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Celebrating 20 years of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

It has been a lovely summer so far, so we thought we’d carry on giving you some sunshine with our latest episode of our Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature podcast! Kristian and I are doing something a little different this time round, with our episode dedicated to a full-length interview with one of the world’s best-loved authors, Alexander McCall Smith. If you didn’t know, 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the international phenomenon that is The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the series that brought us the wonderful Precious Ramotswe and her gentle wisdom. The eighteen volumes published so far have become one of the world’s most successful series, with over twenty million copies sold in the English language alone with translations into forty-six languages.

‘Tolerance and humanity underpin the whole of this wonderful, hilarious, totally addictive series’ – Daily Mail

‘The beauty of the land, the people, the colours and smells leap off the page with such warm-hearted liveliness that you find yourself laughing and crying instead of, as so often, hardening your heart against the seeming hopelessness of an entire continent. For an author to entertain and instruct with such effortless simplicity is one thing, but to achieve this effect upon readers is remarkable. I can think of no author save Dickens who has achieved it, and no author now writing currently more deserving of an enormous audience’ – New Statesman

‘Enchanting . . . An inspiration to us all . . . The sweet, chuckling voice of Precious Ramotswe falls gentle on the ear’ – The New York Times Book Review

Gathering, AWe talk to Sandy about the inspiration behind the character of Precious Ramotswe, his enduring love for Botswana, and how he feels about the huge success of the series. We also chat about his love for Scottish poetry ahead of the publication of A Gathering: A Personal Anthology of Scottish Poems, a brilliant collection of his favourite Scottish Poems due to be released in September.

So, let’s all raise a cup of redbush tea to Precious and the gang, and hope for another 20 years of delightful adventures.

Vikki Reilly,
July 2018

You can read more titles by Alexander McCall Smith, find out below:

A Time of Love and Tartan
The Good Pilot, Peter Woodhouse
The Race to Kangaroo Cliff

And you can catch up on all the episodes of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature on iTunes and on Soundcloud and listen below.

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‘The Sound of My Voice’ on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature podcast

Spring has finally sprung, and it’s the perfect time to get outside with a good book! To inspire your choice, 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 finest contemporary writers, Ron Butlin. We have just published a new edition of Ron’s brilliant debut, The Sound of My Voice, a definite cult classic – famous fans include Irvine Welsh, James Robertson and Ian Rankin – and a novel that really deserves a place on your bookshelf! We’ll be talking to Ron Butlin later on in the podcast about his debut and his varied and prolific output. We round off the podcast with Ron performing a couple of his poems from The Magicians of Scotland.

Sound of My Voice, TheThe Sound of My Voice is a gem of book that looks at how we choose to live – or not – when the reality of our lives does not meet expectations. Its protagonist, Morris Magellan, has a well-paid job, a smart house and garden, a loving wife and two kids, and a raging alcohol problem. In beautifully-crafted, pin-point prose, we delve into the inner turmoil of Morris, confused about his past, particularly his relationship with his father, and unable to look forward, unless it’s to his next drink. Though the book revolves around a serious subject matter, it is full of great humour and empathy, whether we are with Morris at work in the biscuit factory or feeling every nuanced moment between him and his wife, Mary.

It’s had amazing reviews, with Butlin being compared to Saul Bellow, Franz Kafka and James Kelman, and those who have read the novel really, really love it:

‘Playful, haunting and moving, this is writing of the highest quality . . . One of the most inventive and daring novels ever to have come out of Scotland’ – Ian Rankin

‘One of the classic post-war Scottish novels. It’s simply a roaring success on all levels; it’s a genius piece of fiction’ – Irvine Welsh

‘A profound and beautifully written study of human fragility in the face of the brutalism of modern life’ – James Robertson

‘Artistic, insightful, philosophical, psychological. Above all it is human and compassionate. At its core is a kindness and an attempt at understanding the worst of times with the belief that only then can we appreciate the best of times. Few writers have the ability, and indeed, the desire to examine and understand what it means to do more than simply exist as Ron Butlin does’ – Scots Whay Hae

So, we think it’s time you should read the best Scottish novel you’ve never heard of, now that you’ve heard of it!

Vikki Reilly, May 2018

Books also mentioned in the podcast were The Magicians of Edinburgh, and Steve and Frandan Take on the World

You can listen to this episode, and catch up on previous episodes, on iTunes and on SoundCloud:

Join some of Birlinn and Polygon’s authors for this year’s Aye Write!

