Raymond Soltysek's Blog

“A Little Touch of Cliff in the Evening”; New Writing Scotland 30

Posted in Publications by raymondsoltysek on July 3, 2012
Link to ASLS


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!

Write Now! 2012, The Mitchell Library, 9/3/12

Posted in Conferences, Publications by raymondsoltysek on March 9, 2012
John M. Blundall's puppet collection

John M. Blundall's puppet collection

Had an interesting day at the Write Now! 2012 conference at the Mitchell Library. Run by the University of Strathclyde, this year it became part of the Aye Write! festival.

Thanks to having to deal with problems at work, I missed the opening keynote, but got there in time to hear successful novelist Sara Sheridan talking about narrative drive. She was suitably down to earth, encouraging writers to put away their preciousness and concentrate on the story. I found her advice on storyboarding and auditing particularly useful, running through passages of my own and being depressed about how few pictures I could find in them. Back to the drawing board, it seems. Literally.

Next was a short session from Helen FitzGerald, Sergio Casci and Claire Mundell was a bit short on the specifics of how to adapt prose for screen (and vice versa) but was nonetheless entertaining in rich anecdotes that stressed the need to network and collaborate. Certainly, my best experience as a writer was working with the wonderful Clara Glynn and Carolynne Sinclair Kidd on an adaptation of my short story “The Practicality of Magnolia” just because I got to work with people who had the vision to turn my story into something far more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.

Nicola Morgan, hugely prolific author and all round guru (check out her fantastic blog, Help! I need a Publisher!) offered advice that was pin sharp and refreshingly lacking in any sort of bullshit. She calls herself The Crabbit Old Bat because of her reputation for telling it like it is: thank god someone is prepared to do that. I’d heard much of her advice on submissions to publishers before, but it was good to hear it reiterated so succinctly.

Finally, Christopher Brookmyre was hugely entertaining in conversation with Kapka Kassabova. Brookmyre is also from Barrhead; he’s a million times more famous and successful than me. I don’t mind.

Tomorrow should be interesting, with a range of panels and research presentations. I’ve got a slot at 1.30 on creative writing teaching in secondary schools based on the work I’ve been doing with Education Scotland. I’m looking forward to it.

Nice to to see some pals, including Iain Paton and David Manderson. Iain’s “By the Sword” has recently been published by Wild Wolf Publishing, while David’s “Lost Bodies” was one of my favourite reads of last year.

ps – the photo is from an exhibition in the Mitchell of puppets from the collection of puppeteer John M. Blundall. The characters are from the Mabinogion , which is, he tells me, the Welsh precursor of the Arthurian legend. I love the green face: she is, apparently, a mad queen.

David Manderson, “Lost Bodies”

Posted in fiction, Publications by raymondsoltysek on August 1, 2011

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to David Manderson’s book launch, but I did finish “Lost Bodies” the other night.  Don’t read on if you don’t want too many hints about it, and consider this a SPOILER ALERT.

It’s very, very good indeed.  As a psychological study of a serial killer, it’s as convincing as I’ve read since John Fowles’ “The Collector”.  This is not a man who has predatory super-powers, á la Hannibal Lecter; such characters quickly become silly pastiches.  This is an ordinary man who finds himself with some extraordinary urges.

What works best are the unironic switches of tone; at one point, the murderer tetchily notices that the Council haven’t lopped off some tree branches from outside the window as he arranges the body of a woman he has just murdered and – perhaps – disemboweled.    This horror inside the normality feels true, as does the sheer luck rather than animal cunning or supreme intelligence with which he gets away with it for so long.  Finally, his cowardice, his sheer pant-shitting panic, is really well done too.

If I have one complaint, it’s a minor one.  The internal monologue is relentlessly detailed, which works perfectly except when the character moves around the city.  Then, details become so precise that the context is a little lost as the reader, unfamiliar with the geography, tries to place the action.  Especially in the final, breathless chase, this can become distracting with a particular kind of reader – in other words, me.

However, I gobbled it up.  It’s my kind of story.  Buy it, read it, enjoy it.

David Manderson, “Lost Bodies” book launch, The Arches, 21/7/11

Posted in fiction, Reading review by raymondsoltysek on July 17, 2011

I’m enjoying David Manderson’s “Lost Bodies” just now.  It’s a crime novel with a difference, written in fractured sentences and relentlessly and seductively observed detail from the point of view of a character who may or may not be about to do awful things.  It’s looking really good so far.

“Lost Bodies” will be officially launched at the Arches, Thursday 21st July at 7pm.  David’s a really nice guy and a very talented writer who has also given up lots of his time to support writing in the west of Scotland.  He deserves a huge turnout.

Tchai Ovna reading, 13/5/11

Posted in Reading review by raymondsoltysek on May 15, 2011

Unfortunately, a couple of cancellations from the performance list mean that the programme is curtailed somewhat, but this is still a good wee event that deserves to be supported.

Jim Gilbert of folk duo Wing and a Prayer starts off the evening in good style, with one of his own compositions and a very creditable John Martyn cover.  Good stuff; regular performers at Tchai Ovna, they’ll be worth checking out.

I read an extract from the first chapter of my novel: I can’t call it new because it’s been on the go so long, so its nice to remind myself what it’s like.  It goes down well, though I felt a little flat.

Chik Duncan performs extracts from his children’s novel in progress.  He’s a polished performer, and should be doing lots of work in primary schools: kids must love him.  Talking to him afterwards, we discover that we graduated from Glasgow University in the same year, and both in Philosophy (him single honours, me joint).  However, given that I spent the vast bulk of my time in my final year playing pool, snooker and darts – anything to avoid classes – it’s hardly likely our paths never crossed.

Nayan Patel has come off the street to investigate the joint, and reads some of his poetry.  It’s good stuff – quick and witty – and if he finds himself a good writers’ group to push him on, I suspect we’ll hear a lot more from him

Graham Keen’s poetry is also witty and truthful, with a sharp working class edge in the finest Glasgow tradition.  He performs at The Scotia Bar, bastion of local writing for generations; I think I did my first ever reading there nearly twenty years ago.

The event organiser, David Manderson, finishes off by reading a short but tantalising extract of his new novel, “Lost Bodies”, to be published next month.  There will be a book launch at The Arches, so I’ll post information about that.  If you’re into crime fiction, this sounds right up your street.

Tchai Ovna is a cosy place.  Smelling of wood smoke and spices, it has a lived in feel, like a room in a croft;   it’s the kind of place you wish you’d spent your childhood in.  I bet it’s lovely in the winter, with the fire blazing.

Tchai Ovna Teahouse Reading, 13/5/11

Posted in Reading review by raymondsoltysek on May 7, 2011

I will be reading at the monthly writers’ event held at the Tchai Ovna Tea House (West End) in Otago Lane at 8pm on Friday the 13th of May.  The line up – including Graham Meek and Pippa Goldschmidt – looks fantastic, and it’ll be good to be reading again with my old colleague from the Paisley Writers’ group of the 1990s, Graham Fulton, a great poet and brilliant reader who’s just had a new collection published.

Thanks to David Manderson for the invitation.

Directions for Tchai Ovna