Archives » Scottish Fiction

The Ragged Man’s Complaint by James Robertson

B&W Publishing, 1993, 158 p.

 The Ragged Man’s Complaint cover

This is Robertson’s second collection of short stories, after Close.
Giraffe is told from the viewpoint of a worker in a Safari Park and gives a picture of all the dodgy practices that go on there.
In Plagues a man who works in a bookshop sees frogs everywhere and is worried that’s only the beginning.
Screen Lives displays a woman and a man developing their relationship by acting out lines from the film Notorious.
In The Jonah one of two men hitch-hiking in a backwater reflects on how to turn his life around.
The Claw is the withered appendage of the HIV positive narrator’s grandfather, “caught between hope and history,” in a care home. A monitor of his future.
Squibs contains four vignettes a couple of which approach the style of Iain Crichton Smith’s Munro stories.
Bastards relates an encounter in a pub, where a man mistakes another for “the cunt my wife ran off wi’.”
Facing It is a vignette even shorter than those in Squibs wherein a man sees his innards cascade into the toilet bowl and realises he can no longer ignore his medical problem.
The unarguably apocalyptic The End is Nigh, told in almost biblical cadences, has a Science-Fictional feel as a prophet extends his sermon while wandering the countryside.
There are reflections on writing, relative privilege and Scotland in The Mountain, where for a few months in the winter following his grandfather’s death a man occupies the ancestral croft.
What Love Is examines the distance between married couple Dan and Joan, between men’s lives and women’s. “Dan isn’t frightened of other lives. He imagines them all the time. The only life he is frightened of is his own.”
Portugal 5, Scotland 0 (the comma is Robertson’s – or his publisher’s.) During the game concerned two men in a pub take to discussing Hugh MacDiarmid, poetry and Scotland’s cultural reawakening, turning back only after the game is finished, since the football has begun not to matter so much.
In Tilt Alan’s friend Mike tells him the only question in the world worth asking is, “What’s it about?” (Note the absence of “all”.) Alan’s increasingly shiftless feeling comes to a head one day after an encounter with a recalcitrant pinball machine and Mike’s sister, Mona.
Surprise, Surprise. A man accompanies three girls to a party and while there finds his evening is described in a book he picks from a shelf.
In the absence of the real thing, the Tories having won a General Election again (the book’s publication date suggests the 1992 one) Robert occasionally retreats into The Republic of the Mind. “I just think what a waste of time it is, having to wait to be a normal country, having to waste all this energy identifying ourselves. So I bugger off anyway. To the Scottish Republic of the mind.” On an epiphany he thinks, “You had to come upon it, or it came upon you.” He also realises, “how nobody ever assumed their neighbour was a Tory in a public house in Scotland,” and “We’re a nation of philosophers … at the end of the day. A nation of fucking philosophers.” That expletive is a brilliant piece of emphasis by Robertson. It demonstrates both the glory and the despair of the thought it qualifies.
Someone, perhaps homeless, perhaps not, is Pretending to Sleep. For all the ones who cannot do it for themselves. It is a strange existence. “Funny how in the cells they come to check if you’re not dead. Out here, out in the open, nobody checks” but, “Just by lying there, pretending to sleep, you get under their skin …. deep into them.” It’s a horror story. But not for the pretender.

Pedant’s corner:- staunch (stanch,)

The Return of John Macnab by Andrew Greig

Headline Review, 1996, 285 p.

The Return of John Macnab cover

This, Greig’s second novel, takes as its template John Buchan’s John Macnab which I reviewed here. Once again three men – but this time not “gentlemen” – form an alliance to poach a salmon, a brace of grouse and a stag respectively from three different estates, Mavor, Inchallian and Balmoral, and then deliver the poached items back to the “owners”, as a challenge to “absentee landowners and the Criminal Justice Act” and as a wager to the three estates’ owners; issuing a statement to this effect in the Scotsman newspaper. The “John Macnab” here comprises at first Neil Lindores, Murray Hamilton and Alasdair Sutherland, each with his own special talent useful for the enterprise, but not long after arriving in “a small Highland town” Lindores is sussed out by local journalist Kirsty Fowler who is excited by the project and offers to help them.

Greig’s background in climbing comes to the fore in his description of the scramble needed to get to the pool for the salmon poach and his life as a poet in the sentence, “Seldom had a celebration broken up so fast, as if someone had announced an evening of performance poetry would commence in thirty seconds.”

