Edinburgh Reads: Peter May

Bestselling author Peter May visited us on Friday to tell us about his new novel ‘Runaway’.

Here he is with chair Jackie McGlone.

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Peter talked about his love of music and the experiences from his youth that inspired the story.

He also gave us an insight into the life of the writer and the research he carried out, including bidding over the odds for a 1965 motoring atlas on eBay.

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The novel shifts between 1965 and the present day and Peter talked eloquently about the changes that have taken place in society and the problems different generations have in understanding and communicating with each other.

Peter then answered questions from the audience about the popularity of his work in France, how living abroad has shaped his view of Scotland and the challenges of adapting his work for the screen.

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We’re sure Runaway will be every bit as successful as his other books (‘The Chess Men’ was the third most borrowed title from Edinburgh Libraries in 2014) .

Thanks to Peter for agreeing to visit us and for being such an interesting and engaging speaker.

Pictures: Tess Gerritsen visits Edinburgh Central Library

Check out these tweets from members of the audience at last Friday’s Edinburgh Reads event with bestselling thriller writer Tess Gerritsen.


Tess talked engagingly and wittily about her background and the circumstances that led her to become a writer.

Tess had some interesting views about the reasons behind the appeal crime fiction has for women.

She also took the opportunity to share some grisly true-life tales about mummification, people being wrongly pronounced dead and the Safari experience that inspired her latest novel ‘Die Again’.

A fantastic speaker, and a wonderful evening. We’re sure we speak for everyone lucky enough to be present when we say that Tess is welcome back any time!

Check out our events calendar for details of what else we’ve got lined up over the next few weeks and months.



Gourmet Reads with Ian Rankin

Edinburgh City Libraries are delighted to present ‘Gourmet Reads’ – private dining with celebrity authors.

Edinburgh Reads invites you to our first ‘Gourmet Reads’ event, a unique dining experience with Ian Rankin, Scotland’s best loved, best-selling, award-winning crime writer.

Gourmet Reads takes place on Thursday 30th October at 6.00pm for dinner at 6.30pm at the Apex International Hotel, 31-35 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2HS, in Heights, a private dining area with a unique view of Edinburgh Castle.

Listen to Ian Rankin, mingle with new-found friends, and ask Ian to sign your copies of his books.  Each diner receives an Edinburgh Reads goody bag, including the evening’s menu signed by Ian Rankin.

£70 per person: Book your place now and advise of dietary requirements by contacting Annie Bell on 0131 242 8046 annie.bell@edinburgh.gov.uk or Grainne Crawford on 0131 529 7791 grainne.crawford@edinburgh.gov.uk

Keep up to date on our blog for the authors in this programme:-

November 20th 2014 –  Alex Grey

February 28th 2015 – Doug Johnston

March 26th 2015 – Shari Low

Net income from this event will be redirected to Edinburgh City Libraries budget.


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.