For (happy, wonderful) reasons I couldn’t finish my posts on my favourite Scottish authors before the end of Book Week Scotland, so here, belatedly, is the final part.
Iain Banks – The late, great Iain Banks, or Iain M. Banks if sci-fi is more your thing, was a powerhouse of a novelist, a genre-bending cult hero turned national treasure. He showed a generation of writers that ‘genre’ fiction could be literary and ‘literary’ fiction could have an exciting plot. To pick one book to highlight above the others in his catalogue is a challenge, but his brooding debut The Wasp Factory is as good a place to start as any. A modern gothic set on an isolated Scottish island, narrator Frank draws us into his strange, private world of rites and rituals. You can feel traces of Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle in Banks’s murderous protagonist, and the way the story bubbles around a mystery at the heart of Frank’s family.
Graeme Macrae Burnet – His Bloody Project, Burnet’s second novel, catapulted him and indie publisher Saraband to fame when it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2016. It’s a crime novel, yes, but as you could guess from the nomination, it’s not your average crime novel. Roddy Macrae, a highland crofter in 1869 has brutally murdered three people – that part is gospel. What we don’t know is his true motivation for doing so. His Bloody Project is presented as a supposedly real collection of contradictory historical documents (including testimony from people who really existed) which cast Roddy in different lights. Burnet is a fan of playing meta tricks, as seen in his first novel, The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau, where he went as far as to credit himself only as the translator of the book, causing real-world confusion in many bookshops.
Irvine Welsh – Say “Scottish author” and Irvine Welsh is probably the first name to come to mind. His 80s debut Trainspotting is iconic. Written fully in Edinburgh dialect and sliding between the viewpoint of several characters as well as third-person narration, it’s formally experimental as well as boundary-breaking in its loose narrative about a group of junkies trying to get by as the AIDS epidemic hits. By turns deeply sad and outrageously funny, Welsh is gleefully provocative to the point of bad taste and can craft a joke as well as any stand-up. A Scottish bastard son to Hubert Selby Jr.