Ten for 2022: Books To Look Out For In The Coming Year...
2021 was a great year for Scottish writing with books of all genres, shapes, and sizes making their mark, many of which were reviewed and discussed on these pages. But instead of looking back we are going to take a glance into the future to bring you ten titles which will be published in the early months of 2022, and they promise great things for the year ahead.
Click the titles to buy or pre-order the books.
In SWH!'s words, “and the publishers”.
Imogen Stirling is one of the finest performance poets around today, with her show #Hypocrisy selling out at the Edinburgh Fringe and longlisted for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award, with the script published by Speculative Books. Her new book, and Love The Sinner is a modern retelling of the seven deadly sins, and will premiere as a stage show later in 2022.
“Love The Sinner is the second collection from poet and theatre-maker, Imogen Stirling. Swooping from the mundane to the immense, Stirling’s long-form poetry weaves narratives of human experience. A loose alliance of extraordinary and unextraordinary characters struggle to comprehend their identities in a world bladed with criticism and obsessed with self-betterment.”
It’s been 20 years since readers were introduced not only to the arresting writing of Louise Welsh, but also arguably her greatest creation, the enigmatic and irascible Rilke. Both are back with The Second Cut, a novel which brings us right up to date in a Glasgow which may look as if it has changed, but, in Rilke’s world, many things stay the same. This is noir as it is meant to be.
“Auctioneer Rilke has been trying to stay out of trouble, keeping his life more or less respectable. Business has been slow at Bowery Auctions, so when an old friend, Jojo, gives Rilke a tip-off for a house clearance, life seems to be looking up. The next day Jojo washes up dead. Jojo liked Grindr hook-ups and recreational drugs – is that the reason the police won’t investigate? And if Rilke doesn’t find out what happened to Jojo, who will? Thrilling and atmospheric, The Second Cut delves into the dark side of twenty-first century Glasgow. Twenty years on, Rilke is still walking a moral tightrope between good and bad, saint and sinner.”
This is Brian Holton’s second Scots translations of Ancient Chinese poetry, the first being Staunin ma Lane. However, Hard Roads an Could Hairst Winds is the first to focus specifically upon Li Bai and Du Fu, considered two of China's greatest ever poets. It also includes calligraphy by the outstanding Chinese artist Chi Zhang, who is based in Edinburgh.
“Brian Holton transposes the work of, Li Bai and Du Fu, into the world of contemporary Scotland through a literary Scots full of joy and vitality. Utilising the rootedness and folk traditions of Scots, perennial themes of love, loss and exile are celebrated and explored to emphasise the essential universality of human existence. Complemented by the calligraphy the book offers further scholarly interest through introductory essays on the two poets and an afterword on the process of translation.”
Launched in 2007, Bella Caledonia has become know as a place where serious thought and debate found a welcome home and has continued to ask questions and proffer answers, while including some of the finest writing of recent times, and this publication proves this.
“Bella Caledonia - An Anthology is an eclectic, memorable mix of some of Bella’s most brilliant work over the years. Since 2007, Bella Caledonia has gone on to explore ideas of self-determination via a wide range of voices, expanding rapidly in the run up to the Scottish independence referendum and maintaining this momentum ever since. This anthology, curated by Mike Small, is a flavour of Bella’s output over these 14 years, and includes contributions from Kathleen Jamie, Meaghan Delahunt, Andy Wightman, AL Kennedy, Laura Easton Lewis, Alan Bissett, Irvine Welsh, & more.”
Two of the stand out books of last year were Jenni Fagan’s Luckenbooth, and Denise Mina’s Rizzio - the first in Polygon’s Darkland Tales series. Intriguingly, Fagan’s Hex is the next in that series. Once again set in Edinburgh, Hex promises a timely look at the infamous North Berwick witch trials of the late-16th century and draws parallels with the present day.
