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  • Alistair Braidwood

Edinburgh Book Festival 2016: The SWH! One-A-Day Guide…

For many people, today’s the day that Edinburgh’s Festivities really kick in with the first day of the

For 16 days Charlotte Square Gardens becomes an oasis of relative sanity and calm in a city gone pleasingly potty.

This year’s programme is as rich and diverse as ever. However, there is often the problem as to who to see on any given day, especially as, at this late stage, many of the ‘headline’ events are sold out.

If you aren’t one of those organised people who book their festivals with military precision, or if you happen to find yourself in Edinburgh with time on your hands, then the Scots Whay Hae! one-a-day guide is just for you with a suggestion for each day of the festival (tickets still available at the time of writing).

13th – Edward Ross

Comic book artist, writer and illustrator, Edward Ross has created something special in his fantastic voyage through cinema. Filmish looks at the ideas behind famous movies; at big issues such as censorship and at great directors like Hitchcock and Tarantino. The book takes the form of a graphic novel, taking a visual approach to serious filmic challenges like time, propaganda and different ways of looking. 

Victoria Hendry’s debut novel, A Capital Union, received plaudits from the likes of Alan Warner and Manda Scott, telling the story of Scottish nationalism during the Second World War. It is a different war which features in her latest novel, The Last Tour of Archie Forbes, which brings the impact of global conflict onto the streets of Edinburgh with a compassionate account of PTSD and one man’s fight to survive in austerity Britain.

15th – Metaphrog

Graphic novelist duo Metaphrog return to the Book Festival with their highly-acclaimed retelling of some of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic stories, The Red Shoes and Other Tales. Hear them talk about what it takes to turn fairy tales into compelling comics, watch them recreate some of their lavish illustrations, and pick up some tips for creating a comic book of your own.

Two Edinburgh-based writers discuss fast-moving historical adventures, featuring intriguing women at their heart. Sara Sheridan gives us On Starlit Seas in which a celebrated 1820s writer leaves a civil war-ravaged Brazil for England. Lucy Ribchester’s follow-up to The Hourglass Factory is The Amber Shadows, a pacey wartime tale of a Bletchley Park typist who finds herself embroiled in murder and intrigue.

17th – A.L. Kennedy

In her first novel for five years, the wildly talented A L Kennedy has produced a tale profoundly in tune with our times. Serious Sweet is a love story that brings together a good-hearted civil servant who can no longer bear the unmentionable acts perpetrated by the government, and a bankrupt accountant – ‘two words you don’t want anywhere near your CV’. An unforgettably moving story that unfolds over 24 life-changing hours, which she discusses with Viv Groskop.

If there’s a future for shorter fiction in the UK, it might well reside in the work of these two gifted writers. East Belfast provides the backdrop for many of the stories in Jan Carson’s collection Children’s Children, with a particular focus on social divides in Northern Ireland. Manchester-based Lara Williams has produced Treats, a gift of a collection which explores love, sex and alienation in the 21st century.

In the wake of her rapturously received debut novel, The Panopticon, Edinburgh-based Jenni Fagan presents The Dead Queen of Bohemia, a new collection of poems from across her career. Andrew McMillan’s debut poetry collection, Physical, won last year’s Guardian First Book Award and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. His work has been described by fellow poet Helen Mort as ‘alive with subtle reflections on masculinity.

The much-missed William McIlvanney didn’t care for the phrase Tartan Noir, but his work paved the way for a vibrant crimewriting scene in Scotland. Two of the most exciting new talents are Neil Broadfoot (described by Magnus Linklater as ‘the one to watch’) and Michael J Malone (who, according to Douglas Skelton ‘delivers a belter of a yarn’). Join them to hear about Broadfoot’s All the Devils and Malone’s Bad Samaritan. Belters, both.

For years he’s been regarded as one of Scotland’s best-loved and funniest crimewriters, but Chris Brookmyre’s critical reputation has also steadily grown over that same period and now he counts among the best-respected writers in his field. With Black Widow, Brookmyre bravely strides into new political territory with a thriller that takes in sexism in the workplace, revenge porn and internet trolling.

Marjorie Lotfi Gill and Claire Urquhart from Open Book, a charity that organises shared reading groups, explore the short stories of James Kelman. Often very short in length, Kelman’s stories present vivid fragments or brief moments that point to the isolation and powerlessness of the working class. No previous knowledge of Kelman’s short stories is necessary to enjoy this workshop. There will be an open discussion from the start.

The debate over Scottish independence shows no signs of easing in a year when our parliamentary election has been dominated by debates over Britain’s future in Europe. Malcolm Harvey and Michael Keating, co-authors of Small Nations in a Big World, place independence squarely back on the agenda as they discuss the Nordic and Baltic states – and the valuable lessons they offer Scotland as it ponders its future. Chaired by Magnus Linklater.

Part of the The Scotland We’re Shaping series of events.

24th – Tom Gauld

‘Living on the moon? What were we thinking?’ The lunar colony is winding down and the last cop’s beat is getting steadily smaller. In the plaintive, pared-back style of his popular Guardian cartoons, Tom Gauld’s new graphic novel Mooncop is a story that beautifully captures the personal realities facing a dying community. A witty, melancholy adventure that confirms Gauld as a star of British graphic novels.

Devastating fictions can be woven out of events that are only too real. In 1988, the Piper Alpha oil platform exploded off the coast of Aberdeen, killing 167 people. The Waves Burn Bright is Japan-based Aberdonian Iain Maloney’s moving novelisation of a tragedy that blew families apart. The subjects of Irish novelist Glenn Patterson’s Gull are an iconic gull-wing car built in troubled west Belfast, and its creator, the entrepreneur and conman John DeLorean.

The notable Channel 4 broadcaster and BBC football pundit rarely avoids the opportunity to obsess over his favourite music. In Young Soul Rebels, Stuart Cosgrove recounts the fascinating story of Northern Soul, weaving his own personal history into the biography of venues such as Wigan Casino and Blackpool Mecca. In today’s event he gamely compares his favoured musical subculture with the likes of mod, punk and rave.

Kevin MacNeil’s The Brilliant & Forever is the Lewis-born writer’s satirical third novel, featuring three best friends – two human, one alpaca – competing for glory at a Hebridean literary festival. Meanwhile, leading Flemish novelist Peter Verhelst presents The Man I Became, a heart-warming fable about human relations narrated by a gorilla. Both are immaculately insightful fables for our strange times.

Two doppelgänger Belgian exiles are on the run in Tom Lanoye’s latest novel, Fortunate Slaves. When they finally meet they realise that each could hold the solution to the other’s problems. James Yorkston is familiar as one of Scotland’s finest singer-songwriters and he turns his storytelling skills to new use in his debut novel, Three Craws, a gorgeously atmospheric, quirky story of broken dreams and longing.

David F Ross discusses The Rise & Fall of the Miraculous Vespas, a deeply human tale of rivalries, music and confused adolescence set in small-town Scotland, accompanied by an exclusive single written by Bobby Bluebell. Songs About a Girl by writer and musician Chris Russell is a novel of first love, paparazzi, backstage bickering, pop music and the power of teenage obsessions. Join them for music and words.

Part of the Music and Meaning series of events.

That’s our picks of 2016, but there is lots more on offer, and you can keep up with all things bookish by following the Festival on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

p.s. As a wee treat for reading all the way down here, Zoe Howe is also in town on the 29th to talk about her terrific book on the late Lee Brilleaux, Rock and Roll Gentlemen. Brilleaux, as any fule kno, was the lead singer with the great Dr Feelgood, whose guitarist, Wilko Johnson, is also at this year’s festival. When all of that is added together it gives the perfect excuse to show them in their prime. This is ‘She Does It Right’:


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