Missed out on book festival tickets? Here’s the next best thing

This YouTube playlist features some of the hottest tickets at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, including Val McDermid, Christopher Brookmyre, Jenni Fagan, Richard Holloway, AL Kennedy and Irvine Welsh.

The authors were all visiting Edinburgh Libraries as part of our “Edinburgh Reads” series of free author events. View our calendar to see what we’ve got planned for the weeks and months ahead

Ajay Close

Thanks to Ajay Close who popped in last week to tell us about her new novel Trust.

DSC_2932Ajay’s readings tantalized but didn’t give away the plot, and our Edinburgh Reads audience were impressed by the authors’ humour as well as her knowledge of the banking world and the miner’s strike.

Thanks Ajay!

Stuart Kelly on “Waverley” at 200

It has lent its name to a railway station, a fountain pen, a type of sock and even an ice-cream cone!

But when it was first published, Walter Scott’s Waverley came out of nowhere.

There was no named author, it didn’t fit into any recognizable genre, and even the quotation at the beginning of the book was ambiguous.

So how did it (and its author) come to have such a huge influence on our country and its literature, and why has it fallen so completely out of fashion?

The answers to those questions were revealed by critic, author and former Booker Prize judge Stuart Kelly at our latest Edinburgh Reads event last Monday.

Stuart argued that rather than viewing Scott as a harbinger for Dickens and the other great nineteenth century novelists we would do better to see him as the heir eighteenth century novelists such as Sterne and Smollett, especially if we consider the self-aware, self-conscious nature of his work.

There’s also a humorous aspect to Scott’s writing, a characteristic which is often overlooked, remarkably so given the passages Stuart read to us over the course of the hour (especially the start of chapter 24 of Waverley).

In terms of story Stuart agreed with Allan Massie that Scott ignores almost all the historical set-pieces you might suppose would be included in a novel on the Jacobite uprising.

And this is typical of Scott. He tiptoes round Scottish history, neglecting figures such as Knox and Wallace, and events like Bannockburn.

He is more interested in illuminating the margins of Scottish history, and echoes Shakespeare (who he quotes throughout his works) in the way he covers the entire social strata. In this sense he is more of a pluralist than those who followed him, and for this reason critics from across the ideological spectrum have been able to claim him as their own.

Before we closed there was time for questions from the floor, giving Stuart the opportunity to enlighten us on how Scott got into so much debt, the nature of the ‘historical’ novel and how to reignite interest in Scott’s work. (Doctor Who is the man  for the job!)

A witty, knowledgeable and engaging speaker, Stuart could I think have happily talked Scott for another hour, and his audience would have been more than happy to listen. At the start of the talk there was a show of hands as to who of us had actually read Waverley, and I’ll wager that those who hadn’t took up Stuart’s challenge to at least give the first chapter a bash, so infectious was his enthusiasm for his subject.

Let’s hope we can get him back for one of the other Scott bicentenaries we’ll be celebrating all the way up to 2032!

Mapping (more) Edinburgh fiction

People keep writing books set in Edinburgh, so we keep adding them to our Edinburgh Reads map.

Here are three recent additions, which apart from their setting, don’t have too much in common at all!

The Democrat by Olly Wyatt is a globe-spanning historical thriller made all the more exciting by the fact that it’s based on the real life adventures of political reformer Thomas Muir.

Ghost MoonRon Butlin’s Ghost Moon is inspired by the experiences of the former Edinburgh Makar’s mother. The novel tells the story of a pregnant young woman thrown out of her home in the 1950s – a secret she only reveals to her son Tom many years later, when she is suffering from dementia.

Our map also features many books written for a much younger audience. Olivia’s Enchanted Summer by Lyn Gardner’s is one of these. Olivia and her stage school chums are in town for the festival, but a mysterious thief threatens to ruin their stay.

Which books are right up your street? Explore the map to find out – and if you think there’s one we’ve missed be sure to let us know.

Edinburgh Reads: “Trust” by Ajay Close

“Your friends or your principles: which would you betray?”

Our next Edinburgh Reads event features Ajay Close, who’ll be talking to us about her latest novel Trust, tracing the lives of three friends from the miners’ strike of 1984 through to the 2006 banking crisis.

A novel about  love, money, friendship and ideals, Trust asks some searching questions about how people adapt over time, and how they stay the same.

“intelligent and uncompromising” The Herald

“‘a serious book for grown-ups who want the world taken not with a pinch of salt but with something a little stronger … a boon to those who want to be made to think, both about men and women and the relations between them, and about the values we so often assume are shared ones.’ 
The Scotsman

Ajay will be at Edinburgh Central Library from 7pm on Thursday 3rd July. Reserve your free place now.

 

Edinburgh Reads: Val McDermid

“I would not be a writer if it wasn’t for the public library system” Val McDermid

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Val McDermid (r) with Christine Hamilton (courtesy Andrew Ansell)

Val McDermid  kept us entertained at last week’s Edinburgh Reads event. In a packed and wide-ranging hour Val covered everything from re-imagining Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey to memories of going to Oxford as a 16-year-old. Between times there was a hilarious anecdote about how she inadvertently upset a television scriptwriter.

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Look out for video of the event appearing on the Edinburgh Reads playlist very soon – where you’ll be able to find out which book Val described as having ‘everything’, and why we’ll probably never see her doing a children’s story time.

In the meantime you can see more snaps from the night on Flickr.

“a joy to listen to”

“always good value”

“brilliant!”

Just some of the audience feedback from the night. We couldn’t put it any better ourselves. Thanks a million Val!

Buckfast, libraries and Margaret Thatcher: Damian Barr at Central Library

An engaging and witty Damian Barr popped in to Central Reference Library last month to discuss his memoir Maggie and Me.

Our video shows Damian talking openly to Richard Holloway about the devastating abuse he suffered as a child, his relationship with his parents and teachers, and how he found refuge in libraries.

Check out our playlist for film from other Edinburgh Reads  events.