Monday, 7 January 2013
Saturday, 5 January 2013
Everyone else is doing it, so I thought I would pitch in with some of my favourite reads of 2012. (They needn’t necessarily have been published last year, but they all came to my attention in the last 12 months.)
In no particular order ...
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was the last book I read in 2012, but one that was on my radar for quite a few months - because so many people were talking about it. And if you’re one of the few who hasn’t read it, grab a copy, like, now. Thoroughly gripping. One of the strongest reactions I’ve had to a character in a long while. And that’s good writing, people.
The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty was the first book I read in 2012 and it was a stormer. Set in Belfast in the 80’s it is a fascinating read, beautifully written and with a real sense of danger.
Abide With Me by Ian Ayris - one of my favourite debuts of the year. Warm, engaging and affecting, with one of the most original voices I came across all year.
A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez. This is Stav’s first venture into the police procedural and he’s taken to it like the proverbial duck to the local pond, but with, I would suggest, a good deal more grace. It’s classy, captivating and worth every penny I’m about to urge you to spend on it.
A Dark and Broken Heart by R J Ellory - This book has quality written all over it – from the unforgettable characters, the see it and taste it sense of place and the punch in the gut ending.
The Healing of Luther Grove by Barry Gornell - If Daniel Woodrell had grown up in the West Highlands of Scotland rather than the Missouri Ozarks in the US, he might have written this book. I simply can’t give this debut novel any higher praise than that. Stunning.
Whataboutchoo? What floated your boat in 2012?
Wednesday, 19 December 2012
... is to re-post the (scarily) true story of how I found myself with a giant fecking Xmas tree.
I put my Xmas tree up the other night. Then I lay down for an hour to rest. Said tree is HUGE.I should have phoned in some people to help me wrestle it from the loft. Took me three trips up and down the stairs to get it through the doors and into the living room.
As I placed the tree in the middle of the floor and cleared the eagle’s nest from its branches I remembered the day it came into my possession. Just four short years ago...
......cue swirly music (violins and shit like that)....
....the phone rang. It was my twin sister. The Queen of Chaos (QC). For any newbies reading this, she’s a lovely lady. She’s four feet eleven inches, a size six, thinks tact is something you stick your posters on the wall with and enjoys a lifelong blonde moment.
I had earlier been at the swimming pool with my son where he invented a new sport, Dad Surfing. (In case you don’t value your lungs and you’d like to try it, all you need is a swimming pool with a current and a child who is happy to stand on your back while you – and this is where it gets tricky - float) It was great fun ...and this explains my uncharacteristic willingness to step in and help. I was in a good mood.
Long story even longer, QC had been offered a free second-hand Xmas tree. It was seven feet tall, cost £190 new just 2 years ago and it was a cracker. Only thing is QC doesn’t have a car and is a master of the passive aggressive. I don’t have car, she says - like I don’t know this – and how am I going to get the tree home to my flat? In Troon? Like I’ve also forgotten where she stays.
I load the car with self and son and drive to meet her. She has a piece of paper in her hand with directions to the home of the tree. The directions to the home of said tree were lousy. We got lost in a housing estate with one road in and one road out. Several phone calls later, with shouted instructions from my backseat sister, me snapping at her and the wee fella giving me a row for being bossy with my twin, we made it.
A nice lady is standing by the door of her flat on the third floor wearing a look of relief. The look of someone who has just been told; yes it piles but yes, we can cure you. She directed us to a cupboard in the communal hall. And opened a door. The only thing I saw was a huge white box. You know those containers you see on the back of ships? Roughly the size of one of those.
-that’s your tree, says nice lady and runs back indoors before we can say anything else.
I couldn’t lift the box off the ground, never mind lifting it out to the car, but with the wee fella pushing and me dragging and QC carrying a free box of 20,000 lights the tree owner no longer needed, we made it.
By which time my shirt was sticking to my back, my jacket was torn in three places and I was wishing I only had brothers.
I looked at the box. I looked at the boot. Not going to happen. I open up the boot (or as the wee fella calls; the trunk) in the vain hope that Doctor Who has been working nearby. Na. Not a chance. The tree box would never fit in the boot. There was a large green skip by the side of the road and it had some space. But the thought of dumping tree lady’s gift was too much and we resolved to try harder.