“IT’S THE 4TH OF DECEMBER 1591. On this, the last night of her life, in a prison cell several floors below Edinburgh’s High Street, convicted witch Geillis Duncan receives a mysterious visitor – Iris, who says she comes from a future where women are still persecuted for who they are and what they believe. As the hours pass and dawn approaches, Geillis recounts the circumstances of her arrest, brutal torture, confession and trial, while Iris offers support, solace – and the tantalising prospect of escape.Hex is a visceral depiction of what happens when a society is consumed by fear and superstition, exploring how the terrible force of a king’s violent crusade against ordinary women can still be felt, right up to the present day.”
Every year whispers of a great new novel reaches you through word of mouth rather than from the emails of publishers and agents, and this year the book has been Ryan O’Connor - The Voids, which is shaping up to be one of those publications which gets everyone talking.
“In a condemned tower block in Glasgow, residents slowly trickle away until a young man is left alone with only the angels and devils in his mind for company. Stumbling from one surreal situation to the next, he encounters others on the margins of society, finding friendship and camaraderie wherever it is offered, grappling with who he is and what shape his future might take. The Voids is an unsparing story of modern-day Britain, told with brilliant flashes of humour and humanity.”
Olga Wotjas’s previous 'Miss Blaine’s Prefect’ novels have been among the most unashamedly enjoyable and entertaining of recent times. Imagine Doctor Who crossed with Sherlock Holmes if they had been educated at a private school in Edinburgh, and you have some idea as to what to expect, but only some.
“Fifty-something librarian Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for a crucial mission involving Macbeth, the Weird Sisters and a black cat.”
Martin Geraghty’s debut novel A Mind Polluted was impressive, ambitious, shocking, and risky in almost equal measure, and introduced an exciting and inquisitive new voice in Scottish writing. Anyone who read it (and there was not nearly enough) has been eagerly awaiting what Geraghty would write next. That time if soon and it could be something very special.
“Meet George, a resident at the Four Seasons care home in a Scottish seaside town. Meet Carrie, an occupational therapist at the Four Seasons care home. Join them as they form an unlikely friendship. Immerse yourself in their story as they discover second chances in life. Cheer for them as they find laughter in the face of adversity. Support them as they both finally learn to bury the ghosts of their pasts and learn to live again. Most importantly, allow George and Carrie to take you on a journey where you might just end up thinking differently. An extraordinary and poignant tale full of hope and humour.”
Despite having written a number of novels which have that rare ability to make readers laugh out loud, M.J. Nicholls could be considered one of Scottish writing’s best-kept secrets (which is another way of saying he should be much better known). Perhaps this is because he is published by a US publisher, the excellent Sagging Meniscus, but it could be because his fiction is often about writing itself, earning him the tag of being ‘a writer’s writer’. He is that, but so much more. M.J. Nicholls could just be your new favourite author.
“Completing the Brexit gazetteer trilogy that began with Scotland Before the Bomb and continued with Trimming England, M.J. Nicholls’ new novel Condemned to Cymru takes the form of a dictionary of Welsh towns and villages, in which an unlovely incurious Icelandic incel outcast tours the country while dreaming of dangerously pigtailed Icelandic dominatrix Helga Horsedóttir.”
Michael Pedersen is known, among other things, as an award-winning poet, musician, and as co-founder of literary collective and arts production house Neu! Reekie! with Kevin Williamson, and his forthcoming book of non-fiction Boy Friends is perhaps the most anticipated publication of the year - one which, although intensely personal, promises to be one with which we can all relate.
“Friendships just might be the greatest love affairs of our lives . . . In 2018 poet and author Michael Pedersen lost a cherished friend, Scott Hutchison, soon after their collective voyage into the landscape of the Scottish Highlands. Just weeks later, Michael began to write to him. As he confronts the bewildering process of grief, what starts as a love letter to one magical, coruscating human soon becomes a paean to all the gorgeous male friendships that have transformed his life.” Boy Friends is published by faber & faber, 7th July