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Interview: John Calder, 'the most important English-language publisher of the 20th century'

27 Mar 2014

In advance of a festival in his name, the publisher discusses a life in the literary fast lane

John Calder is a man with a serious reading habit. I find the 85-year-old sitting in his basement flat surrounded by books. There are 17 at easy reach, including biographies of Adolf Hitler and Laurence Olivier. Before I leave, he gives me two of his…

Interview: Liam Murray Bell discusses his new novel The Busker

2 Apr 2014

The author of So It Is tackles the music industry, Occupy and homelessness in his latest novel

Would you rather be a musician or a writer? I’m happy being a writer because I don’t think I was quite cut out to be a musician to be quite honest. I was in a band as a teenager – it was myself and another singer but I was the sort of ‘Bez’ character…

Simon Wroe - Chop Chop

22 Apr 20144 stars

An authentic and gradually sinister look at life in a busy kitchen

Told from the perspective of a novice commis chef, known only to us as 'monocle', Chop Chop exposes the closed world of the restaurant kitchen. An English lit graduate with literary aspirations, Monocle is an outsider in the hard-working, masculine…

Neil Williamson - The Moon King

22 Apr 20144 stars

A lunar-fixated fable with quality storytelling and a rich setting

The moon can lend magic to any story, and in this one writer Neil Williamson has literally tethered it to his island city of Glassholm. In this land the months are marked by its wax and wane, and the effect on the citizenry is a sort of mass-bipolar…

Anne Donovan - Gone Are The Leaves

22 Apr 20143 stars

A lyrical and poetic historical novel from the author of Buddha Da

Set in the castle of a Scottish laird and his French wife, Anne Donovan's third novel tracks the fate of two young people in the gentry's employment: Deirdre, apprentice to her seamstress mother; and Feilamort, an orphaned choir boy. With their…

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Leo Hollis - Cities Are Good For You

22 Apr 20143 stars

A heavyweight but accessible account of the evolution of the city

Over 150 cities come under the academic microscope of Leo Hollis in his heavyweight account of the evolution of the city. The 400-page work is largely accessible however thanks to Hollis inserting narrative drive to each of the sections, which serve as…

Teju Cole - Every Day is For the Thief

4 Apr 20144 stars

A powerful blend of fiction, memoir and travelogue set in modern Nigeria

Returning home for the first time in 15 years, the unnamed narrator of Teju Cole's novel Every Day is for the Thief plunges into the chaos and exhausting inefficiency of a Nigeria plagued by corruption. Bribes are disguised as tips while extortion and…

Peter Buwalda - Bonita Avenue

4 Apr 20144 stars

A compelling tale that grips from its innocuous start to its pitch-black conclusion

University Rector, judo champion and famed mathematician Siem Sigerius is slowly being driven mad with suspicions that his step-daughter's boyfriend may be pimping her out on an internet porn site. The boyfriend, meanwhile, is barely managing to control…

Neil Gaiman to visit London and Edinburgh with The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains

2 Apr 2014

Tickets for the live multimedia readings, which will take place in July, are on sale now

Neil Gaiman has announced dates in Edinburgh and London this summer for his new multimedia show, The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains. The shows, which will take place on Fri 4 & Sat 5 Jul at the Barbican Centre, London and on Sun 6 Jul at…

Daniela Sacerdoti - Take Me Home

28 Mar 20143 stars

A predictable chick-lit romance develops into a moving study in grief

Take Me Home begins like a predictable romantic comedy: the ditzy heroine Inary, the token sensible flatmate and the best-friend love interest. Then there’s a dramatic shift: bland London is left behind for the atmospheric hills of Glen Avich and…

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Keir Alexander - The Ruby Slippers

28 Mar 20143 stars

A simple message and some good characterisation survive Alexander's soap opera plotting

The seemingly unconnected cast of characters living in Manhattan in Keir Alexander's multi-narrative novel are gradually drawn together by a pair of ruby slippers. Originally worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, they are discovered in old Rosa’s…

Cilla & Rolf Börjlind - Spring Tide

28 Mar 20144 stars

An impressive thriller with sinister villains, surprising twists and likeable protagonists

When police college student Olivia Rönning is offered an old unsolved murder case as a class assignment, she can't resist it, and any plans she had for the summer break are soon put on hold as she is drawn into a complex mystery involving a pregnant…

Damon Galgut - Arctic Summer

28 Mar 20144 stars

An absorbing fictional biography of EM Forster, set around the time of A Passage to India