While all the pushing was going on QC was standing to the side wearing an expression of mild panic. It’s too big, she says. I don’t have big enough corners in my house, she says. You have it and I’ll take yours. It’ll be lovely for you and the wee man to have a nice big tree, she says trying to sell me the idea.
- Can we get it in the feckin’ car first, says I.
- Dad! says the wee fella.
Eventually I worked out that if I moved the front seats forward that there might be room in the back. With a lot more sweat, more pushing and some muttered curses, we made it. And bonus, we even managed to close the car doors.
Of course we now didn’t have enough room for three people. So the wee fella (who’s nearly as tall as his aunt) sits on QC’s lap and I drive to my house, which is nearer– but I have to go the long way as the short way goes past the police station. We all hold our breath and look straight ahead for the ten minutes it takes to get to my house – because this is proven to make you invisible to the police. Fact.
We get home safely – no blue flashing lights. I couldn’t possibly drive to QC’s like this. I can’t leave the wee man at home on his own while I take the tree to hers. Besides, I can’t face the thought of lifting this humongous box up the three flights of stairs to QC’s flat. I face the realisation that I’m going to have to accept this bloody tree.
The next trick is to get the box out of my car. We all adopt the same activities as before – the wee fella pushes, I pull and QC stands wearing an expression of alarm. Eventually – presumably in the same time it takes a crane to lift a container from the ship on to the wharf, something gives – the car door handle- and the box is out the car and with more pushing, pulling and sweat, is in my front room.
While my son and I catch our breath, QC tears the industrial tape from the box – you know the silver duct tape kind that serial killers use in all the movies – just to see how big this tree is.
Think Norway’s annual gift to the British nation.
-it’ll be lovely with lights on it, says QC prompted by the fact that the room is so dark because the tree is blocking out the light from the window. The expression of alarm on her face has deepened. She is by now desperate for me to take it off her hands. She paused, where are the lights? Did you leave the lights behind, she asks me?
-I was kinda busy with a big feckin’ box, sis, says I.
- Dad! says the wee man.
QC’s last memory of the lights was while standing watching me wrestle the tree container into the car. She must have put them down somewhere, she surmises. So we all jump back in the car and go back to the tree lady’s building …and there in a dark corner of the car park was our box of lights. Hurrah. Nobody had stolen them. No doubt any prospective thief had been put off by the thought of the increase to their electricity bill once they were switched on.
A wee guy was walking his wee dog past the scene as we screeched to a halt. QC jumped out of the car before I could pull on the handbrake.
-forgot my lights, she explained to the man as if it made perfect sense, while she swooped for the box. I caught a glimpse of him over my shoulder as I circled out of the car park – his chin was resting on the back of his dachshund.
By this time we had all worked up an appetite so we decided to go to Pizza Hut. (Other restaurants focusing on saturated fat are available.) My stomach was saying, do not go home, do not pass “Go”, go straight to food. The unhealthier the better. The stomach was to be obeyed. QC generously offered to go halfers for any food.
Relieved the worst of it was over, we had a wee laugh about our adventures on the way to the restaurant – but it was to be an illusory moment of calm for when we parked and climbed out of the car QC realised she didn’t have her handbag. I reasoned that it must be in my house and besides I was not driving another inch without throwing something down my throat. And it didn’t matter it if wasn’t a meal acceptable to polite society.
By the time we got a seat in Pizza Hut (see above) and ordered our food, QC had worked herself into a frenzy of worry. Her house keys. Her mobile phone. Her purse.
Oh my fucking god, she screeched. Maybe the handbag wasn’t in the house. It was on the backseat of the car while I was pushing the tree-box in. Maybe it got pushed out the other end. Maybe she left it in the same car park as the box of lights. Maybe it was in the tree lady’s house. Maybe the tree lady had emptied her purse, had been shopping on-line with her credit cards and was now happily phoning a porn phone line in Chile using her mobile phone.
While QC borrowed my mobile and phoned all of her friends to try and find out the tree lady’s number, the wee fella gave me another row.
– you’re different with your sister, he said, much more bossy.
