Video: Alexander McCall Smith on 44 Scotland Street

For more than a decade, he has enthralled readers of The Scotsman with the adventures of Edinburgh’s New Town residents.


44 Scotland Street: An invitation from Bruce

When Pat Macgregor received an invitation from Bruce Anderson to meet her for coffee at the Elephant House on George IV Bridge, her first reaction was to delete it.

This is Memorial Device

Book review: This is Memorial Device, by David Keenan

Apologies if you come from Airdrie, know of Airdrie’s literary tradition and are reading this while sitting under a bookshelf where it’s A for Airdrie from one end to the other. But I could only find two authors hailing from the town.

Kapka Kassabova PIC: Greg Macvean

Book review: Border, by Kapka Kassabova

Kapka Kassabova is a journalist and award-wining travel writer. Born and brought up in Bulgaria, she came of age when the Berlin Wall came down and the Communist regime collapsed with the withdrawal of Soviet support. She now lives in Scotland, in the Highlands, where, watching and depressed by what she calls “the era of the corporate bureaucrat with the human face” – an ironic echo of late-Communist Bulgaria – she became curious about her native Balkan periphery, the border where Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey cagily or suspiciously meet. This rich and well-written book is a record of her journey, an account of what she found and a meditation on the significance of borders. It’s a book for our time of “global movement and global barricading, new internationalism and old nationalisms” – what she calls “the systemic sickness at the heart of our world”. This may make it sound grim; it’s anything but that. On the contrary, her response to the beauty of the natural world and her lively interest in the people she meets make it both informative and exhilarating.

Rick Gekoski PIC:  Russell G Sneddon/Writer Pictures

Book review: Darke, by Rick Gekoski

There are some novels that are carried by voice alone; a certain timbre to the cadences, a camber to the sentences, a limber syntax that is sinuously distinctive. Often, they are works of tremendous misanthropy: think of Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Journey To The End Of The Night, Thomas Bernhard’s Wittgenstein’s Nephew, Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, Muriel Spark’s Loitering With Intent.

Night Trains, by Andrew Martin

Book review: Night Trains - The Rise and Fall of the Sleeper, by Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin is in mourning for a sleeper train that no longer exists. While he harks back to the age of elegant overnight rail travel popularly imagined by films such as Murder On The Orient Express, his experience in Night Trains is altogether seamier, involving sharing cabins with assorted strangers and dining on takeaway snacks.

Euphoria, by Heinz Helle

Book review: Euphoria, by Heinz Helle

If bleak times call for bleak novels, Heinz Helle’s Euphoria, newly translated into English by Kari Driscoll, could hardly have arrived in the UK at a more opportune moment. The German author and former philosophy student made his fiction debut in 2014 with the grimly amusing Superabundance, in which a young man struggles with what he defines as “some kind of analytic Tourette’s Syndrome” – an unfortunate tendency to obsessively deconstruct every thought that passes through his head. But whereas the laughs in Superabundance were often fairly light-hearted in their sending-up of the pointlessness of everyday existence, the gags in Euphoria take gallows humour to a whole new level.

Alexander Gardner

Book review: The Tartan Turban: In Search of Alexander Gardner, by John Keay

The sub-title is important. John Keay, doyen of British Indian studies, has written a thoroughly-researched biography, but one which depends much on speculation and the weighing of often contradictory and dubious evidence. He has been interested, even fascinated, by Alexander Gardner for a very long time, first writing about him briefly some 40 years ago. Gardner was a traveller-explorer, soldier and mystery man. Even his date of birth and family background are not known for sure; he may have been in his late seventies when he died; he may have been over 90. He said he was American, and probably was, Scots on his father’s side, Spanish-Mexican on his mother’s.


Irvine Welsh: an Edinburgh ‘inspiration’

Irvine Welsh’s ascent from obscurity to Scottish literary royalty was born from an ability to capture the brutal realism of everyday life in some of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas.

