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John Buchan hitches a ride with this month’s Guide to Scottish Literature

Podcast Logo1As we look forward to Christmas (yep, I said it!) Kristian and I bring you the latest episode of our podcast The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature, where we will be celebrating Scotland’s pioneering thriller writer, John Buchan. Yes, before Bond, there was Hannay and his cronies, swashbuckling their way through various escapades keeping the world safe from chaos, destruction and uncertainty. Kristian and I, however, will be taking a look at John Buchan’s final novel, Sick Heart River, written just before Buchan’s death and the beginning of the Second World War.

Sick Heart River is a book very much concerned with the search for meaning in full awareness of one’s own mortality. We follow Edward Leithen – some say Buchan’s most autobiographical character – as he learns he doesn’t have long to live; he is in the advanced stages of tuberculosis. He decides to ‘die on his feet’ and takes a mission to find a missing person in the wilds of northern Canada: Francis Galliard, a self-made modern man who, from humble beginnings in Quebec, has become a powerhouse in the financial sector in New York. The book asks questions about how a life is truly lived, the contrasts and concerns of the civilised cities and the isolated landscapes of forests and mountains, and on our own sense of self as we head towards uncertain futures. It’s a fascinating, intriguing novel, especially when read keeping in mind its historical and personal context.

Thirty-One Kings, ThePolygon is delighted to be the publisher behind beautiful Buchan editions, all introduced by leading literary figures, so we were doubly delighted when Robert J. Harris approached us about writing a brand new Richard Hannay thriller, set against the backdrop of the Nazis marching into Paris. Kristian and I talk to Bob about his love of John Buchan novels, and the inspiration behind his new novel, the marvellous The Thirty-One Kings.

So, get ready for those cliffhangers, have a listen, and enjoy!

Vikki Reilly, November 2017

You can listen to the latest episode below, on SoundCloud, and on iTunes.

 

October is Crime Month on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature

Podcast Logo1As the darker nights creep in, Kristian and I bring you the latest episode of our podcast The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature, where we will be celebrating one of Scotland’s great exports: crime fiction. Kristian and I will be taking a look at Ian Rankin’s Black & Blue, the 8th Rebus thriller, and the novel which broke him – and Rebus – into the mainstream.

There aren’t many people now who haven’t heard of John Rebus, and 2017 sees the 30th anniversary of our introduction to Rankin’s grizzled, maverick detective. Yet despite the early novels being set in the late 80s and 90s, there is a lot in those early Rebus novels, and especially in Black and Blue, that still feels relevant now. But the novels also speak of a Scotland, and a world, undergoing huge social, cultural and technological changes, and it was fascinating to read of settings contemporary to mine and Kristian’s lifetimes, but now regarded as modern history. No Scottish Parliament! No mobile phones! No Google! No digital footprints! Policing too has changed in so many ways.

ONE LAST DRAM BEFORE MIDNIGHT finalAnd for something completely different. We shine a spotlight on our crime writing rising star, Denzil Meyrick, with a reading from his latest short story collection, One Last Dram Before Midnight, released just this month. If you’ve not come across Denzil before, we recommend you get cracking with his DCI Daley series of books, which kicks off with Whisky From Small Glasses. Denzil has written five DCI Daley thrillers now, starring DCI Daley, displaced from the mean streets of Glasgow to uncover the dirty secrets of the idyllic yet post-industrial Campbeltown on Scotland’s west coast.

One Last Dram Before Midnight includes two prequel short stories, and we have a reading from the story ‘Two One Three’, which sees Daley as a new face on the beat in Glasgow facing his first murder investigation.

So, cosy in, have a listen, and enjoy!

Vikki Reilly, October 2017

Listen to the latest podcast on SoundCloud below and make sure you never miss out by subscribing on iTunes:

The latest episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature available now

Podcast Logo1As we recover from the excitement of Edinburgh’s festival month, Kristian and I are delighted to bring you the latest episode of our podcast The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature. This time round we are celebrating Robert Louis Stevenson, in a roundabout way, by taking a look at Emma Tennant’s feminist reworking of the iconic The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with her equally fantastic and frightening novel Two Women of London.

And reading Emma Tennant seems timely; her update feels entirely modern despite being written and set in the Thatcherite ’80s. It takes in the consequences of gentrification, the growing gulf between rich and poor, the demands made of women in a violent, consumerist society, all told through a collection of art pieces, letters, journal entries and interviews that builds, layer by layer, a compelling mystery shot through with anxiety, paranoia, jealousy and jet black humour. Sadly, Emma Tennant died earlier this year, so if you haven’t introduced yourself to her work before, it’s time to get started!

Robert Louis Stevenson AnthologyWe’ll be sticking with the Stevenson reimaginings with an interview with our very own Kevin MacNeil, who himself took on that very same Stevenson story with his second novel A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde. He has also just edited an anthology of Robert Louis Stevenson work as curated by Jorge Luis Borges & Adolfo Bioy Casares back in the last century, which, until now, has never been published. We were delighted to rectify that, and launched it at the book festival this year. We chat about the timelessness of Stevenson’s work and how literary influence doesn’t necessarily follow linear time.

So, kick back, have a listen, then go back to the books!

Vikki Reilly, September 2017

You can listen to the podcast, and catch up on all previous episodes, on iTunes, or listen below on SoundCloud: