Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Bells! The Bells!...Scots Whay Hae's Hogmanay Treat 2011



As Mr Scott once more raises his bottle to the promise of a New Year and a celebration of the old here's a couple of songs that just missed out on being in the Scots Whay Hae's Greatest Scottish album...ever. First off are the mighty Rezillos with Destination Venus and one of the best openings to any song:




Next up is the song which was the most painful ommision from the list. This is The Associates and Party Fears Two, and tonight I'll be going out dressed like Alan Rankine; head to toe in white, including gloves, with chopsticks in my hair (if only):



Finally, an admission that I completeley forgot to include James Yorkston, something which highlights just how pointless such lists are. This is one of his very best and it's called When The Haar Rolls In:


Happy New Year everybody! X

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Some End of Year Monkey Buisness: The 10th Scots Whay Hae! Podcast...

You wait for one podcast, and then two etc... Following swiftly on the heels of podcast number 9 logically comes number 10. There was the promise of special guests but bad weather and illness meant that it was down to Ali and Chris, with the help of Ian, to talk about their best stuff of 2011. Over the period of an hour and seventeen minutes there is talk about the best in film, DVD, literature, non-fiction, music, theatre, and even a game recommendation, a first for us, thanks to the controversial missive received from the sick bed of Ronnie Young.

Although no drink had been taken, at least not initially, there are a few gaffs and inadvertent guffaws to spot. There's a little bit of disagreement, and quite a lot of indignant rage, but at all times things are well mannered if a little potty mouthed. If you fancy listening to yet another end of year 'best of 2011' list (and I won't blame you if you don't) then you can do so by listening to the  Scots Whay Hae! podcast on iTunes  or on RSS. This podcast is supposed to be an alternative to the usual end of year lists, but if you like those (and I certainly do) then you'll find one or two elsewhere on these pages. If you agree or disagree with any of it we'd love to know.

Which other podcasts would reference William Faulkner, Denis Law, Malcom McDowell, Frank McAvennie, The Mighty Thor, King Crimson, Liz Lochhead and Brian Eno? Not many, but maybe there's a reason for that. To find out if it all makes sense in the end you'll have to risk a listen. In the meantime, and as a bit of a taster, here's a song from one of the albums under discussion. From King Creosote and Jon Hopkins' album Diamond Mine this is Your Own Spell:



Hope you've enjoyed Scots Whay Hae! in 2011. We promise you more of the same, as well as something a little different, for 2012.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Festive Message: It's The Year in Scots Whay Hae! Podcast...

The 9th podcast is out now and is a wee Festive special that looks back over the year in Scots Whay Hae! Picking a highlight from every month Ali yammers on for half an hour and attempts to remember what order the months fall in, while the mysterious and enigmatic Ian G breaks his vow of silence and chips in.

You can listen to the Scots Whay Hae! podcast on iTunes or on RSS. The best of 2011 podcast, where Ian, Ali and Chris will be joined by familiar faces to talk about their favourite stuff from the last year, is going to be recorded after Christmas and should be with you before the New Year. But, if you need to have a break from the family, or don't fancy the Queen, then podcast no 9 should do the trick. Have fabulous festivities wherever you are. To help you on the way here's a Winter classic. This is Aztec Camera and Walk Out To Winter:

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Now Hear This: It's The Top Five Songs of the Year...

This is the second of the Scots Whay Hae! annual end of year roundups and is simply my favourite songs of the year which may have passed you by. It doesn't include tracks from the better known acts who released material, or any of the folk who will feature in the best albums of the year list, so there is no Moffat, Creosote or others you may expect to appear. If you're havering for an album countdown right now then this years BAMS are out for you to argue over at Peenko's place. There will be a top 5 albums of 2011 here soon, but that's for another day.