His descriptions of landscape are loving and there is the odd reflection on the condition of Scotland. On feeling himself squeezed as at the narrow waist of an hour-glass with more past than future as the minutes ran through Neil thinks, “What a depressingly Scottish image. Its negativity was another thing that was true about his country. It went along with tholing, bearing, putting up with, and taking a certain satisfaction in the expected bad news when it came.” Yes indeed. That’s Calvinism for you. Neil does go on, though, to sense “it was a wrong picture. He was groping for another, still true but more affirmative.” At another point, “He hugged Murray. This was a first – they were Scottish, after all.”

The big problem John Macnab faces here is Balmoral. It is late summer and HRH is in residence. Consequently the place is hoaching with Special Services, Army and Police as well as the usual ghillies and gamekeepers. The authorities cannot ignore the possibility that John Macnab is merely a cover for a terrorist attempt on HRH’s life.

The text occasionally refers to Buchan’s novel, as it has to, and even critiques it in mentioning that Buchan’s women are really just chaps – though with (small) breasts. Greig’s intent is somewhat different; and his women are certainly far from chaps. Kirsty is as rounded and complex a character as you could wish (such women are a common factor in Greig’s novels) and is thoroughly involved in the poaching efforts – as are Sutherland’s and Hamilton’s wives and the former’s family – at least in the second one. Sutherland’s wife, though she has had an affair tells Kirsty she would kill him if he were to do the same. Ellen Stobo, a policewoman attached to the security services but who finds herself coming to an understanding of John Macnab, is also well drawn. To be fair to Buchan he was writing adventure tales for a male audience in a time that was less aware. Greig is by far the better examiner of the human condition though.

The John Macnab template – while driving the events of the plot – at times gets in the way of Greig’s greater facility with personal relationships but in the end his own concerns overwhelm Buchan’s. Still, he nearly overdoes it, veering very close to the tradition of the Scottish sentimental novel (compare Iain Banks’s Espedair Street,) in the final pages. But he is too canny to yield a conventional ending.

That template means that The Return of John Macnab is not quite up there with Greig’s best – all the other novels of his I have read; see “Andrew Greig” in my categories – but for an exploration of human uncertainties, hesitations, lust for life and willingness to take risks, emotional as well as physical, it’s still pretty damn good.

Pedant’s corner:- midgies (midges – which spelling does occur in the book once but otherwise with the extraneous “i”,) swopped (swapped,) “‘but there a problem comes with it’” (but there’s a problem,) autogiro (autogyro,) hoochin’ (usually spelled – and pronounced – hoachin’,) the main work party were loading gear (the party was,) none of the computer systems were down (none was down,) a missing end quote mark.

Time Travel, Reviews, Hame and Rebellions

In an article in Saturday’s Guardian review, James Gleick examined the history of the time travel story since H G Wells more or less invented the form in The Time Machine. It was a skate over the subject really and veered into the territory of so-called Alternative History which of course I prefer to name Altered History but worth reading all the same.

In the same section of the paper was a review of Annalena McAfee’s new novel Hame. Many reviews are interesting, some make you think “definitely not”. Very few inspire you to go out and read the book concerned. Stuart Kelly’s did just that, as indeed did his review of Kevin MacNeil’s The Brilliant and Forever which I read a few months ago after also reading the same author’s A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde due to the same review. McAfee’s Hame sounds intriguing and possibly funny. Definitely one I’ll look for.

I recalled McAfee’s name. She had an article in the Guardian Review some weeks ago which I wished to post about then but at the time could not find on the Guardian website but which now pops up fourth when you search her name there. The article was about the relative importance of Robert Burns and the possible balefulness of his mythologising (Aside. Why does no-one ever question this about Shakespeare?) and the continuing battle over whether Scots is a suitable medium of expression for literature.

My take is if the author wishes to use Scots it is entirely up to her or him. It may reduce the psossible readership but that is a question for author and publisher, not reader. Myself, though not very well versed in it, my mother being the daughter of two English parents, thus hardly a native speaker and unable to expose me to its richness, I do not consider Scots – as some do – as necessarily inferior form to English. It is at times much more pithy.

I have a quibble with McAfee over a detail in that piece, though. She stated that Burns was born “two decades after the failed rebellion against the Union.” While Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Rebellion of 1745-6 was many things, not least the last flailing gasp of a failed dynasty, and the Battle of Culloden can even be considered as in some way (if you ignore its continuation into Ireland even into the twentieth century and possibly beyond,) the last of the Thirty Years War – though admittedly that was mostly fought out in German territories – it was not primarily against the Union. It was less general then that, more personal.

Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh

Canongate, 2005, 158 p.

 Tamburlaine Must Die cover

This novella is certainly a departure from the genre and style of Welsh’s first book, her novel The Cutting Room, a contemporary (more or less) crime tale set in Glasgow. The time here is London in 1593 and we are reading Christopher Marlowe’s account of his past few days, written in case he does not survive the morrow. Drawn before the Privy Council to answer charges of blasphemy and atheism (someone has been disseminating leaflets of this nature as written by “Tamburlaine” and naturally this is assumed to be Marlowe himself after his success with his play Tamburlaine the Great,) he is set free in order to procure evidence against Sir Walter Raleigh. His efforts in this direction are taken over by his quest to discover the person who had betrayed him; a search in which we are led through the byways, hideaways, stews and fleshpots of Elizabethan London, the politics of power and the drawbacks of having an influential patron.

I must confess I have not read nor seen any of Marlowe’s works – so how well Welsh captures his voice I cannot say, but it was convincing enough. Of course true Elizabethan prose would have been fairly impenetrable to the modern reader in any case so some degree of accommodation is to be expected.

On a second thought this is not actually so much of a leap by Welsh. She is still dealing with intrigue and crime. She has done it well though and is now on my look for list.

Pedant’s corner:- I couldn’t find ambidextor anywhere, on line or off, but its context was as if of people who might play one side against the other; nor could I find cosiner (but it may be a variant of cozener as it was in a list of felons of various sorts.) Otherwise:- wainscoted (wainscotted,) Baynes’ (Baynes’s,) hung (hanged, or was hung Elizabethan usage?) from whence (whence means from where, so from whence can only mean from from where.)

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

Cassell, 1962, 541 p. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

The Game of Kings cover

This novel is set in the times of what the father of the historical novel Sir Walter Scott dubbed the “Rough Wooing” (a phrase Dunnett never uses in the book) which started when Henry VIII of England wished for a marriage between the infant Queen of Scots, Mary, and his son Edward (VI of England) in order to unite the two kingdoms and so prevent any military threat through England’s back door. The Scots, longtime allies of England’s perennial enemy France, were somewhat unwilling to oblige Henry in this regard, and so a series of wars and invasions began, which in the novel are being promulgated in Edward’s name by Lord Seymour, Duke of Somerset, England’s Lord Protector during Edward’s minority.

Our hero is Francis Crawford of Lymond, Master of Culter, a younger son at odds with his older brother, though his mother’s favourite. We find him newly returned to Scotland from enforced exile (not to mention a term as a galley slave,) the leader of a band of border outlaws, the states of both Scotland and England having a price on his head (in particular he is thought to have betrayed Scotland, as a result contributing to the disaster that was the Battle of Solway Moss five years in this story’s past,) as a young red-headed aristocratic lad called Will Scott of Kincurd, heir to Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, turns up wishing to join his band.

Lymond is outrageously accomplished, a master swordsman and archer, who litters his speech with Latin epithets and quotations from both French and German, speaks Spanish, has a firm grasp of psychology and can outthink and outdrink anybody – the last being handy when you’re the leader of a band of outlaws. To put it another way, in the words of Chris Tarrant on Tiswas parodying Eamonn Andrews in This is Your Life, he is, “a right clever dick if ever there was one”. He is not unaware of this and neither is Dunnett as at one point she has him say, “‘Nothing arouses suspicion quicker than genuine, all round proficiency.’”

I confess it got a bit wearing in the earlier parts of the book when every mysterious “new” character turned out to be Lymond in some disguise or other (or, in one instance, as an amnesiac.) Whatever, incident is packed on incident, scrape on scrape, as the plot unfolds Lymond’s efforts to uncover the Englishman who might clear his name.

However, Dunnett has, while foregrounding the lives of Lymond and his family, also, almost quietly, ticking away in the background, provided a primer in the politics and strife of the time. This, indeed, is the sort of story nations need periodically to tell themselves so that they keep their histories alive.