Nobody had tree lady’s number. Cue more worry and more doomsday scenarios – her house keys were in her handbag, I would have to kick in her front door. No, I couldn’t do that as she has mental neighbours and while she was sleeping they would ransack her flat. She thought about it some more. NO, she couldn’t do that ‘cos she’d have to stay awake all night and she was a monster if she didn’t get her sleep. Could she even get a locksmith on a Saturday night? Shame she fell out with another neighbour – the witch- ‘cos she used to keep a spare key for her.
The food arrived and was eaten in Guinness Book of Records time. The wee man didn’t even have time to get that tomato smear on his wee cheeks.
There was a collective holding of breath all the way from Pizza Hut to my house. The wee fella worried that QC was going to have a rubbish Xmas. I worried that I was going to have a mad woman on my couch for the rest of the weekend and QC just worried.
We pulled up in front of my house and all of us took a deep breath and paused in prayer before we get out of the car.
I unlocked the front door to my house and QC almost knocked me into next door’s garden in her rush to get past. The wee man and I looked at each other and waited at the door, afraid to look.
We heard a squeal. She’d found it. Care to guess where?
Under the tree.
Saturday, 24 November 2012
...according to Google translate, that is afrikaans for "part two".
MM – There will be, I imagine, a number of aspiring writers reading this interview ... could you describe your writing process for them?
DM – I have a very fixed schedule. I think that the first step in being a writer is writing often and writing regularly with discipline. I am usually sitting down to write about 5 o’clock in the morning. It’s an old habit, because when I started writing I had a proper day job, so the only time I could write was between 4 and 7 in the morning. ..
MM – 4 and 7?
DM – Yes, I was a single parent at the time so had to get the kids up and dressed and fed and take them off to school and then go to work. And in the evening the kids needed care and attention. So I got into the habit of getting up very early because that really was the only time I could write. And it is a fantastic time of the day. So quiet. No distractions. That became my habit and I now write between 5 and lunch.
MM – Who are your literary influences?
DM – I think I was probably influenced by Ed McBain and John B McDonald. I was reading them as a teen and into my twenties. They made a huge impression on me and I still admire their writing so much. One is influenced by so much ... I’m a huge John le Carre fan. And many others ... like Graham Greene.
MM – What are you reading at the moment?
DM – I’m reading a book on movie directing (laughs). We created a movie company. A friend and I. We made a movie a couple of years ago - I wrote the script and he directed - and it was such a fun experience. And the movie did quite well in SA, so we thought, let’s do this more often. And I’ve just finished an original movie script and I really think I could direct it, but I have more to learn before I can get there. It’s something different.
MM – And, I guess, it’s a different part of the creative brain that you get to exercise ...
DM – Yeah, it’s still all about storytelling. This is a wonderful book by two female movie directors from the US and it’s by far the best guide I’ve come across on how to direct and what I find fascinating is that it is all about storytelling. There are many similarities in the writing process. When you write a book you consider: what is the best way to tell this story? In a movie, you think about when do you start a scene, when do you end a scene. That’s the same in a novel when you think about your chapters. In essence it is all about telling a story.
MM – Yeah, you are just presenting your information in a different way. What would you say was your biggest lesson from that book so far, that it’s all about storytelling?
DM – No. My biggest lesson is that I still have a hell of a lot to learn. There is much that a director has to do. You take the script. You have the establishing shot. The medium shot. Where do you put the camera? How do you do the lighting? And so much more. When you write a book you don’t think about all that. The other interesting thing is that in a book you can write a scene where 100,000 people fill a city square, but if you want to do that in a movie it’s going to cost you millions of dollars to film that scene.
Filmmaking is a hugely collaborative process. You have an art director, a cinematographer ...even the actors bring their talent to bear. To me that’s the magic of making movies. When you write a novel it’s just you and the story and it’s a world no-one else can enter.
MM – From your books’ perspective, where is your biggest market at the moment?
DM – France. My book sell well in France. But there’s also Germany, US and the UK. I was recently on the top ten list in Holland as well.
MM – Do you find a different reaction in some of the countries that you go to?
DM – Yeah, some countries just don’t get me. The Italians are just not into me. In Spain, we’re getting there. Slowly. I’ve just realised with this Dutch thing that it makes a difference if you get a good publisher who sticks with you. My first book sold dismally in the UK, but Hodder decided to stick with me and now we are making real progress. I am very fortunate to have that and in other markets it doesn’t always work that way.