Sarah Howe PIC: John Devlin

Interview: award-winning poet Sarah Howe on coming to terms with her Chinese heritage

When Sarah Howe started to explore her Chinese heritage in Hong Kong she found poetry the best medium to tease out the personal and political dynamic of her family’s story, as audiences at StAnza Festival, St Andrews, will discover. Interview by Susan Mansfield

Author Alexander McCall Smith said writing the Scotland Street series has been a "pleasure." Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Scotland Street chronicles set for return to BBC Radio 4

One of Scotland’s most popular books is to return to the airwaves next week thanks to a new BBC Radio 4 serialisation.

Author Philip Pullman has confirmed a follow-up trilogy to His Dark Materials. Picture: AP/RandomHouse

Philip Pullman announces follow-up trilogy to His Dark Materials

Acclaimed author Philip Pullman will publish his long-awaited follow-up to the His Dark Materials trilogy in October, 17 years after the last instalment.

Books 1
The Edinburgh Book Festival has been asked to reduce its impact on Charlotte Square's gardens: Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Brian Ferguson: Festivals must not fear loss of New Town venues

If you have seen the film, you will know the line by now: “First there was an opportunity… then there was a betrayal.”

Opinion 1
Val McDermkd took part in a workshop with scientists & medical experts before writing the Radio 4 thriller "Resistance."

Real-life concerns of scientists inspire Val McDermid drama on deadly outbreak

Leading Scottish crime writer Val McDermid has written a new BBC drama about an apocalyptic epidemic - based on the real-life concerns of scientists.

More than 230.000 people flocked to the book festival site at Charlotte Square Gardens last summer.

Edinburgh book festival to spill out of Charlotte Square to protect historic garden

For more than 30 years it has attracted the world’s leading authors to the historic heart of the Scottish capital.
News 2
David J Vaughan

Book review: Mad Or Bad - Crime And Insanity In Victorian Britain

It’s believed to be the first time a suspect relied on the defence of sleepwalking in a British criminal case. In 1878 a Glasgow man, Simon Fraser, stood trial for murdering his young son. Fraser was convinced “a large white beast” had entered his bedroom and attacked his son as he slept in a nearby cot. The case is one of about two dozen featured in Mad Or Bad, a collection that explores the evolution of the insanity defence in the Victorian era. Author David J Vaughan, a former archaeologist who writes and blogs on history, tackles each crime with two questions in mind: was the accused “mad” or ‘bad” when they committed their crime, and what then should be done with those considered insane?

Jonathan Lethem PIC: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Book review: The Blot by Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem is one of the very few contemporary writers whom I think of as required reading for anyone interested in the state of the art: his works also give me almost unalloyed joy. But it is difficult to specify the nature of his genius. Most of his novels combine pop culture with literary theory. He is interested in genre-bending; from the science-fiction take on John Ford’s western The Searchers (Girl In Landscape) to classic bildungsroman with added superpowers (The Fortress Of Solitude) to a hard-boiled noir where the detective has Tourette’s (Motherless Brooklyn). He is able to ventriloquise uncannily and yet still be recognisably himself, channelling Philip K Dick (Amnesia Moon), Raymond Chandler (Gun, With Occasional Music) or even giving an indie-pop version of Jane Austen (You Don’t Love Me Yet).

Annalena McAfee PIC: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / Getty Images

Book review: Hame, by Annalena McAfee

Almost half a century ago Gore Vidal derided writers who, as he put it, wrote novels to be taught rather than read with enjoyment. They were clever books, often tricksy, the authors keen on intertextuality and all that. At first I thought Hame just such a novel, and indeed I can imagine it being enthusiastically dissected in places where Creative Writing is taught. And why shouldn’t novelists craft their work for that market?

10 books to read before they become TV adaptations

10 books to read before they become TV adaptations

Literary adaptations continue to dominate television, with an array of eagerly-anticipated book-inspired shows due to hit our screens in 2017 and beyond.

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