Aye Write! Glasgow’s Book Festival is back, starting this week and running 15-25th March 2018 and it is set to be a good one! With plenty of our amazing authors making an appearance you’re going to need some help deciding what to see…  

Peacock's Alibi

First up, musician, songwriter and novelist Stuart David will be kicking things off on Thursday 15th March at 7.45pm. His new book, Peacock’s Alibi, is a fantastic new piece of crime fiction and we can’t wait to hear more about Peacock’s brushes with the law and his new get-rich-quick scheme- an unmissable appearance at the University of Glasgow Chapel.

Memphis 68 (pbk)The following day Stuart Cosgrove takes the stage to discuss Memphis 68 The Tragedy of Southern Soul, which has recently been shortlisted for the 2018 Penderyn Music Book Prize! Don’t miss hearing all about the soundtrack to the civil rights movement on Friday 16th March 6pm at the University of Glasgow Chapel.

Moscow Calling
Writer and broadcaster Angus Roxburgh will be talking about his book Moscow Calling. The political significance of Russia is more apparent than ever and Roxburgh, with his 45 years experience, will offer a unique, insight into the quirky, crazy, exasperating, beautiful and tumultuous world that is modern Russia. You can catch this at 1.15pm on Saturday 17th March at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Storm in the Desert
Later that Saturday at 3pm Mark Mullar Stuart, senior mediator to the United Nations Department, will be at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall talking about his book, Storm in the Desert. Journalist Ruth Wishart will chair Stuart’s discussion of his book, which gives a unique insight into the world of diplomacy and power politics and the way they impact upon ordinary human lives.

Appointment in Arezzo 2A choice, however, will have to be made as Muriel Spark: A Centenary Celebration is also commencing at 3pm on Saturday. Head over to Mitchell Library to hear Alan Taylor, author of Appointment in Arezzo, joined by novelists Candia McWilliam, and Zoey Strachan discuss the literary legend that is Muriel Spark.

Dear AlfonsoBestselling author Mary Contini will be appearing at 1.15pm on Sunday 18th at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to discuss her book Dear Alfonso. Nina Caplan, author of The Wandering Vine will also be discussing her book making this an unmissable celebration of the food, wine and families of Italy.

When the Clyde Ran RedAlso on at 1.15pm on Sunday 18th is Maggie Craig discussing her new book When the Clyde Ran Red, A Social History of Red Clydeside. In this book Maggie Craig puts the politics into the social context of the times when revolution was in the air on Clydeside. Head over to the Mitchell Library to catch Maggie Craig alongside Natalie Fergie, author of the novel The Sewing Machine.

Acid AttackWeek two of AyeWrite! is set to be just as jam-packed with acclaimed investigative journalist Russell Findlay starting off the week with a discussion on his new book Acid Attack, an unflinchingly realistic portrait of Scotland’s criminal underworld at CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts 6pm Thursday 22nd March.

HebridesAlso on the Thursday 22nd will be documentary film maker Paul Murton discussing his book The Hebrides. You couldn’t ask for a better guide as Paul Murton has spent half-a lifetime exploring Scotland’s incredible rugged, six-thousand-mile coast line. Join Paul at 7.45pm at Mitchell Library.

Ghost of Helen AddisonThe Ghost of Helen Addison is the upcoming mystery novel by Charles McGarry The Ghost of Helen Addison sees private detective, avowed gourmet and wine connoisseur, Leo Moran drawn into the investigation of the ritualistic murder of a young woman in rural Argyll. McGarry will be joined at Mitchell Library by Glasgow crime authors Alan Parks and Ian Skewis on Saturday 24th March at 1.15pm

Clyde Mapping the RiverLast, but certainly not least, who better to discuss, arguably, the most evocative of Scottish rivers than John Moore? His book, Mapping the Clyde discusses how the river was mapped from its earliest depictions and includes such topics as navigation, river crossings, war and defence, tourism, sport and recreation, industry and power and urban development. Join John Moore on Saturday 24th March at Mitchell Library, 1.15pm and take a trip ‘doon the watter’.

With so many amazing authors you really are spoilt for choice, but don’t spend too long deciding! Get your tickets and find out more at the Aye Write! website now!