MM – You write in Afrikaans, don’t you? Do you translate it yourself?
DM – I have a translator who I work with closely. When she’s finished I go through it closely, I spend maybe a month working through the translated work to make sure it is as close as possible to the Afrikaans version.
MM – And are you published in both languages in SA?
DM - Yes, and my English version comes out a year after the Afrikaans version and my English readers are not so happy about this. But there’s nothing I can do about that. It takes so long to do the translation.
MM - What would you say is the best thing and the worst thing about being a writer?
DM – I would say that the best thing is this huge privilege to be able to see the world. To meet book people. I’ve never met a book person I didn’t like and that to me is just a huge privilege. I wouldn’t have that honour if I didn’t write. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. You know, I come from a small South African mining town. I never thought when I started to write that I would get all these opportunities, that I would get to see so much of the world.
The worst thing is that you can only blame yourself for anything that goes wrong. You create the book. You write the book. There is always something that scares you: if you get it wrong then it’s all just your fault. I find the writing process a slow, tough one ...
MM – It’s not getting any easier then?
DM – No, if anything it’s getting more and more difficult. I think you are obligated to keep on learning, to keep on improving. If you spend so much time and effort building a loyal audience, reader by reader then you owe it to them and to yourself not to do something stupid and spoil it all for them.
MM –Thinking back to the beginning, was there ever a “moment” when you thought to yourself, “I am a writer”?
DM – I still don’t think I’m a writer. The term of author or writer sounds so intelligent and arty and I think of myself more as a storyteller. My job is storytelling.
MM – And did you come to all of this “storytelling” early on in life?
DM – Yeah, I think I was nine or ten years old. Difficult to explain ... we were three brothers. We all read voraciously. We went to the library three times a week. But I was the only one who went from this to wanting to tell stories that would please, entertain other people. Why me? Why not one of the others? I
simply had this urge – I knew this was what I wanted to do.
MM – And we are so glad you carried on. Deon, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you.
Tuesday, 13 November 2012
During the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival in July this year, I had the good fortune to interview the charming and talented, Deon Meyer in advance of his September publication of "7 Days".
We met in the hotel lobby and on the way up to the media suite - we got stuck in the lift. Cue lots of gags. Thankfully, the lift had almost reached the right level. We managed to open the doors and step up and out onto the hotel landing. Mr Meyer demonstrated that he was a real gentleman by being the last person to exit the lift. I wasn't quite so courteous.
How did our conversation go? First, here's the blurb for 7 Days ...
“I'll shoot a policeman every day until you arrest the murderer of Hanneke Sloet.”
Shortly after the South African Police Services receive this threatening email, a policeman is shot by a sniper and recovering alcoholic Benny Griessel is ordered to reopen the Sloet case.
Hanneke Sloet was a sensual and ambitious lawyer. At the time of her murder she was working on one of the biggest Black Empowerment deals in South African history. She was found dead in her luxury Cape Town apartment, a single stab wound to her chest.
After forty days, the trail has gone cold. The first investigation could find no motive and no leads, only a set of nude photographs, an ex-boyfriend with a rock-solid alibi, conniving attorneys and financial double-dealing.
Benny has to deal with immense pressure from his superiors, the media and the unfathomable sniper, whose emails keep coming and who won't stop shooting. And then there's Benny's love interest, former pop sensation Alexa Barnard, who is also trying to rebuild her life after the ravages of alcohol, and Benny has to make sure she stays sober for her comeback.
At the same time, Benny's feisty colleague, Captain Mbali Kaleni, is hunting the shooter, trying desperately to find what connects him to Hanneke Sloet.
Both Benny and Mbali are about to endure seven days of hell.
And here's the first part of our interview ...
MM - How much of you is in Bennie Griessel?
DM – (laughs)Bennie was a side character in my first novel – and the main character in that book was more like me. Bennie was supposed to be the comic relief in that book, but he was just such a fantastic character – he was a bit of a cliché – you know, the alcoholic cop – but I enjoyed writing him and he found his way to being the main character. And there is only a little of me in Benny.
