Book Week Scotland – how was it for you? I had a great time!
Urban Crime Noir
Crime is not my genre of choice, but I really enjoyed this session at the Mitchell Library. I’d volunteered to help Glasgow Libraries out at a couple of events, and this was one of them – it’s a great way to find out about new authors, because it can be quite random where you are allocated.
A panel of three authors, the most famous probably being Arne Dahl, some of whose stories have been televised, talked about “the contemporary anxieties they explore in their works of urban crime fiction”. Arne is from Stockholm, Stuart Neville from Belfast and Eva Dolan from Peterborough, and between them they covered contemporary issues such as immigration, terrorism, the fate of refugees and the effects of violence on those left behind.
Arne Dahl’s books revolve around a tight-knit team of elite specialists who investigate the dark side of Swedish society. They contain lots of characters because he always intended to write an extensive series (10). Asked what he thought about the TV versions, he thought his characters came across as “a bit more stupid” on screen. The shows are “well made enough” – but he really wants people to read the books, while recognising that TV gets his name better known.
Coming from Northern Ireland, Stuart Neville is well aware of the long-term effects of murder. He talked about one victim whose wife and two daughters all subsequently committed suicide, and a man whose walls were covered in newspaper cuttings of his father’s murder 30 years before. His latest novel, Those We Left Behind, concerns a 12-year old boy who confessed to the murder of his foster-father. Seven years later, his probation officer suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered.
Eva Dolan was inspired by an overheard conversation with a gang-master in a country pub to write about the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit. She tackles issues such as immigration and far right extremism, for which she finds the research profoundly depressing – for example, investigating the terrible conditions in which migrant workers live. Another unpleasant result is that she is now identified as a bit of a fascist in the sites that social media recommends to her!
It was interesting to compare the answers to audience questions – for example, do they read crime fiction as well as writing it? Eva does – she wants to know what the competition is up to, check trends and make sure her idea hasn’t been written about before (and preferably get in first before the topic dates). Arne said he didn’t until the point at which he found his own voice. Stuart used to, but has more or less stopped – he was getting too analytical about it, although he finds audio books can bypass this part of his brain. There was general consensus that, even although writers should “touch the untouchable” (Arne), events such as the recent Paris bombings were best mulled over for a few years before being used for fiction.
Would I read these authors? Yes, definitely – when my current TBR pile decreases somewhat!
Not a BWS event, but slap bang in the middle of it and with plenty of love for books and reading, was the CILIPS West AGM. The picture shows past President Robert Ruthven and current President Jeanette Castle who spoke eloquently of her life in and passion for libraries. I was not the only one nodding along in recognition when she spoke of her early start as a primary school library monitor who played libraries at home with her own books!
A brew, a book and a banter with Maggie Ritchie
This was another Glasgow Libraries event, this time at my local branch, Hillhead. Maggie Ritchie’s book, Paris Kiss, is set in the art world of 1880s where young English sculptor Jessie Lipscomb joins her friend, Camille Claudel, in the studio of Auguste Rodin. Rodin and Camille embark on an affair which strains the friendship, but when the book opens this is all in the past. Years later, Jessie has tracked Camille down to an insane asylum and together they look back on their shared memories.
Would I read this book? Yes, I would, and I borrowed a copy from the library before I left. There are serious issues in it, mainly the role of women and the restrictions placed upon them – for example, although British women of the time could access an education in art, they were not allowed to work from the nude figure. In Paris they could. Another issue is the ease with which inconvenient women could be locked up for years, even decades. This enrages me – I think also of the film, The Magdalene Sisters, a much-less known TV film from the 80s, She’s been away, starring Peggy Ashcroft and Geraldine James, and other books such as Maggie O’Farrell’s Vanishing act of Esme Lennox. So why on earth does this book have such a fluffy cover? It looks like a lightweight historical romance. I did, slightly cheekily, ask Maggie this and, as suspected, it’s what the publisher thinks will sell – but I certainly wouldn’t have picked it up in bookshop or library without having attended this event.
GWL Book Bonanza
Where to have the most fun in Book Week Scotland? Glasgow Women’s Library of course! The Bring and Borrow Book Bonanza took place over Friday lunchtime. Sheila Templeton and Velma McClymont read some of their poems, we had a quiz and Claire was presented with a prize for being the top borrower of 2015. My contribution was a series of quotes about books from women writers (might make a separate post of them), plus contributing to the chat and (of course) helping to eat the cake!
Like the CILIPS West AGM this event was not part of BWS, but it was strongly related to books. It took place at Maryhill Burgh Halls, where I have recently started volunteering, and featured a screening of Katharine Round’s film The divide which asks the question “what happens when the rich get richer?” Inspired by the book The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, it tells the story of seven people striving for a better life in modern-day US and UK – where the top 0.1% owns as much wealth as the bottom 90%. By plotting these tales together, it shows how life is dominated by the size of the gap between rich and poor, and how economic division creates social division.
The second part of the afternoon consisted of talks by David Walsh from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health who shared some terrifying statistics, and Carol Craig whose book The tears that made the Clyde: well-being in Glasgow puts flesh on the bones of those stats. I came away with that book and her earlier title, The Scots’ crisis of confidence, and a feeling of despair about the world 😦
Volunteering is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and attend events which you might not normally have considered. I think I was very restrained only ending up with three more books in the house than I had before! The creative force behind Book Week Scotland is the Scottish Book Trust, so thank you to them for all they do. I think I now need to take their How much could you read instead? test.