Most of this list comes from those nice folk who have sent music to Scots Whay Hae! over the last year, and I thank everyone who did. If you didn't get a mention then it would be because I didn't have time to do so, or it just wasn't my cup of tea, but everything gets a listen. I would say that the following are in no particular order, but there is one song which I fell in love with over all others. Mummy Short Arms won wide acclaim for the single Chance, but nothing bettered their summer release Cigarette Smuggling which remains my song of the year. Have a listen:



There were a couple of bands who sadly split this year deserving of a mention in dispatches. One was Come On Gang who left us with the fabulous album Strike a Match to remember them by. Then there was the mighty YAK (aka You Already Know) who played one of my favourite gigs of the year at The Cathouse and released the album Petrol Money, then, like that, they were gone. From Petrol Money this is Let's Fuck and it is a heavenly slice of noise:



I said this wasn't about albums, but it is Christmas so here is one of my tracks of the year with the rest of the album thrown in with it. Dalyrimple Goes Wrong is Daniel Parry and he recorded these songs over 5 days, which is almost unbelievable. The album, which pushed many of my musical buttons, is called For Shut Eyes and if I had to chose a favourite track it would be It Stinks in Here Like Fetid Brains, but it is when you listen to the album as a whole that it makes the most sense. It's one long favourite track, and if you think that's cheating then, as Pitt the Younger once said, 'poo to you with knobs on':




One of my favourite new discoveries this year was Arran Arctic who released his latest album In My Hands in Spring. I was delighted to find that there was a significant back catalogue to explore. This track is the beautiful Interrupt Me, and if you listen to it on You Tube there is a huge clue as to why this appeals. On the right of the page are over ten recommendations for Mark Kozelek songs. Kozelek is one of my favourite singer/songwriters of all time, but Arran Arctic is my latest flame and deserves such comparisons. This is ruddy gorgeous:



The final choice is from a band who featured in November's round up so it may be fresh in your mind, but I make no apologies for including it here. It's a track which sums up a year when rhythm in guitar music made a strong comeback to blow the cobwebs away. This is By The Fire by Blank Canvas:



That's it for a bumper year. Those just bubbling under were The Seventeenth Century, Honey, Silent Forest, Prince Edward Island, The Darien Venture, Miniature Dinosaurs, Randolph's Leap and many more. Can't wait to hear how 2012 will progress, it's got a lot to live up to.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Booker Prize: The Top Five Books of the Year...

It's that time of year where people obsessed with lists get to share. First up are the Scots Whay Hae! books of the year. There are two great novels, a debut collection of short stories, an autobiography that is so much more and a collection of poetry. Something for everyone.

First off is The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy which continued a run of incredible writing following on from her previous novels Paradise and Day. You can read the full review of The Blue Book here but the digested assessment follows:

'The novel is a love story, but what unfolds is a tale which is an unconventional exegesis on human nature and which attempts to answer 1980's electro-pop pixie Howard Jones' question; 'what is love anyway?'. As usual Kennedy manages to walk a fine line between scepticism and hope, an act which is difficult to pull off without appearing non committal, especially when dealing with something as abstract as love, but by giving no easy answers she ultimately lets the reader decide for themselves'.

Next is Allan Wilson's Wasted in Love. Every now and then someone comes along and makes everyone sit up and take notice. This year there was Mummy Short Arms in music, more of which to come, and then there was new writer Allan Wilson. I first encountered his work in one of last year's best books, The Year of Open Doors, where his story 'The End' stood its own amongst more famous names. You can read my full review of Wasted in Love here but if you don't have the time this gives you the gist:

'Wasted in Love is all about the writing. There are glimpses into lives and relationships which are dissected with a surgeon's precision. Wilson understands people; their hopes, dreams, insecurities and fears. He knows what makes people tick, and what makes them fall apart and touches upon the good, bad and ugly sides to human nature confronting all three with great honesty. There is often a tenderness to be found in difficult circumstances, the belief that love, either given or received, holds the possibility for salvation. Unfortunately, for some, that love is wasted'.

If you want to hear Allan talking about life as a writer and much more he was interviewed on the 4th Scots Whay Hae! podcast.