MM - He is a finely nuanced character. How careful are you in depicting him, or do you run on instinct?
DM – I do a lot of thinking about my characters ...what are the emotional moments in their life – what possible genetic markers do they have. If you don’t know your character when you are writing them, you are going to make a lot of mistakes. I did spend a lot of time thinking about Benny and I tried to be very careful to get him right. It’s not difficult – once you know your character, once you know the pressure points that are going to drive him or her then it becomes and easier process. “7 Days” is my third Benny Griessel novel and I’m getting to know him better and better
MM – I thought the counterpoint provided by his relationship with Alexa was interesting. He is off the demon drink and she’s going through that particular battle. AND it provides a nice piece of mental torture for Benny. He’s in love with this woman. He knows how she is suffering, but booze is always near...
DM – We have an expression in Afrikaans, to make the wolf the sheepherder. Benny is of course an alcoholic. His wife used to fight to keep him off the drink and now he’s got to do that. He has the other end of the stick. And that for me was an interesting tension to the story – how will Benny cope?
I think the whole idea of the genre is to create conflict. Conflict is the mother of suspense and to give Benny these challenges creates extra suspense.
MM – What do you think makes Benny such an endearing character?
DM – I dunno. You’re asking the right guy. I like him and I just hope the reader will like him. My approach is to make all my characters as human as possible and I think readers respond to humanity in characters; to frailty. Life is difficult for all of us and if you have a character who is finding it difficult to cope ... and as I said, readers respond. And Benny he does stupid things, but at heart he is a good man. He tries so hard, but he has so many failings.
MM – Roger Smith is another very fine writer to come out of South Africa, but if his books were the only reference to the modern state that is South Africa, you would never set foot in the place. Your books are much more balanced in that respect. Do you feel a responsibility to do so?
DM – No I don’t. When I do interviews and people ask about South Africa, then I feel I have a responsibility to try and convince people that South Africa is a fantastic and safe country. An interesting fact is that the UK crime rate and the South African crime rate is not all that different.
The thing to bear in mind about crime fiction is that it’s a small window into a very big world. And it’s usually a small window onto the dark underbelly of society. When I read a book set in Scandinavia or London, I don’t immediately think this is a very dangerous place. And I don’t think readers do either. So that’s why I don’t feel any responsibility. I do try to be honest and depict SA as it is but you can’t reflect reality. Crime fiction isn’t a mirror on society. It’s a prism. You set the light to suit the story.
I think if you try to portray SA as it really is, which is a fantastic, beautiful and safe country, then you affect the story. Just trying to get the story right is difficult enough, I don’t any other pressures.
MM – Your responsibility is to the story?
DM – Yeah. When I do interviews; when I visit other countries, I do feel I should talk about the wonders of my country. Unfortunately, through the media, SA does have a reputation of being a violent society but I didn’t create that perception and it’s not up to me to alter it.
MM – Another element I found interesting in the story was a moment when Benny considered the new SA and how Afrikaaners have had to adapt to big changes ...
DM – Yeah, one of the great things about writing is that you get to see your country through the eyes of different characters. One of my characters is a Zulu cop. She looks at SA through Zulu eyes and that enriches me as an author and it enriches the reader because they get different points of view. There’s a scene when Benny thinks how unfair the media is when talking about cops. The police get too much attention from the media and politicians and the police authorities continually get hit with the political stick. They get an unfair deal and I wanted to portray that.
MM – What about the soccer World Cup, was that of benefit to the nation?
DM – Absolutely. We are still reaping the benefit of the World Cup. Tourism stats went up during the tournament and they have continued to rise. Every day, when I go into Cape Town I get to drive on the new highways that were built for the World Cup. The stadiums are being used for other sports events and for disadvantaged communities. And also on a psychological level it really brought the people together. The pride we took, that we showed the world we can host a very successful world event. I must tell you that I found it very charming when I was in the UK before the World Cup a lot of journalists were saying how can you host a World Cup, it’s going to be a fiasco, there’s so much crime. And in the run up to the Olympics the UK had a problem with GS4. We never had such a mess.
MM – Back to the books. You are amassing an impressive backlist. Do you have a favourite?
