Just a quick announcement!
I’ll be reading a short extract from “Spree Killer” at the Glasgow launch of “A Little Touch of Cliff in the Evening” on Friday 7th September at 7pm in Waterstone’s, Argyle Street, Glasgow. It will be hosted by one (or both) of the editors, the terrific Zoe Strachan and Carl Macdougall. Should be good!
The list of contributors for New Writing Scotland 30 has been announced, and a very long and very interesting list it is too. At 336 pages, it must be the biggest NWS yet; the editors, Carl McDougall and Zoë Strachan, claim it’s the best.
It’s certainly conducive to big-headedness when you’re published in the same volume as fantastic household names like Alasdair Gray, David Greig, Ron Butlin and Agnes Ownes, and it’s also nice to be in the same book as some writing chums old and new, like Derek McLuckie, David Manderson, Jane Alexander and Jonathan Falla.
You can read more about the book and pre-order it here: NWS30. I’m looking forward to the lauch: I’ve been practising “Spree Killer” in my Weegee/Texan accent in case I’m asked to read!
Dropped by Waterstones for the launch of “The Flight of the Turtle”, the 29th annual anthology of Scottish writing published by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies. This volume is an institution in Scotland; what is nice about it is that it allows new writers the opportunity to be published alongside some of the very best and established Scottish talent.
Youngsters Danni Glover (great name) and Leona Garry perform well, and Allan Radcliffe, who was a star at WPM 8, reads a lovely, sensuous tale of gay seduction.
Two poets steal the show or me, though. Jim Carruth is a marvelous rural poet. He reads three poems; best is a fantastic tale of the local barn dance, a young girl forced to dance with the same beery old worthies over and over because of the depopulation of the community. It’s lovely, as pin-sharp a recreation of a ceilidh as I’ve ever heard.
As an academic, Alan MacGillivray has a long career of championing Scottish literature, art and culture: he is erudite, fiercely intelligent, hugely well read and a fine gentleman. He was one of the tutors when I studied at Jordanhill College, and everyone wanted to be in his class. I have always admired him, and couldn’t understand why he didn’t write creatively himself. He’s sorted that out over the last few years, winning a slew of poetry awards. His poetry in the ASLS anthology is wonderful, encompassing a breadth of reference that includes the mythology of Shetland told in the lost language of Norn. His sonnet of a day in the life of Samuel Pepys is warm, witty, light and perfectly constructed. He’s the man.
This year’s anthology is edited by two writers I have enormous respect for, Carl Macdougall and Alan Bissett, so the quality is likely to be high. Unfortunately I have to bale out early and miss a couple of the readers, but what I heard was more than encouraging.
Val McDermid is my favourite crime writer – along with Denise Mina, that is. I don’t need to know the title of her latest book (it’s called “Trick of the Dark”, by the way) – I just need to know there’s a new McDermid out, and I’m off to the bookshop.
She’s a polished guest, covering everything from the influence of the Chalet Schools books (which several people pick up on – what is it about them?) to her early Oxford days to her writing process to being stuck in a perspex box at the airport because her prosthetic knees set off the alarm (providing the basis for her next standalone novel). Funny, witty and effortlessly charming.
Cynthia Rogerson, Ronald Frame and Carl Macdougall discuss the short story in the graveyard slot, hosted by Adrian Searle. It’s an interesting discussion, and the old chestnut of short stories being unpublishable comes up again. As Searle points out, new media may well breathe new life into the form, though my feeling is it has never really gone away, especially in Scotland.
It’s nice to see Carl again, for three reasons. First, his novel “The Casanova Papers” is one of my favourite books, a beautifully written and utterly humane love story. Every time I see him, I promise myself I’ll go back and read it again, but re-reading has never been my style.
Secondly, he is a wonderful reader. So many writers irritate me with their lack of preparation for readings to a public they want to buy their books. Nerves are fine, we can forgive them; but writers who can’t be bothered to print out their work with the page throws sorted so that they don’t have to stop in mid sentence to turn the page deserve a good finger wagging. Carl paces his work fantastically, varying his intonation and lulling the listener into his world with that seductive accent of his.
Thirdly, he was kind enough to write a reference for me to the Arts Council which helped me get a big award in 2010. I reckon I owe him a pint at least. Or dinner.
Nice too to bump into Gerrie Fellows, who was the hugely supportive Writer in Residence when I began attending the Paisley Writers’ Group in the early 90’s. She’s just a lovely person, and her book “The Powerlines” contains some of my favourite poetry of the last 20 years. It’s gorgeous.
Oh well, it’s late, so I’m off to bed with my new, signed Val. No doubt I’ll still be awake at 2am…