Kevin MacNeil featured in this list last year with his novel The Method Actor's Guide to Jekyll and Hyde, but this year sees him appear as editor rather than writer. These Islands, We Sing is a superb anthology of the best poetry from the Scottish islands. If you love poetry of any kind then you should have this handsome volume of your shelves. If you still know people who claim that Scottish literature is nothing more than English literature in an accent or in dialect then this is the book from the last 12 months that proves how misguided that view is. There was a full review back in August but here's a potted version:

'Kevin MacNeil states his belief that 'Scotland's island literature is ever evolving'. On this evidence, and when you consider the recent novels from the likes of Karin Altenberg, Robert Alan Jamieson, Richard Neath and not least MacNeil himself, this seems evidently true. I would suggest that this is yet further proof that Scottish literature is similarly in a state of evolution, and this celebration of the poetry from one of Scotland's most misunderstood and under-represented cultures adds further fuel to that apparently unstoppable fire'.

Ali Smith's There but for the was accused by some of being too close in style and content to her previous novel The Accidental. I can understand this as there is another mysterious stranger who changes the people's lives he comes into contact with, but if you couldn't get past this to enjoy and immerse yourself in the great characters and beautiful use of language which are Smith's trademarks then I think the problem may not lie with the writer. There are passages which are painfully poignant and which stay with you long after the final page is turned. There but for the does not repeat themes from The Accidental, but rather works as an accompanying text highlighting how Smith brings magic onto the page and into our lives. Here's a taste of the initial review:

'Smith loves language, and plays with it with more style and ease than any other writer I can think off. But Smith's mastery of language is only half the story, she has a wonderful ability to create characters who stay with you after the last page has turned, and often manages to do so within only a few paragraphs. Like Brooke (a young female character in the novel) she is in thrall to the power of words, and also shares the youngster's love of puns, similes and allusion all of which can give the illusion that the story which unfolds is surreal, but that's because once more Ali Smith has managed to tell a story with more beauty, wit and understated skill than we are used to and have any right to expect'.

I'm going to cheat a little bit now as Alasdair Gray's A Life in Pictures was actually published at the end of last year; but since it won The Saltire Prize this year, after some toing and froing, I think I'm justified in including it. It is one of the most important books of recent years in that it shows and tells the life and influences of one of Scotland's greatest writers and artists, and now you can pick it up for less than £20. You can read the full review here but here's an extract:

'If A Life in Pictures tells us one thing it's that the great artists are not famous for 15 minutes, theirs is a lifetime project. This is a book that shows and tells, and more than any book of recent times reminds us that art and life are inseparable. You could have had the words without the pictures, or vice versa, but both lift the other to mean more than they would have otherwise'.

You can buy all of these books at the Scots Whay Hae! Bookshop or from all good bookstores, wherever you may find them. Coming soon will be the top five songs of the year.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

You Have Been Watching...The Inheritance

There's little I enjoy more than discovering a film which had passed me by. I remember rumours of a  road movie with a tiny budget being filmed around 2006/7 but thought little about it. However, recently I got a copy of The Inheritance on DVD and realised this was that film. I was really excited as I sat down to watch it. What followed was one of the oddest experiences I have had in front of a screen.

The Inheritance is a tale of David and Fraser, two estranged brothers, played by Tim Barrow and Fraser Sivewright, who are reunited at the funeral of their father and who go on the road to Skye with the promise of collecting their inheritance. On the way they pick up hitchhiker Tara, played by Imogen Toner, and the film, and the brothers, continue towards the fairly predictable end. It is how the film is constructed rather than in the plot that the real drama lies.

It is a film of lovely highs and terrible lows. Directed by Charles Henri Belleville, who obviously knows how to use a camera, the look of the film is always interesting, and at times moving. The burning of a drawing in an open fire, the use of landscape and the claustrophobic tension in the camper van are all great examples to filmmakers as to how to create atmosphere simply. The soundtrack is quite beautiful, reminding me of children's TV classic The Box of Delights (which still gets dug out every Christmas to watch with my brother). It is the perfect accompaniment to Belleville's visuals.

