A busy weekend means today is full-on catch-up, so without further ado, let’s plough through almost a week of Edinburgh International Book Festival highlights today (more posts to follow).
Friday the 15th is crammed with interesting stuff, with the high-profile names being Paddy Ashdown and Katy Brand, but the day’s big event (for many of us the pinnacle of the whole festival) will be Droolian, the Archdrude of Wessex and Modern Antiquarian, better known as Julian Cope. Although he’s hardly bothered the charts for a good 20 years, he has a devoted following for his continuing musical journey, his writing on Neolithic history and his Head Heritage site.
His first novel, One Three One describes itself as “A Time-Shifting Gnostic Hooligan Road Novel”. Sounds utterly unhinged, and I would expect nothing less. Expect the event, Genuinely Original Fiction, to sell out quite quickly.
A more familiar festival fixture, but always welcome and reliably entertaining, is Denise Mina. The event, When Rose Turned on Her Pimp takes its title from the subject of her latest novel, The Red Road, an exploration of child sex trafficking, revenge, and the attitudes of society to prostitution.
Earlier in the day a slightly more conservative figure (well, he was Jeffrey Archer’s campaign manager) takes to the stage to discuss his 24th book about supercop Bob Skinner. I can’t say I’m a fan of Quintin Jardine (that’s him at the top of the page), but his books do sell by the bucketload, so Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man should be quite well-attended. Having cannily moved Skinner from Edinburgh to Glasgow to
increase sales develop the character, Jardine now has him working the banks of the Forth again, so we can probably expect him to start touring Fife and up the east coast before eventually becoming a grizzled cop putting the Western Isles to rights.
Saturday is dominated by the spoken word, as the Babble On thread really starts to kick in. At noon Phill Jupitus — who began his career as Porky the Poet, supporting the likes of Billy Bragg on stage with poetry readings — leads a gang of performance poets showing how spoken word can give a voice to the dispossessed. Sharing the stage are Elvis McGonagall, Hollie McNish and Hannah Silva. The event, titled The Rhetoric of Resistance promises to be a lot of full-on, righteous fun.
In the evening Babble On welcomes one of the big stars of recent Fringes, Luke Wright, whose performance poetry is fast, funny and poignant, delivered by, as he describes himself, a “jobbing fop”. Fat Dandy is Wright’s new alter ego who owes more than a little to Russell Brand. It’s interesting to see how, as with the Grid Iron performances, the lines between Fringe and Book Festival are becoming steadily more blurred. The best literary raconteurs are pretty much stand-up artists, after all.
Although it’s not flagged up in the programme as part of Babble On, the presence of the actor Kevin Eldon — a firm favourite among comedy nerds who got his own very daft yet poorly promoted TV series last year — is a continuation of the theme. His (entirely fictional) poet Paul Hamilton has had his first book My Prefect Cousin published by, appropriately, Faber, and Eldon here presents a summary of the man’s life and work: A Star is Finally Born.
Slightly more seriously, but still on poetry, the winner of the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award is announced. It’s a biggie, with £20,000 at stake (or is it £30k, as the programme seems confused), and the shortlisted poets will be giving readings before the announcement. I bet they’ll be terrified.
In the children’s programme, Friday’s event featuring Claire McFall and Lucy Saxon sounds like a good event for teenagers. Both of them have a fantasy/SF books out with a dystopian edge. McFall’s Bombmaker looks at the possible (though rather unlikely) repercussions of Scotland’s vote for independence in September and Saxon’s seems to be a take on the classic trope of the privileged princess escaping from luxury to explore an unjust world. The Guardian published an extract here.
And to wrap up this slice of festiness, Saturday morning has a celebration of Animal War Heroes: Duffy the donkey, Rip the rescue dog and Wotjek the bear. I’ve not heard of the first two, but Wotjek’s story is quite well known in Edinburgh, thanks to our Polish community, and last year a statue was approved for Princes Street Gardens. I don’t think it has been installed yet, though. Writers Mark Greenwood, David Long and Jenny Robinson give us the stories of animals under fire.