As it’s Book Week Scotland, I thought I’d post some words on my favourite Scottish authors. (In no particular order.)
James Kelman – Kelman’s novel How Late it Was, How Late earned him a Booker Prize in 1994 (the first and only time the prize has been won by a Scottish author) and earned me my first ever ‘1’ on an English lit essay in 2011. I’ve forgotten a lot of what I wrote about Scots dialect, free indirect third person narration and its political connotations, but I do remember just how good this book is. I also remember the statistic that the novel contains 4000 uses of the word ‘fuck’ (including variants) – an average of ten fucks a page – and I remember a line in an essay written by an American with the helpful footnote that, “In Scots, the word ‘cunt’ is largely used in place of ‘person’ and almost never used to mean ‘vagina’.” Kelman’s short stories are also brilliant – and have appeared in Gutter Magazine where you will also find yours truly.
John Niven – Niven’s debut novel Kill Your Friends is easily one the ugliest and funniest books you’ll ever read. Set in 1997, it follows A&R man Steven Stelfox (an irredeemable misogynist, racist, xenophobic homophobe) as he boozes his way through gigs, festivals, and business meetings looking for that one hit single that will make him rich. Also, taking loads of coke and, as the title suggests, murdering the competition. Think American Psycho except instead of being ‘darkly’ funny it’s, you know, actually funny. Like, it’ll make you burst out laughing regularly. The long-awaited sequel has finally been published and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!
Doug Johnstone – Johnstone was writer-in-residence at Strathclyde Uni for a couple of years when I was there. Sadly, it wasn’t until after he left that I got round to reading his stories – in particular, The Ossians, a novel about an up-and-coming Scots band on a tour of the country. This book spoke to me on several levels, not least because I was in a (not-very-up-and-coming) rock band at the time and had similar taste in music to Johnstone’s characters. I actually wrote to Johnstone about The Ossians with regards to the dissertation I was working on at the time and he very kindly answered some questions I had – top guy!
The list will continue in the next post, but if you’re looking for a Scottish author to read for this year’s festival, give any one of the above a shot. Or, have a read at one of my books, why not? My Beaten to a Pulp! short story series is currently free on Kindle. You can download them here.