The problems are in the acting and dialogue. When they are as bad as this then you are left with a film with major flaws. The banter between the two brothers is obviously supposed to be strained, but is so bad that it almost becomes surreal, bearing little relation to what the other is saying as if someone had skipped a page in the script. Some of the dialogue is aiming to be postmodern in the manner of early Tarantino, with a chat about macaroni pies the most glaring example, but it never really engages and just appears forced and stilted. The appearance of Tara is the first real dramatic diversion, but although she is obviously supposed to come between the two, there is no tangible relationship to break up.

Fraser Sivewright and Imogen Toner struggle manfully with the dialogue, but Tim Barrow, who is also the writer so has no excuse, gives a performance so nuts that it ruins any chance the film has of success. It is no more than the script deserves, but his random shouting, weird interjections and constant baiting of his brother all add up to his being the most annoying on screen character since Rosie Perez in White Men Can't Jump. David is someone who likes his drugs and drink, but the overacting is something which Nicolas Cage at his most excessive would blanch at. By the end, when matters are supposed to be reaching a dramatic conclusion, I was trying to think what Barrow's performance reminded me of. It was the the BBC documentary following Tourettes sufferer John Davidson entitled John's Not Mad.  David, and Barrower, have no such excuse.

Here's the trailer:



The real surprise in The Inheritance is the brief appearance of Tom Hardy as the brothers' father, and he is the best thing by a mile. Shot in black and white and close up Hardy manages to steal the film in a matter of minutes. He has gone on to be one of the most charismatic screen presences around, with his performance in Bronson particularly astonishing, but he has also been standout as Bill Sikes in 2007's TV version of Oliver Twist, as Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights and as Eames in Inception. He is going to be Bane in the final instalment of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy The Dark Night Rises, a role which could place him in the pantheon of screen icons. You can experience his appeal in this interview he gave about the making of The Inheritance



I'm always loathe to overly criticise any film that gets made on such a small budget (reportedly around £5000, which is the most amazing thing about it) and as I say there are redeeming features, but it would be remiss of me to pretend that The Inheritance isn't tragically flawed. On the cover of the DVD there is a quote which claims the film is Little Miss Sunshine meets The Blue Brothers. I sympathise with that reviewer who obviously struggled to come up with a relevant comparison, but it is not in any way like either of those films, except that it features two brothers in a camper van. However, there is the premise for, and the promise of, an interesting film here. It touches on the themes of the classic Greek tragedies, but by the end not only do you not care about the brothers, you're kind of glad that it ends as it does.

When weighing up the pluses and minuses I come to the conclusion that this would have a made a really interesting silent movie. The scenes that work are when the two travel in silence and the music and visuals come together to create real atmosphere, and there would have been tension in discovering just where the road was taking the brothers and the audience. Unfortunately as what is going to happen is explained to us in the manner of talking to children, and in A VERY LOUD VOICE, any possibility of dramatic tension is destroyed. It is the missed opportunity that is the real tragedy of The Inheritance.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Joining the Dots: The Celtic Connections Preview...

Next year's Celtic Connections starts on the 19th January, but as usual I like to give a heads up as to some of the highlights so that you can hopefully get your hands on some tickets before they disappear. This is probably the biggest festival that Glasgow hosts, and it just seems to get bigger year on year. 

There are nights celebrating the life and work of Gerry Rafferty and Woody Guthrie, the appearance of true musical legends such as Jack Bruce, The Average White Band, Janis Ian, the great June Tabor and, stop the press, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Add to that bands as diverse as The Punch Brothers, Admiral Fallow, The Unthanks, Cornershop, Airdrie legends The Big Dish,  The Singing Land and then consider the famous Transatlantic Sessions and there is little doubt that, as usual, you could blow the money set aside for such trifles as food and heat with ease. These are just a few of the people I would want to, and hopefully will, see.