DM – I don’t really, but there is always the last one. Because you have lived with it so long and you feel the relief. Devil’s Peak and Trackers are probably the ones that I’m proudest of. But there are other books and other characters that I am also proud of. It’s like asking which of my children I love the most. It’s a very difficult thing to answer.
Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of the interview ...
Saturday, 27 October 2012
Look up at the banner. See where it says "home"? Next to that it says "Carnegie's Call".
This is a new page to talk about a change of direction for me. In here I will be talking about what is happening with this new book.
Pop in. Say hi. Tell your pals.Watch out for new posts.
Saturday, 29 September 2012
This is my blog on the Saturday night at Bloody Scotland ...
So you’ll be wondering what a collective of crime writers get up to on conferences when the crowds dissipate? You’re not? I’ll tell you anyway. We go gazing at the stars. The shiny-in-the-sky-peeping-behind-clouds kinda stars. Not Katie Price.
We were sat sitting, after dinner on Saturday night, at the bar: Lin Anderson, Gillian Philip, Cathy MacPhail and me, when we were approached by a small dapper man.
“Want to see my observatory?” he asked.
“Makes a change from puppies,” said Gillian.
“Or kittens,” said Lin.
“Or tattoos,” said Cathy. “Oops, did I say that out loud?”
“At least tell me your name,” says I. “I don’t go to a strange man’s observatory without at least knowing their name.”
“Bert”, says he. “And here at the Stirling Highland Hotel we have an actual, real-life observatory.”
And before you know it, we were whisked off down a long, white corridor and up a steep, white staircase climbing up inside a dark tower.
“Ooh,” says Lin Anderson. “I could fair murder someone up here.”
“Me bagsies that,” says Gillian.
“Where’s my wine glass?” says Cathy.
So, imagine an igloo. Except there’s no snow. And it’s made of wood. And there’s a fricking HUGE metal tube thing stretched across the ceiling. Those in the know – our Bert – call it a telescope.
As Bert describes how the telescope works Lin and Gillian are getting more and more excited. Lin is wondering when Doctor Who will appear and Gillian is staring at this giant metal tube thing making squealing noises that Meg Ryan would be envious of.
Bert is visibly growing before our eyes. His chest is about to burst with pride. And we haven’t even looked through the thing yet.
Sadly, the cloud cover is too thick – the moon has got its cloak on, so to speak – but our Bert has an alternative. The Wallace Tower is lit up in the distance like a beacon and the telescope brings it so close we can see every brick. Gillian’s squeals are so high pitched now that only dogs can hear it. Albeit, every dog within a twenty mile radius.
Back in the bar – pulses calmed, breathing normal, the conversation returns to more mundane matters.
“Can I borrow a red wig from anyone for tomorrow?” asks Cathy.
Friday, 28 September 2012
...so I thought I'd warm you up with a blog I posted on the Bloody Scotland site (I was one of the official bloggers during the event).
The event was called, In the Beginning Was Laidlaw and starred William McIlvanney in conversation with Len Wanner.
The event was called, In the Beginning Was Laidlaw and starred William McIlvanney in conversation with Len Wanner.
Len's introduction to the man himself was fulsome and considered. Comments such as ... created an archetype with an all access pass ... seen as the source for tartan noir ...the genre debt to him is remarkable.
When Len paused for a response, Willie joked he should now leave, that anything else would be an anti-climax.
Len’s first question, almost inevitably – because it’s what I wanted to know, was why did he turn to crime?
After writing his critically acclaimed novel, Docherty, Willie felt what he described as contemporary starvation. He want to connect with his peers and on further deliberation he said he heard a voice. This voice in his head was abrasive ... it was clearly Scottish and he deliberately made him a policeman because he wanted him to deal with the bad stuff in society.
He went on to say that he was more than pleasantly surprised with the impact. Willie argued that he shouldn’t take sole credit for beginning a genre. What he experienced was a hunger for contemporary life and Laidlaw gave him a vehicle for re-connecting. He loved Glasgow and he wanted to write without restriction, to bring his writing into the then present.
The book was of course a huge success and his agent counselled him saying that that if he wrote one of these each year he would soon become a millionaire. Of course, he didn’t and one sensed that any regret that flavoured the words was simply playing to the gallery.
