Author Archives: Birlinn

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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!

What is your love story

A Human Love Story – Journeys to the Heart

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we thought, what better way to celebrate than by sharing some love stories. Matt Hopwood, author of a Human Love Story – Journeys to the Heart, has written a blog piece here telling us about his journey from Lindisfarne to the Isle of Lewis, gathering people’s stories of love. He selected 34 of those stories for you to share in his book that is being published on the 14th of February.

A HUMAN LOVE STORY FRONTA Human Love Story

Since A Human Love Story began in 2011 I have walked thousands of miles through the United Kingdom and beyond sharing love stories with local people. During that time I have told and retold my love story to strangers; on the path, in the streets, towns and villages I pass through. And in those exchanges I have sought to create a safe space, where an individual can be heard, can speak his or her story, and where they have an opportunity to open up and be vulnerable. This is my heart-led activism in the world. It is my compassionate practice.

500 Miles Through Scotland

In the spring months of 2017 my journeying brought me to Scotland. I walked some 500 miles from Lindisfarne in the North Eastern corner of England to the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis, far out in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Scotland. Along the way I sought hospitality, a bed for the night, food, shelter, a welcome. I moved as a stranger through the land looking for connection, searching out the narratives that shape this part of the world. As ever, I sought to connect with people through the stories of their heart; those stories of love that have formed their human experience profoundly. I met with folk on the path, in the pub, by the shore, in the cities and in the villages. We spent time listening to each others stories, opening up a little, shedding some tears, testing our vulnerabilities, exploring our truths.

Human Love Story SingleThe Book – ‘Journeys to the Heart’

Since that walk I have spent time editing together a collection of the stories I shared during those early months of 2017. They are now brought together in the book A Human Love Story – Journeys to the Heart. They are for you to read and share. They are not perfect: but they are perfect. They do not resolve, begin or end as fictional stories might. They start where we found ourselves meeting on that day; with those experiences we were going through at the time. Each story reflects an experience of love and connection. They explore our desires to be heard and seen, and touched and wanted; our desire to belong. They express the importance of ‘home’, of ‘welcome’ and ‘connection’. They are sad, joyful, ecstatic, hard, glorious, life-long and momentary. In a sense they are universal stories and could have been heard anywhere around the world, because in the end we are all lovers and hermits, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, migrants and refugees. We are all lost and all found.

What are your stories of love and connection? How do you belong? What does ‘home’ mean for you?

Matt Hopwood

You can get your hands on a pre-publication copy here! There is also an enhanced eBook available, click here to get your hands on a download.