First is one of my musical heroes. I love everything Will Oldham does, and Sunday the 29th January sees Bonnie Prince Billy at the Old Fruitmarket. From the latest album Wolfroy Goes to Town this is Quail and Dumplings:



Next is a bit of 1990s nostalgia (is that a thing) in the form of Colin MacIntyre and his Mull Historical Society. He made two of my favourite albums of the early 90s, and although he has been on the go since these are the two that I still play today. He is going to be at the ABC on the 3rd February supported by the excellent Washington Irving. From 2001's Loss, this is Watching Xanadu:



How much did I like Stereolab? A lot is the correct answer, and Laetitia Sadier is going to be at Platform on the 21st January, ably supported by Jo Mango. From last year's The Trip this is Ceci Est Le Couer and is Sadier effortlessly making beautiful music:


Here's another musical crush. Laura Veirs was one of last year's highlights and I don't see any reason why this year will be any different. She'll be at The Arches on the 3rd February, making it difficult choice for who to see that night. From 2010's album July Flame this is I Can See Your Tracks:


Another act playing The Arches (2nd Feb) is Johnathon Wilson who is the current darling of the beardy music mags, but that's no reason to dismiss him (I'm a beardy music lover myself). If your expecting no nonsense Americana then you are in for a surprise and a treat. As an example this is Desert Raven and it's ace:


I'm going to end with one of those legends I mentioned at the top. It's freezing outside and been blowing a storm, so here is the ultimate in aural warmth from Martha and the Vandellas who are going to be at The Arches on the 29th January, a show which should be sensational. Of course this is Heatwave:



Something to look forward to in the New Year, and remember to let me know if you have any spares.

You Have Been Watching...The Rocket Post.

The Rocket Post is a film which harks back to earlier, more innocent, days of Whisky Galore!, The Maggie, I Know Where I'm Going and The Edge of the World. All of these films are well loved and continue to find new audiences. So why did The Rocket Post, released in 2004, pass by almost unnoticed? When you take into consideration a cast which includes Patrick Malahide, Shauna MacDonald, Kevin McKidd, Ulrich Thompson, Clive Russell, John Wood and Eddie Marsen, a man who is making a claim to be one of the best actors at work today, it becomes even more of a mystery.

Admittedly the story is slight, but then so are many of those classics mentioned above. Set on the Isle of Scarp just before the outbreak of The Second World War, although filmed on Taransay, it is set in a time and place which has rarely been dealt with in recent years as Scotland's darker side has dominated cinema screens. Perhaps audiences were put off by this relative unfamiliarity and the unfashionable tone, but there are enough quirky and unusual aspects to The Rocket Post to make it of interest.
 
As far as the cast is concerned, they too are a mixed bag. Gary Shaw is the best thing on show, revelling in this role as Jimmy (but of course) the gallus Glaswegian welder turned poacher who gives his lines a gusto which they barely deserve. Another strong turn comes from Eddie Marsan. If you know Marsan from Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky, or from this year’s Tyrannosaur (the most visceral experience of my cinema going year) then it is easy to forget his range. Here he plays Heinz Dombrowsky, our hero Gerhard Zucker's assistant, who feels his loyalties to his employee and those to his home country shift as it becomes clear that war is inevitable. Shauna Macdonald, who was equally good in a far more demanding role in Irvine Welsh's Wedding Belles, is perfect as the feisty and headstrong Catriona, but there is little doubt that the rest of the cast are poorly served, particularly Kevin McKidd who is Catriona's childhood sweetheart and whose stoic acceptance of her change of heart never convinces.