It's been 90 years since EM Forster – the author of classics A Room with a View and Howards End – published his final novel. Yet he remains one of the most influential and best-loved writers in the English language. Damon Galgut's new novel looks at the…

Flash Fiction: The Book Pathogen by Lynsey May

27 Mar 2014

The newest instalment in our series of ultra-short stories

It spread quickly, but it took the scientists a painfully long time to work out how. Researchers rattled through risk factors and potential causes as the population choked, fainted and perished, grasping at one straw after another as the allergen ripped…

Interview: Nick Brooks, author of Indecent Acts

27 Mar 2014

The novel considers the challenge of expressing adult intelligence with limited language skills

Your new novel Indecent Acts explores the daily struggles of Grace, a semi-literate 40-something mother from Drumchapel. What inspired you to write her story? The germ of the novel came about while I was organising literacy groups around west Glasgow.

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Alasdair Gray - Of Me and Others

27 Mar 20144 stars

A clear, invigorating and fun collection of assorted non-fictional works spanning Gray's life

Rather than take the traditional anecdotal approach to autobiography, Glasgow’s favourite polymath has spent the last few years assembling this collection of assorted non-fictional works spanning his life as a writer. Arranged roughly chronologically…

Lisa Appignanesi - Trials of Passion

27 Mar 20142 stars

A recounting of three historical murders that fails to rise above 'true crime' sensationalism

In Brighton, 1870, Christiana Edmunds distributes poisoned chocolates to cover up her desperate attempt to kill the wife of a doctor she was obsessed with. In Paris, ten years later, heart-broken Marie Biere shoots the lover who abandoned her, whom she…

Cara Hoffman - Be Safe I Love You

27 Mar 20144 stars

A brave, intelligent and unflinching war novel told from the perspective of a female soldier

Lauren Clay returns from Iraq apparently unharmed. But while she tries to reconnect with the friends and family she left, they begin to see that something is very wrong with Lauren. Her post-combat life is balanced with memories of her childhood, which…

Louise Welsh - A Lovely Way to Burn

27 Mar 20143 stars

The first instalment in Welsh's Plague Times trilogy is a solid, pacy murder mystery

Stevie's boyfriend is dead. This in itself is not unusual: the 'sweats' pandemic is sweeping the globe and death is suddenly everywhere. What is unusual is the cryptic letter he left her in the tea caddy, and the mysterious package in the loft that his…

Tom Vowler - That Dark Remembered Day

27 Mar 20144 stars

A thoughtful and engrossing examination of war, masculinity, marriage and PTSD

Tom Vowler's third book is a thoughtful and engrossing examination of war, masculinity, marriage, and the scars that violent acts leave on a family and a community. The narrative switches between two timelines: in 2012, after a sudden violent outburst…

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AS Byatt, Eleanor Catton and Alasdair Gray among the highlights at Aye Write! 2014

24 Mar 2014

Mark Z Danielewski, Vic Galloway, Val McDermid and Susan Calman are also attending

Mark Z Danielewski Danielewski's 2000 debut, House of Leaves, is a cult classic, an experimental novel about a house containing an endless labyrinth in its basement. His third offering, The Fifty Year Sword, is out soon from Scotland's own Cargo…

Samuel Best - Shop Front

19 Mar 20143 stars

A realistic if downbeat picture of aimless breadline existence, with a satisfying and plausible end

Ben had high hopes for his future after university, but as this story begins he is on a train heading to Linlithgow, facing the prospect of moving back in with his parents and paying his way with a minimum-wage job at ASDA. His rut deepens as he…

Rebecca Mead - The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot

19 Mar 20144 stars

A passionate celebration of the art of reading

Interweaving in-depth readings of George Eliot's classic novel Middlemarch with an exploration into Eliot's life, as well as reflections on Mead's personal history, The Road to Middlemarch is no dry academic study, but a complex and sensitive work of…

The Reading Experiment highlights the wonder in non-academic science writing

18 Mar 2014

The series of events will focus on everything from science fiction to poetic 'Sci-Ku'

‘It’s a chance to show off how much we love books and how much we love science, and have lots of interesting chats with people about both.’ So says writer and performer Sian Bevan, one of the brains behind The Reading Experiment, an ambitious series of…

Stanza 2014: an enlightening examination of the poetry of war

12 Mar 2014

Highlighted poets include Anton Schnack, Richard Aldington, DH Lawrence and Edward Thomas

Stanza, Scotland’s International Poetry festival, delivered a programme of stimulating events in 2014. As usual there was a wonderful mix of poets, with headliners including Carol Ann Duffy, John Burnside, Louis de Bernieres and, visiting the festival…