And some things never change. An Englishman tells Lymond, “I don’t want to become part of the Holy Roman Empire, and it wouldn’t do Scotland any good either. You’re a threat to three million people out of all proportion to your size. You can’t expect us to leave you alone, to siphon up the dregs of Europe and inject them into our backside.” Substitute EU for Holy Roman Empire and fifty-five for three million and you’ve just about got the present day situation. As a rejoinder Lymond says, “‘You haven’t seen what your late king managed in the way of practical persuasion, with Somerset following ….. abbeys brought to the ground, villages annihilated by the hundred, a nobility decimated, a country brought to poverty which thirty years ago was graced above any other in Europe with the arts of living.” To the suggestions that French domination is inevitable if Mary marries the Dauphin and that the Auld Alliance had done Scotland little good, “‘Look at Flodden,’” Lymond replies, “‘France has too many commitments to spare enough troops to rule Scotland. Good lord, if England can’t do it, then France isn’t likely to.’”

On the subject of patriotism Lymond is scathing. It’s “‘a fine hothouse for maggots. It breeds intolerance; it forces a spindle-legged, spurious riot of colour ….. A man of only moderate powers enjoys the special sanction of purpose, the sense of ceremony, the echo of mysterious, lost and royal things; a trace of the broad, plain childish virtues of myth and legend and ballad…. He wants advancement – what simpler way is there? Patriotism. It’s an opulent word, a mighty key to a royal Cloud-Cuckoo-Land …… a vehicle for shedding boredom and exercising surplus power or surplus talents or surplus money; an immature ignorance which becomes the coin of barter in the markets of power.’” I am with the Lord Advocate, Henry Lauder, who says to Lymond, “‘Preserve us from the honest clod and the ambitious fanatic.’” There are too many of those, in any time.

Dunnett definitely aspires to fine writing. Lymond’s allusions are the least of it. “‘I wish to God,’ said Gideon with mild exasperation, ‘that you’d talk – just once – in prose like other people.’” Many chapter headings refer to obscure moves in chess and the text is littered not only with quotations and epithets but a good dose of uncommonly used or obsolete words (how about aposteme, or concamerate, or escharotic?) but actually not very many Scots ones. When she stops to take breath Dunnett is particularly adept in description of scenery or atmosphere but for me there was not quite enough of that and a bit too much of the swashbuckling derring-do about the project. But her characters are well drawn, the intrigue and politics intricately laid out. It’s a good read if a little over-wordy (but in that it’s not in the class of Sir Walter Scott, novelist.)

Throughout, though, I couldn’t shake off the feeling (and the dénouement only emphasised the thought) that however much Lymond appears to be Dunnett’s vehicle the tale is really that of Will Scott of Kincurd.

Pedant’s corner:- “dead right” (dead is here used in dialogue as an emphasiser to mean completely or absolutely. In the 1400s?) knit (knitted,) vocal chords (it’s cords; vocal cords.) “The progress of Sybilla though a market” (through a market,) “as Flaw Valleys’ near the border” (Flaw Valleys is a farm so, “as Flaw Valleys is near the border”,) “genetically speaking” (in dialogue in the fifteenth century? Imre Festetics was the first to use the term genetic, 300 years later,) Portugese (Portuguese,) peripetia (peripeteia?) Bowes’ (Bowes’s; apart from the one below other names ending in s are rendered …s’s elsewhere,) accolyte (the correct “acolyte” appeared later,) vivesection (vivisection,) Berick (Berwick,) Stokes’ (Stokes’s,) olefactory (olfactory,) insifflating (insufflating?) subsaltive (subsultive?) catachumen (catechumen.)

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae Contraband, 2015, 284 p.

 His Bloody Project cover

This novel caused a fair buzz when first published, and made the Booker Prize short list last year. It is a variation on the found manuscript tale, partly set in the Applecross peninsula in Wester Ross in 1869, describing the circumstances leading up to a brutal triple murder. However, that takes up only half the book, which in fact begins with an authorial preface (wherein we find the first set of a number of footnotes which bolster the manuscript conceit,) goes on to witness statements supposedly collected at the time of the murder then we have the manuscript itself, a glossary of Scots words used in it, medical reports on the victims, an extract from a work on psychiatry by the resident Surgeon at Perth Prison – an “acknowledged authority” on crime and psychology – and subsequently describes the resultant trial in Inverness plus the verdict, supposedly drawn from newspaper accounts and a book published in 1869.

