring trips across the island when Pip’s father heads off on a business…

James Essinger - A Female Genius: How Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s Daughter, Started The Computer Age

17 Oct 20133 stars

A useful if slightly stiff account of the Victorian Lovelace's short career

In this slender biography about mathematical prodigy Ada Lovelace, James Essinger argues she was the only person to realise the true potential of the first calculating machine, which could have ushered in the computer age in the 1840s. Famous from…

Oscar Zarate - The Park

14 Oct 20134 stars

Graphic novel combining dramatic artwork, an engrossing story and a central issue worth debating

Laurel and Hardy: just a bit of old-fashioned fun, right? In The Park, Oscar Zarate contrasts the suppressed violence of slapstick with an aggressive dog incident to explore ideas of blame, rebellion and social responsibility. When newspaper…

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Nicola White - In the Rosary Garden

25 Oct 20134 stars

The winner of the Dundee International Book Prize 2013 is a taut and simplistic crime thriller

In her debut novel, In The Rosary Garden, Nicola White breaks from the typical expectations that a crime thriller be 'plot driven'. Instead, her characters are the driving force behind her book, in which families fight to keep their grisly secrets…

Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch

14 Oct 20135 stars

The author of The Secret History and The Little Friend returns with a work of compelling beauty

The literary world has waited 11 expectant years for Donna Tartt’s third novel, after The Little Friend followed up her best-selling, award-winning 1992 debut, The Secret History. In The Goldfinch, Tartt has delivered a character-driven masterpiece…

Flash Fiction: Falling #121 by Ryan Van Winkle

6 Nov 2013

Poem from Edinburgh-based writer

Winter and I cannot remember a single breakfast. All the problems have become snow: not the drinking nor the distance, it is the snow. It has been falling for months, gets ploughed to the side of the road, envelops the short Christmas days…

Vic Galloway - Songs in the Key of Fife

4 Nov 20133 stars

BBC DJ's personal biography of area of Scotland home to thriving music scene

Comedy buffs have long been fascinated by the fact the tiny village of Navan has managed to produce magnificent stand-up talents such as Dylan Moran, Tommy Tiernan and Pierce Brosnan (if you haven’t yet seen his performance in Stephen King’s Bag of…

Scottish Book of the Year Award announced at Lennoxlove Book Festival 2013

4 Nov 2013

High-profile literary line-up rounds off Year of Natural Scotland programme of events

The Lennoxlove Book Festival hosted a number of famous authors in the picturesque grounds of Lennoxlove House over this past weekend, with the likes of Kate Mosse, Richard Dawkins and Jeremy Paxman all making their way to East Lothian to talk about…

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Interview: Nicola White, winner of the 2013 Dundee International Book Prize

28 Oct 2013

The author discusses her prize-winning novel, In The Rosary Garden

Tell us a bit about In The Rosary Garden. It’s a mystery set in Ireland in the 80s – a particularly tough time for young women. It was also the same time I left Ireland, so it’s a time that I remember it best. It’s about a young girl called Ali…

Helen Fielding - Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

28 Oct 20133 stars

The third Bridget instalment retains the warmth and wit of its predecessors

Hours taken to read book: seven. Amount of promotional chocolate bars consumed before even starting to read book: one. Number of times I LOLed: 17. Number of times I got emotionally over-involved and sobbed: three. Number of friends who furtively asked…

Ken Kalfus - Equilateral

28 Oct 20134 stars

A clever, witty and complex story of obsession and ambition

It is the turn of the twentieth century and esteemed astronomer Sanford Thayer is excavating an immense equilateral triangle in the middle of the Egyptian desert in order to communicate with Mars. Thousands of men have been drafted from local villages…

Interview: Mark Kermode, author of Hatchet Job, on the current state of film criticism

25 Oct 2013

The film critic believes 'informed opinion is important', but ‘quality journalism is not for free'

As the nation's most recognisable movie reviewer, Mark Kermode is a pretty busy guy. Recently named as The Observer’s chief film critic, he balances writing with his duties as one half of Radio 5 Live’s flagship review show, simultaneously contributing…