The problem is that everyone is a stereotype which we have seen done better before. Shaw, Macdonald and Marsen manage to make their characters more than one-dimensional, but everyone else struggles. Malahide's Machiavellian government spook is underused and John Wood's Sir Wilson Ramsay pales alongside Basil Radford's Captain Wagett from Whisky Galore! on whom he is obviously based. The leading man Ulrich Thompson sums up the films central problem. Like the film, he doesn't know what he is supposed to be. He is not sure if he is in a war movie or a love story. The film is similarly schizophrenic. It starts out as a political thriller, then swiftly moves towards the slightly awkward love story, before a breathless, and moving, finale that is more The Great Escape than Whisky Galore! Considering what has gone before, the hard hitting ending is a surprise. This directorial confusion makes a little more sense when you discover that the film started shooting in 2001, yet wasn't finished and released until 2004 with some scenes added on at a later date. Overall there is the feeling of a missed opportunity, but it's no where near the worse film featured on these pages (step forward The Match and Burke and Hare). If this was on TV on a lazy afternoon with the rain battering the window then it would life my spirits, and sometimes that's enough. Here's the trailer:


Perhaps the most striking aspect of The Rocket Post is that it is based closely on the true story of the real Gerhard Zucker, a German rockateer who was billeted on Scarpa to build a rocket post, and was still building rockets in the 1970s. The story of the Island of Taransay is also worth reflecting on. The last inhabitants left the island in 1974 and it is now the largest uninhabited island off the West Coast of Scotland. These real life dramas should have made for a more engaging film. Maybe, one day, they will.

Monday, 5 December 2011

An Interview with Louise Welsh...It's The 8th Scots Whay Hae! podcast

As if you didn't suspect it already, this week proved that there are few better ways to spend a morning than talking to novelist Louise Welsh. We gabbed about her writing, other writers, the importance of childhood reading, silent movies, the enduring love for Asterix and a lot more besides. You can hear the chat now as it is time for the eighth Scots Whay Hae! podcast, the slender excuse for our meeting.

I'm sure you are well aware of Louise's fiction, she is one of the best and most engaging writers at work today, but if you have not yet dipped a toe into the delightfully murky waters of Welsh then I hope this will encourage you to have a go. I would suggest The Cutting Room as the best place to start, but we discuss all her novels so you can make your own mind up as to which you think would suit you best. If you like your writing pitch black and gothic then she has to be on your shelves.

You can listen and subscribe to the podcast at Scots Whay Hae! at iTunes or Scots Whay Hae! by RSS and if you want to get in touch about anything Scots Whay Hae! you can email us at scotswhayhae@gmail.com

The next podcast is likely to be the end of year round up where regular contributors Chris, Kirsty and Ronnie will join Ali to to talk about there own particular highs and lows of 2011. There may even be a special guest!

In the meantime, here is Ali's review of The Cutting Room which first appeared in May of 2010 over at Dear Scotland :
                                                                                   *
Indelible Ink : The Cutting Room

Indelible Ink : The Cutting Room

At last year’s Edinburgh Book Festival (2009) James Kelman complained that genre fiction was being packaged and promoted to the detriment of ‘literary’ fiction, such as, by coincidence, his own. His argument was that we don’t properly celebrate and engage with the country’s ‘difficult’ literature preferring the comfort of genre. He is reported to have claimed that if Scotland had an equivalent of the Nobel Prize for literature we would give it to a writer of ‘detective fiction or else some kind of child writer’, by which I assume he means a writer of children’s fiction rather than the writing of a child.

Of course Kelman knew that his outburst would receive publicity, and the real target of his rage was the booksellers and they way they choose to promote fiction. It was not necessarily directed at the writers themselves, although it did hint at an artistic snobbery that is not like the man. I know that he was just shouting his corner, but such accusations suggest that genre fiction is not of literary worth. This is clearly not true as any reader of Conan Doyle, Poe, Chandler or Bradbury would acknowledge. Louise Welsh’s fiction, which at first inspection may appear to belong to the ‘thriller’ genre, gives the reader so much more.

