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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:

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.