Summer is coming. Monday and Tuesday of the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s first week are dominated by the presence of George RR Martin, author of the Song of Ice and Fire series that has become the hugely popular and engrossing fantasy TV show Game of Thrones. Even though it has a relatively small live audience on one of the Sky channels (this season’s finale peaked at 1.2 million), the fact that almost a quarter of a million people bought the season 3 box set on its day of release should give some kind of indication of paying fans’ appetite.
So you’ll need to book early for both Creating Brave New Worlds, which concentrates on the books themselves and From Mind to Page to Screen in which he talks about the TV adaptation. I’ll not be going because it’s impossible to plug your ears for spoilers and write shorthand at the same time, but they should be fascinating.
The first of these is chaired by Stuart Kelly, who is also doing a reading workshop on Moby Dick. Given that for his Batman workshop last year he wore an astounding Riddler costume, I’m wondering if he’ll turn up as Captain Ahab or even a great white sperm whale. Don’t let us down, Stuart.
Another event I can recommend, having been at a version a few weeks ago at Summerhall is Andrew Greig and Rachel Newton on the Border Ballads.
I can’t say I’m a fan of Rod Liddle’s brand of contrarian, besieged ranting, and Will Self’s review of his book Selfish, Whining Monkeys is as close as I’m going to get to reading it, but his event on Monday, Laughing in the Face of Disarray, could be promising as I bet the Q&A at the end will become slightly, let’s say, heated.
Will Self himself is here on Tuesday evening (wisely spaced, organisers), talking about his new novel Shark, in which “maverick psychiatrist Dr Zack Busner has been tricked into joining a decidedly ill-advised LSD trip with several of its disturbed residents”. That’s the most comprehensible bit of the plot synopsis, but I’m sure readers of his Booker-shortlisted Umbrella will make more sense of it. Or maybe not.
Also on Tuesday is Margaret Drabble at the self-explanatory First New Novel for Seven Years. Pure Gold Baby was released last year after a gap in which she said she’d probably never write again, and some critics think it’s the best she’s written for a long time.
Over in the kids’ programme Monday’s big event is one of the biggest-selling authors you’ve possibly never heard of: Darren Shan. Darren began his career with the Cirque du Freak series in which a teenager called Darren Shan becomes a vampire and has to undergo all sorts of gruesome trials. They’re a weird and baffling mix of horror and realism that have captivated slightly unhinged young readers for over a decade. We once held a signing at the Edinburgh Dungeon which was absolutely mobbed.
The Zom-B series, currently in the process of being released every three months, is about a zombie outbreak in Ireland, and raises issues of race and gender politics. Yes, really.
Another slightly strange yet affable chap, Philip Ardagh, is joined by Axel Scheffler (the man who drew The Gruffalo) to introduce a new instalment in their The Grunts series. I’m just going to let the publisher’s own words describe them.
Mr and Mrs Grunt, who are neither clean nor clever, live with their adopted – in fact, abducted – son, Sunny, in a donkey-drawn caravan somewhere or other at some time that is a bit like now but not exactly now. Sunny is an odd-looking boy, what with his left ear being higher than his right ear and that kind of sticky-up hair which NEVER goes flat, even if you massage glue into it and then jump on it. Together the unusual family find themselves in frankly improbable but very funny adventures involving bendy railings, double-barrelled shotguns, full-fat yoghurt and, always, a beard of bees.
Doesn’t that sound great?
And finally, the writer and illustrator of some of the funniest picture flats ever made — including Doctor Dog, Mummy Laid an Egg and Hairs in Funny Places — Babette Cole has a new book out, The Wildest West Country Tale of James Rabbit and the Giggleberries. I’m not entirely sure what it’s about, but it seems to be some sort of Beatrix Potter pastiche. One thing that is likely, though, given her track record, is that laughs caused by rude bodily functions will be prominent.