‘The Cutting Room’ is a stunning debut novel. It is noir in every sense of the word. It is worth quoting critic George Tuttle here who explains noir with the following description; ‘the protagonist is usually not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. He is someone tied directly to the crime, not an outsider called to solve or fix the situation. Other common characteristics are the emphasis on sexual relationships and the use of sex to advance the plot and the self-destructive qualities of the lead characters.’ All of these apply to ‘The Cutting Room’.

Welsh’s novel is dark, dirty, dangerous and erotic with a gothic sensibility that excites and unsettles. Welsh manages to create real tension throughout, and in the central character of Rilke, Welsh has created one of Scottish literature’s most memorable men. Here is an intellectual, lonely man who finds brief solace in drink and casual sexual encounters, a man whose strong sense of right and wrong draw him into places he would rather avoid, but where he is ultimately comfortable. There are echoes of Mr Hyde, or even James Hogg’s Robert Wringham, in his character as he lives a life that exists mainly in the dark, and is drawn to the seedy and dangerous. What makes him different from those characters is that Rilke is perfectly aware of the life he leads. There is no room for self denial in his life.

The sex scenes are graphic, although I don’t think gratuitous, and are self referential as to some they will be seen as pornographic, and questions about society’s relationship to sex, and particularly sexual imagery, are central to the novel. The apparent dichotomy about being attracted to, but disgusted by, the sexual, and the nature of taboo, are important themes which are to the fore in ‘The Cutting Room’. Rilke’s homosexuality is not used as a twist, but it is vital to the novel and allows further comment on the hypocrisy involved in how sex is viewed by the majority of society. Welsh reminds us that one person’s titillation will be another’s filth.

Louise Welsh uses the discovery of pornography at a dead man’s house as the catalyst to the mystery of the novel and this lends it a feel of deceit and deception right from the beginning. The reader is made aware that this novel will expose double lives and dark secrets. I don’t want to go into the plot here, it is a thriller after all, but I should mention just how well Louise Welsh writes. For a novel that could have been riddled with cliché she manages to appeal to those who understand the noir/gothic genres, while also allowing more literary references. Like Rilke, Welsh feels at home in the darker corners of her fictional world, but there is also the sense that there is much more going on in that world. This sense is confirmed in her second and third novels ‘Tamburlaine Must Die’ and ‘The Bullet Trick’. Make no mistake; this is clever, poetic writing that manages to be tough and lyrical at the same time.

Glasgow is very much part of ‘The Cutting Room’, and Welsh takes us from the leafy West End which most people who know the city will be familiar with, to the darker corners of Glasgow that most would avoid. Welsh has that underrated ability to make her settings so real that the reader can visualise, if not the exact location, then one very like it. Welsh takes us on a tour of the city, naming the streets, parks and buildings as she does so. If you wanted to, and I doubt most people would, you could literally follow in Rilke’s footsteps.

Scotland’s ageing cities are the perfect locations for darker drama, and they have been put to good use in fictions such as Denise Mina’s ‘Garnethill’, Alan Grant’s comic book series ‘The Bogie Man’, David Kane’s Dundonian TV thriller ‘Jute City’, John Byrne’s ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’, Michael Caton Jones’ TV adaptation of Frederick Lindsay’s ‘Brond’ and numerous detective fiction from William McIllvaney’s ‘Laidlaw’ through ‘Rebus’ and even including ‘Taggart’. If James Kelman really believes that genre fiction is taking the food from his mouth then he is fighting a losing battle.

Louise Welsh’s latest novel ‘Naming the Bones’ has just been published and should be in a bookshop near you. Again she writes a male narrative voice with the bookworm Murray Watson the central character. I’m fascinated by writers whose best work comes when writing from a different gender perspective than their own, and in awe of them as when it goes wrong it can do so spectacularly. All of Welsh’s novels feature a male narrator, and every one of them is a convincing character. It’s interesting that Alan Warner, whose best work includes the previously featured ‘Morvern Callar’ as well as ‘These Demented Lands’ and the female ensemble ‘The Sopranos’, is returning to the characters in the latter book for his new novel. But that is for another day.

Alistair