The previous night, Ian Rankin cited McIlvanney as one of his early influences a comment that humbled and delighted him. He said, “Crime writers are a generous species, at other more literary gatherings, he joked, you can often see the glint of knives in the shadows.”
He went on to say that as he explored Laidlaw on the page the character fascinated him. He is of course from Kilmarnock, but a convert to Glasgow and a big part of the element of the Laidlaw books for him is it allows him to demonstrate his respect for Glasgow, "You don’t pay homage to the city," he said, "you meet it on equal terms."
Len asked if his achievement was equal to his ambition.
After a pause, Willie answered by saying that he wanted to write a genealogy of the Scottish working class. He decided early on in life that he wanted to write about ordinary people. He came from a talkative family, he lived in what he described as a “verbal house” and he savoured the stories he heard from everyone around him. He was tired of literature that talked about the ruling classes and he wanted to commemorate the ordinary citizen. For him there is a serious historical tradition in the working class that deserves enormous respect and with his work he wanted to celebrate where he came from.
Someone asked – it may have been Len - what do you think is the artists role? His answer was that this comes down to the choice of the artist. In his view politics have always mattered, in his view the world has become a monopoly board for the world of finance – capital rules the world and governments are secondary and he wants to understand that.
A question from the floor – what advice would you give to students?
He answered, “Write about what you love – to thine oneself be true, as the quote says. Try to sustain the energy of your commitment.” He went on to say that publication should not be viewed as the be all and end all. “It’s perfectly valid to write and clarify your own thoughts and feelings, even if you don’t achieve publication. You can understand yourself, your own nature and impulses. Do it for yourself ... and if publication happens good on you.”
The last question was from Len and he asked was there going to be another Laidlaw?
Willie told us that Canongate are going to re-publish his Laidlaw books and since this has been agreed he feels like a born again writer. Laidlaw has been spinning around his head again and he thinks he would like to write another one.
Here’s one McIlvanney fan waiting with bated breath.
Sunday, 19 August 2012
So, in among the positive reviews for BLOOD TEARS there are a handful of less than positive ones. So dry your eyes, no biggie. I’m fine with it. You can’t please everybody and rare is the book that doesn’t attract dissenting voices - a friend told me that To Kill a Mockingbird has over 20,000 1 star reviews on Goodreads. How’s that for perspective?
The thing is that now more than ever we live in a world of opinions. A world where opinions are easily uploaded onto public forums so everyone can read how we felt about something.
Which got me thinking.
I’ve always preferred to spread the love. If I enjoy something I want everyone to know about it. I want that author to be read by everyone. So, I’ll blog, tweet, FB, stop people on the street etc. But when I don’t like something I keep it to myself. It’s hard enough for writers to get an audience, why should I try and put someone off another writer’s hard work? Just because it didn’t do it for me, doesn’t mean there’s not an audience for it somewhere. My ego doesn’t demand that people sit up and PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT I THINK.
Is that what it’s about? Feeding the ego? Some of these people must have fearsome, hungry egos.
There’s one reviewer of BLOOD TEARS who has given it a 1 star on several review sites. That takes a lot of energy. She must have really hated it. Who could be arsed to pop in and out of different web pages to say the same thing again and again?
Growing up, I adopted the mantra, if I don’t have something good to say, then say nothing. Seems the internet has bred into us a different perspective. Just click on the comments thread of any newspaper article, sit back and wonder at the vitriol some people are happy to spew.
Now, it seems everyone is a critic. But of course, criticism is not a new thing. Those in the creative field have been complaining about them for a long time ...
“Critics! Those cut-throat bandits in the paths of fame.” Robert Burns
“Don’t pay any attention to the critics - don't even ignore them”. Samuel Goldwyn
“If you have no critics you'll likely have no success.” Malcolm X
“Nature, when she invented, manufactured, and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
“Pay no attention to what the critics say; no statue has ever been put up to a critic.” Jean Sibelius
“When my time on earth is gone, and my activities here are passed, I want they bury me upside down, and my critics can kiss my ass!” Bobby Knight.
“As soon as you concern yourself with the 'good' and 'bad' of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weaken and defeat you.” Morihei Ueshiba
Want to share your favourite quote about critics?