OK, so my plan to preview the whole Edinburgh International Book Festival before tickets went on sale didn’t quite work, but let’s just see how well the sell-out predictometer worked.
Both George RR Martin events sold out within a couple of hours, unsurprisingly. Among the many others were Debi Gliori’s Moomins workshop, Stuart Kelly on Moby Dick, Margaret Drabble, Jung Chang, Richard Dawkins, and James Naughtie. Not a bad hit rate. Weirdly, though, Diana Gabaldon hasn’t yet. Perhaps even though her international fanbase is huge, not so many of them are in Scotland?
Bryan Lee O’Malley tickets are also available, which surprises me. There do seem to be fewer sellouts so far in the second week — Omid Djalili, Kate Adie, Haruki Murakami, Brenda Blethyn and Ann Cleeves, Paxo, and, weirdly Stefan Cornelius (who?) — so maybe someone has been reading this after all. Therefore it’s time for this Chauvin to get back on his horse and ride into a lost battle.
Where were we? Tuesday 19th. I should probably highlight his event with Barry Miles, Iconic US Authors Remembered (what an uninspired title). I’m not sure he will actually be much of a pull, but Miles might generate an audience once people work out who he is and why he’s here. He has a long history with the 1960s US counterculture and has written a huge list of biographies of musicians and, most recently, William S Burroughs.
Burroughs’ work is still held in high regard, particularly Naked Lunch (which also inspired Bomb the Bass’s best record Bug Powder Dust), and he was a fascinating character, so this could well be one to catch, even if it is hidden away as an “and” in the smallish Garden Theatre.
A reliable, perennial book festival presence is Val McDermid, who makes two appearances this year. Today’s event is about the return of DI Karen Pirie in The Skeleton Road. McDermid is always good value for money, a generous spirit who is also campaigning on behalf of Professor Sue Black’s Million for a Morgue campaign, which is a fascinating subject worth a post in itself. Remind me sometime.
I also highly recommend listening to her recent appearance on Desert Island Discs, which is available to stream or download. It offers an insight into why crime fiction seems to hold a particular hold over the imagination of women that had never occurred to me before.
Kate Adie is sold out, so that saves me a couple of paragraphs. Let’s continue instead with the crime theme. Arne Dahl and John Harvey present Gripping Crime Yarns. As we noted a while back, Scandinavia has proven in recent years a fertile ground for crime fiction and TV. Arne Dahl’s most recent book to be published in English, To the Top of the Mountain, was on BBC4 last year (not currently available on iPlayer, sadly but they have a habit of reappearing unannounced).
John Harvey will be talking about his final Charlie Resnick novel, Darkness, Darkness, which came out last month. It’s not clear what the link between the two authors is, as one’s book is about an attack on a football supporter, the latter a crime linked to the Miner’s Strike, but I’m sure they’ll find some common ground.
On Wednesday Helen Dunmore takes part in the Words and War strand with The Long Shadows of War. A devotee of DH Lawrence, Dunmore’s work is lyrical and blends natural imagery with the politics of class and gender to reflect the wider world by concentrating on individuals. Her new book, The Lie (presumably the great lie, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori)is about a man’s life and love after the First World War.
Val McDermid is back this evening for a discussion of her reworking of Northanger Abbey, part of the Austen Project, which began with Joanna Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility. If you want a recommendation, how about JK Rowling’s?
‘Val McDermid’s brilliant re-working of Jane Austen’s original shows that innocent, bookish girls in thrall to the supernatural have changed surprisingly little in two centuries. Witty and shrewd, full of romance and skulduggery – I loved it.’
Nick Harkaway is someone who has built a substantial fanbase for his sort-of science fiction through engagement with social media and technology and generally being a bloody nice bloke. His third novel, Tigerman is just out and he’s here with Luke Brown, whose debut My Biggest Lie has been getting good reviews.
Over in the children’s programme, rapidly shortening as the week goes on, Gill Arbuthnott (that’s her right at the top of the post) asks What Makes You You?, an introduction to genetics on Tuesday and on Wednesday Mike Nicholson Creates a Stramash. A whit? A stramash, a stooshie, ken? The plan is to use Scots words to creates rhymes that can then be spun off into poems and stories. Sounds really imaginative, a great way for kids to get off their bahookies and dae something creative.
I am now going to sit back and watch all these events sell out. Go on, help me prove a point.