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Volume 12 Issue 2 – Scottish Review of Books

Volume 12 Issue 2


March 3, 2017

It is one of the mysteries of human endeavour that a Golden Age is only recognised when it has passed. Like happiness, it appears in the rearview mirror. When it is in full swing, insiders are oblivious, but with hindsight, what seemed like the usual grind and turmoil can be seen as a halcyon period...

The SRB Interview: Denise Mina

March 3, 2017

Modern crime writing is guilty of various misdemeanours. One is the creation of male detectives who bear a remarkable similarity to each other. Denise Mina is a writer who bucks the trend.

SRB DIARY: Tarred and Feathered

March 3, 2017
by Peter Ross

We,’ says Thomas, his face all soot, ‘have creosote in our blood.’ In their blood, on their hats, on their boots, down their backs; Thomas Ross and the other men of the Clavie Crew have creosote everywhere, with the exception of their whisky. 

All Along The Watchtower

March 3, 2017
by Neal Ascherson 

Kapka Kassabova is a modern Scheherazade – a dazzling writer who tells stories as if her life depended on it. And these tales are not her own fiction.

Small Island

March 3, 2017
by Dani Garavelli

Call it serendipity, but even as Annalena McAfee’s new book Hame – an exploration of language and identity centred on a fictional island poet – was being posted out to reviewers, the country was, once again, getting itself all het up about the alleged politicisation of the Scots tongue.

God’s Sleuth!

March 3, 2017
by Todd McEwen

You can get too much Sherlock Holmes. I once met the editor of a magazine called The Holmesian Observer. I read the Complete Sherlock Holmes while growing up, so I took an interest. Holmesian Observer? Looks good, I remarked innocently. The guy said, Actually it’s pronounced Holmeeesian. 

The Ghost Writer

March 3, 2017
by Zoë Strachan

‘Writing is what I steal from the usual flow of things,’ Burnside wrote recently in the Guardian, describing working through the enforced wakefulness of sleep-disordered nights. Goodness knows how much he would produce if his writing life was perfect.

Strange Meeting

March 3, 2017
by Colin Waters

In most histories of the First World War Edinburgh rarely rates a mention. However, the War Collection at Napier University’s Craiglockhart Campus presents a case for Edinburgh’s importance in this period as a centre of literary and medical innovation.


March 3, 2017
by Rosemary Goring

A man walks into the Mitchell Library: Reader: Have you got a book on Glasgow, mister? Librarian: Aye, 4000! Reader: Well, it’s the north of the city. Librarian: Oh, aye, here, there’s this, there’s that. Reader: It’s round about Maryhill. Librarian: Well, there’s a wee history of it. Reader:...

Her Bloody Project

March 3, 2017
by Richard W. Strachan

In Dilys Rose’s graceful and elliptical fiction, the mundane reality of everyday life is often a kind of spiritual and intellectual prison. Mothers and children, wives and husbands, drifters who never go anywhere – all her disparate characters are united by a sense that real life is happening elsewhere,...

Money For Nothing

March 3, 2017
by Ronald Frame

I’ve been moving house, for the second time in sixteen months. Bad enough once every two or three decades, and not to be recommended. Six containers arrived out of storage, and four men to unload and carry up to the top floor, with the remainder of the Stuff being directed into the tandem garage (one...

Man on the Margin

March 3, 2017
by Joseph Farrell

Judging by the curtained stage at the back, Clydebank Town Hall was envisioned as a place suitable for theatre productions, but standards change and the touring group who put on The Cause of Thunder did not consider the proscenium stage serviceable for a show like theirs, which invites intimacy, not...

Elizabeth Burns: Five Poems

March 3, 2017
by Elizabeth Burns

Including The Recovery Room, How Music Travels, Wildflower Hunt, The Field and Midsummer Sundial

Labour Pains

March 3, 2017
by Jamie Maxwell

On a cold February morning two years ago, Gordon Brown held a press conference on the top floor of the Doubletree Hotel in Edinburgh. Framed by a bright, clear view of the capital’s skyline, with the castle forbidding in the distance, the former prime minister launched – once more – into the constitutional...

Eskdale Tam

March 3, 2017
by George Rosie

Hanging on the staircase wall of my grandmother’s house in Wick there was a sepia-tinted photograph of Wick harbour in its heyday, chock-a-block with fishing boats and schooners and with quaysides lined with thousands of barrels. She loved to tell us that in those days (the late nineteenth century)...

Do you Want to Know a Secret?

March 3, 2017
by Candia McWilliam

As epigraph to his poem ‘The Commonplace’, Brian Johnstone offers these words, translated from the Latin of Horace: The jar will long retain the fragrance Of what it was steeped in when new. His memoir Double Exposure bears out, in its progression, its technique and in its highly controlled but...

Happy Days

March 3, 2017
by Brian Morton

I seem to remember that this originally came out as ‘the uncensored memoirs of John Calder’. New readers shouldn’t be concerned that the paperback second edition has been toned down in any way. There’s still plenty of action. Pursuit perhaps belongs to the same tradition of intellectual libertinism...