Festival Diary: From Scrooge McDuck to Outlander via a snub for Superman

There were tales of the unexpected at the book festival when Outlander author Diana Gabaldon returned to the event for the first time years, against a backdrop of intrigue about her involvement in a new prequel TV series.

Outlander author Diana Gabaldon was appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Picture: Brian D Anderson/Shutterstock
Outlander author Diana Gabaldon was appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Picture: Brian D Anderson/Shutterstock

But before she discussed the new show, which she is already acting as an advisor on, Gabaldon was being asked about her big break into the cultural world – writing Scrooge McDuck stories.

Gabaldon credits Disney comics with firing an interest in reading from the age of three and she was still reading them 25 years later when it struck her that the quality of the stories was not what it had once been.

She said: "I was sitting in a parking lot reading a comic book that I had just purchased with my Diet Coke. I was thinking this is pretty bad - I bet I could do better myself.

“Seized by whatever impulse, I found out the name of the editor and wrote him this very rude letter which said: “I’ve been reading your comics for 25 years, they’ve been getting worse and worse. I’m not sure I could do better myself but I’d like to try.

“Luckily he had a sense of humour and wrote back to me and said I could try.”

Gabaldon’s success as a comic strip writer later lead to her being offered what many would assume would be a dream job – which she declined.

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She explained: “I had no problem at all feeling that Donald Duck was real, but I didn’t feel the same way about Superman.”

There are a few big hitters still to pop up at the book festival over the next few days, not least local hero Irvine Welsh, who somehow found time to get married recently in between finishing a new novel, writing a second series of Crime, working on a Trainspotting musical and being followed around by two TV crews making documentaries on the writer.

Promoting new novel The Long Knives, Welsh has been discussing his influences as a writer, including James Kelman, Janice Galloway, Alasdair Gray and William McIlvanney, but added: “A lot of my stuff just comes from listening to people shouting at each other in queues, in pubs, on buses; I don’t drive, so public transport is a really fabulous place for me to pick up references.”

It’s been a bizarre old month with Sir Ian McKellen’s campaign to fix the clock in his venue, Brian Cox producing his wife’s play and a bagel created in honour of Alan Cumming.

But the Edinburgh TV Festival sprung a pretty impressive surprise with a late announcement of an appearance from Dame Judi Dench – to discuss a star turn in a special edition of The Repair Shop.

Dame Judi and Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood were both in Edinburgh to discuss the 45-minute special, which has been made to mark the show's fifth anniversary.

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The appearance of Dame Judi in the city sparked memories of her red carpet film festival appearance with Billy Connolly – when Mrs Brown was being premiered 25 years ago.

But Dame Judi can trace her involvement in Edinburgh’s festivals back to 1959 when she appeared in the Old Vic Company’s production of The Double Dealer, alongside Maggie Smith.

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