Suzanne Berne - The Dogs of Littlefield

25 Oct 20132 stars

This look at the dark underbelly of American suburbia lacks nuance and punch

In her latest novel, Orange Prize winner Suzanne Berne (A Crime In The Neighbourhood) tackles the well-trodden territory of the darkness that lies beneath the surface of American suburbia. Told from the perspective of various residents, the veneer of…

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Interview: Libby McGugan, author of sci-fi novel The Eidolon

21 Oct 2013

The novel 'explores the nature of reality through an edge-of-the-seat storyline'

How would you describe The Eidolon? A science fiction thriller that explores the nature of reality through an edge-of-the-seat storyline featuring dark matter, the CERN laboratory, and the boundary between the living and the dead. That’s my publisher’s…

Lesley McDowell - Unfashioned Creatures

18 Oct 20134 stars

A historical/psychological novel with links to the Victorian gothic tradition of Mary Shelley

In 1823, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a popular bestseller – but her (real-life) childhood friend Isabella Baxter Booth feels she’s facing an actual monster: her violent husband. Mary wrote about a mysterious encounter between them in London; this…

John Grindrod - Concretopia

18 Oct 20133 stars

An enthusiastic but not entirely convincing counter-argument to the popular Crap Towns books

The recently revived Crap Towns books sneer at ugly modern architecture, but John Grindrod comes not to bury the postwar rebuilding of Britain but to praise it. For while tower blocks, prefabs and new towns have been unpopular with many traditionalists…

Bradley L Garret - Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City

17 Oct 20134 stars

A heady, inspirational rush through the 'urban explorer' movement

The cover of Explore Everything depicts author Bradley Garrett as a hooded figure, stood atop the Forth Rail Bridge at night, silhouetted by glow of South Queensferry. The book is underpinned by a restless curiosity to find deeper ways to understand and…

Flash Fiction: A Tale O’Truth by Zoë Strachan

17 Oct 2013

The newest instalment in our series of ultra-short stories

The wind picked up as Tam wended away from the Howff. Stoating from lamp-post to wall, and realising he was singing out loud, he took the longer, more sobering, route through the park. The moonlight on the shadowy trees almost brought on a poetic…

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Mira Grant - Parasite

17 Oct 20133 stars

The first part in the proposed Parasitology trilogy is an above-average biological thriller

For gruesome scares you can't go wrong with parasites, and Grant puts them to effective use in the first of her planned series of Parasitology thrillers. Drawing on fears of increasingly drug-resistant viruses and our unhealthy obsession with the War on…

Scotland's spoken word scene in rude health

14 Oct 2013

Rally & Broad's Rachel McCrum has a look at the country's thriving spoken word scene

This August, for the second year running, the official Fringe programme included a section specifically for spoken word. The 67 shows included are certainly a little footloose with their definition of spoken word: spot on the mark with original shows…

Colette Victor, Jeff Hayden and Nicola White in the running for Dundee International Book Prize 2013

14 Oct 2013

We talk to all three authors ahead of the £10000 prize announcement

With such an eclectic shortlist for this year’s Dundee International Book Prize, it seems the judges (including AL Kennedy, Lorraine Kelly and Brian Cox) have a tough decision ahead. Meanwhile, finalists Colette Victor, Jeff Hayden and Nicola White all…

Cecily Gayford (ed) - Tales from the Dead of Night

14 Oct 20133 stars

A familiar, well-selected collection of ghost stories from the likes of MR James and Ruth Rendell

With Halloween approaching, it's the perfect time to curl up with a good old-fashioned ghost story: and they don't get better or more old-fashioned than these. Classic tales from MR James, Edith Wharton and Rudyard Kipling mix with more modern pieces…

Point Close All Quotes: A Quietus Anthology (Ed. Charles Ubaghs)

11 Oct 20135 stars

Essential anthology of passionate opinion and off-the-beaten-track music journalism

The Quietus recently turned five, and anyone with an interest in continuing to treat music as a subject worthy of healthy, (mostly) grown-up discussion knows why that’s a good thing. With a printed music press kept alive by ever-narrower commercial…