Festival review: The Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival, Melrose

Ah, the Noughties; I remember them well. Back then, if you read the newspapers, you’d have a fair sense of what was going to happen, who was going to be the next PM, and when and how. The future seemed comparatively predictable. It was, as William Hague told Rory Bremner in a sparkling double-bill at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival over the weekend, a golden age of consensus, though nobody realised it at the time.

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Benjamin Myers is the winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Histrorical Fiction 2018 for his book The Gallows Pole

Story of 18th century Yorkshire gang wins Walter Scott Prize

A novel about an 18th century gang of Yorkshire counterfeiters has been declared the winner of Britain’s biggest Prize for historical fiction at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival.

Lionel Shriver highlighted Penguin Random House's 'politically correct' agende for new hires and authors

Kirsty Gunn: Just like Lionel Shriver, we need to talk about hyper-liberalism

When it comes to publishing, it’s the writing, not the writer, that counts, says Kirsty Gunn

Opinion 2
Muriel Spark in May 1960. PIC: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Chapter One of The Abbess of Crewe, by Muriel Spark

Watergate prompted Muriel Spark to write The Abbess of Crewe in 1974, relocating the machinations of the White House to an English provincial convent. In today’s Scotsman, the novelist Ali Smith argues that its deft and funny dissection of the scandal belies its real target – every dishonest power structure under heaven. Here, we republish the book’s opening chapter

J.M. Barrie's first home at 9 Brechin Road in Kirriemuir. Picture: Geograph

Five properties formally owned by famous Scottish poets and painters

From humble cottages to gargantuan estates, we take a peek inside the homes of some of the most famous Scottish painters and poets.

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Tim Winton PIC: Hank Kordas

Book review: The Shepherd’s Hut, by Tim Winton

What a peculiar, disorientating and astonishing novel this is. It begins as one thing and ends as another, and yet the stitching towards these diverse tones is seamless. We begin with Jaxie Clackton, a young Australian whose mother has died, and whose father is quick with his fists. When he returns home to find his father dead in an almost comical accident, he takes the opportunity to light out for the territories. It is a kind of freedom without freedom, since he goes walkabout fearing that the police will think he has engineered the death of, as he calls him, “Captain Wankbag”. He is heading off to see a mysterious person, Lee, about whom we find more anon. Let us say he gets slightly sidelined.

Michael Ondaatje PIC: Ian Rutherford

Book review: Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje

Late in Michael Ondaatje’s remarkable new novel, the narrator, working in a department of an unnamed branch of the secret service, writes “In this post-war world, twelve years later, it felt to some of us, our heads bowed over the files brought to us daily, that it was no longer possible to see who held a correct moral position.” Though Warlight is set mainly during the Second World War and in the years immediately following it, this observation makes it very much a novel of our confused and confusing time. Which of us can sensibly say what is the correct moral position to adopt with regard to Syria or indeed anything in this benighted world of crude, dishonest and violent politics?

Alone, by Christophe Chaboute

Book review: Alone, by Christophe Chabouté

In a world that seems to get faster and shoutier by the minute, the gentle, slow-burning graphic novels of French artist Christophe Chabouté feel like little oases of calm. Faber & Faber published an English translation of his 2012 book Un peu de bois et d’acier (literally “A bit of wood and steel”) last year, under the title The Park Bench, and it clearly found an audience in the UK because now we have a second Chabouté release: Alone, a translation of his 2008 book Tout seul.

Irvine Welsh pictured before an event at Leith's Biscuit Factory to introduce his new novel Dead Men's Trousers.

Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh is looking for love

TRAINSPOTTING author Irvine Welsh has said he is looking for love after splitting from his American wife last year.

Benjamin Zephaniah

Spoken word review: Benjamin Zephaniah, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

The literary gig, an “audience with” with pretensions is a relatively new phenomenon, at least on tour, remaining rare outside of festivals. So few writers have the general appeal, stagecraft and wit to command an audience for any length of time, especially when plugging of the latest tome is fulfilled.

Alexander McCall Smith says that he has written the first novel. Picture: contributed

New series of novels set in Sweden for Alexander McCall Smith

Scottish novelist Alexander McCall Smith is writing a new series of detective novels set in Sweden and featuring a detective named Wolf and his lip-reading dog.

A Gaelic manuscript at the National Library of Scotland

Medieval manuscripts secure global heritage status for Gaelic

Centuries old Gaelic manuscripts have been given global significance status by world heritage experts at Unesco due to their cultural importance.

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Book festival director Nick Barley has revealed that the event has expanded the size of its biggest venues to meet audience demand.

Edinburgh International Book Festival reveals line-up of freedom fighters

American actress Rose McGowan, one of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s first accusers, is to speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in a programme which will also feature Jeremy Corbyn, Chelsea Clinton and Nelson Mandela’s daughter and grandchildren.

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Benjamin Markovits

Book review: A Weekend In New York, by Benjamin Markovits

Full confession: I was on the panel that named Benjamin Markovits as one of the Granta Best Of Young British Novelists, mostly – on my part – for his remarkable trilogy of novels about Lord Byron, but also books like The Syme Papers and Playing Days. Fuller confession: as a critic, whenever a new novel comes out by an author to whom you have given an accolade, there is a degree of terror. What if it’s not any good, and you are revealed as a cretin for promoting them? Fullest confession: normally, it would take me less than 24 hours to read a novel of 350-ish pages. This took me three days.

William Trevor

Book review: Last Stories, by William Trevor

William Trevor died two years ago at the age of 88. You might think therefore that a collection of Last Stories might have been put together from unconsidered leavings, the barrel being scraped. Not so, however; he had apparently prepared these ten last stories for publication himself, which indicates that he was satisfied with them. We are not, as sometimes happens, being offered work which a recently dead author wouldn’t have chosen to publish.

Nancy Tucker is the author of That Was When People Started to Worry: Windows Into Unwell Minds

Author Nancy Tucker on drawing on her own mental health issues for her latest book

Today’s culture of relentless striving is creating huge anxieties for many young people, writes student and author Nancy Tucker, who drew on her own mental health issues for her latest book

Trainspotting writer Irvine Welsh has joined the line-up. Picture: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Bloody Scotland line-up to feature Irvine Welsh and Val Mcdermid

Authors Denise Mina, Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh are in the line-up for Scotland’s crime-writing festival, it has been announced.

Doug Johnstone PIC: Neil Hanna

Book review: Fault Lines, by Doug Johnstone

Doug Johnstone has a knack for writing relatively slender books in which he somehow seems to cover more ground than many other writers manage in twice the number of pages – witness 2016’s action-packed Crash Land, or the emotional power of 2012 McIlvanney Prize-listed The Jump.


Kelly Donaldson: Arts groups draw fine lines from poets following their passions

What does ‘my time’ mean to you? That’s what we asked the public last spring, when Voluntary Arts Scotland teamed up with the Scottish Poetry Library to run an exciting new project.

Don Paterson  PIC: Murdo Macleod

Book review: The Poem - Lyric, Sign, Metre, By Don Paterson

Don Paterson is one of the most talented poets working today; he is also an editor of poetry, a reader, someone intrigued by linguistics and philosophy and neurology, and is therefore the perfect polymath to write a book on how we read poetry. Or rather how we are predisposed to read poetry. A word to the wise: if you think this is a book that will teach you how to write a poem, you will be sorely disappointed and indeed frequently chastised. It is far more about the experiential nature of being in the poem, rather than fine-honing your adjectives.

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