The manuscript’s narrator, Roderick Macrae, had lost his mother to childbirth some years previously and the family had since fallen into depression; a circumstance not helped by the fact his father, Black John, was free with his fists within the family and was having difficulty keeping the croft going. This last was made progressively worse by the new occupant of the post of factor’s constable, Lachlan Mackenzie, who had a long-lasting mutual antipathy with Black John, carrying out a vendetta against him. (The reasons for this antipathy may be surmised from a single cryptic remark Lachlan makes to Roddy after Roddy sees him forcing himself on Roddy’s sister, Jetta.) The witness statements and the testimonies at the trial inevitably throw doubt on the reliability of Roddy’s account. In this regard the Minister is as severe and uncompassionate as any of his breed, mindful only of the spiritual and not bodily welfare of his parishioners. About the only two people who have a good word to say about Roddy are the local schoolmaster who thought he had a good chance of bettering himself, and his lawyer, who strives to prove Roddy is insane.

It’s all exquisitely written. Burnet is a master, inhabiting the various voices within the book expertly, adroitly taking us into the life and times of his characters but I’m afraid I wasn’t convinced by the manuscript section as a found artefact. I know it’s an odd thing to say, all found manuscript tales are made up but there were too many obviously novelistic touches here, incidents too neatly aligned to the arc of the story.

It’s an outstanding example in the use of different narrative forms to tell a story, though; which makes His Bloody Project a fine work of fiction. It’ll be in my books of the year to be sure.

Pedant’s corner:- [The found manuscript is described as being altered only in respect of punctuation and paragraphing but “true to the original”, I have therefore mostly ignored any odd punctuation in that portion of the book.] Otherwise; “children were instructed in Latin, Greek and science” (why no capital for science? or for mathematics and french later on.) “The factor furrowed his brow and look at my father” (looked,) a gavel (3 mentions of the trial judge employing this implement. It is never used in Scottish – or English, Welsh or Northern Irish – courts,) “he had put her hands upon her” (his hands,) indispensible (indispensable.)

Under the Skin by Michel Faber

Canongate, 2014, 300 p. One of the 100 best Scottish Books. Also in the Scotsman’s 20 Best Scottish Books.

 Under the Skin cover

Well this is an odd tale. A woman named Isserley trawls up and down the A9 between Tain and Dunkeld searching for male – and only male, well-muscled at that – hitchhikers to pick up. The narrative is mostly from Isserley’s viewpoint but small interludes are given to the thoughts of her various pick-ups. She calls their species vodsels and it soon turns out she has been surgically modified – apparently to make her more attractive to these males – and has the intent to drug them via a concealed apparatus under the front passenger seat of her battered looking car. She then takes them back to a farm where members of her own species (which she of course knows as human) “process” them. Her backstory as a beautiful young woman betrayed by richer young men and plucked from a miserable existence in “the Estates” to undergo the mutilations which have rendered her acceptable to vodsel eyes (at least on brief scrutiny) is given a lot of space. However, other than the unsavoury nature of the job Isserley would have had to perform there (to produce oxygen from filth) no more detail is given about these Estates than that they are to be avoided at almost any cost.

Granted, the book is set in Scotland and Faber lives in the Highlands but apart from occasional descriptions of scenery (which, admittedly is a pronounced trait in Scottish literature) there isn’t anything particularly Scottish about it. The book’s other flaws also lead me to wonder why it should appear on that list of 100 “best” Scottish books. Apart from their sexual and economic dynamics, portrayed as more or less the same as that of us vodsels, we learn almost nothing about the species to which Isserley belongs to except that their planet is short of oxygen, water and living space, they have a fondness for vodsel meat, a reverence for creatures who walk on all fours, and their general appearance. Their ships are apparently capable of moving into and out of what is in effect a barn without anyone in the wider world noticing. The attractiveness of Earth as a planet to her species, broad skies, open water, water falling from the sky, is made plain though.

Isserley has learned English mostly from television programmes but lately she reflects, “there was no point trying to orient yourself to reality with television. It only made things worse.” She avoids contact with the Police by always travelling well below the speed limit and avoiding flashing blue lights but, even if she is careful to determine the (lack of) marital and employment status of her victims before drugging them, it does stretch credulity that she can pick up and remove from their everyday lives so many people from such a relatively small area in such a short time – she sometimes picks up two a day – without causing some sort of official concern.

Despite its Science-fictional scenario, like Faber’s later The Book of Strange New Things, this, his first published novel, fails to hit the SF buttons square on. It does contain some fine writing at the level of the sentence and garnered a lot of praise when it came out but I found myself unable to discern what purpose Faber had in mind when conceiving it. I couldn’t avoid the feeling that there is less to Under the Skin than meets the eye.

Pedant’s corner:- “as if her perfectly sculpted little nose had indeed been sculpted” (two “sculpted”s in close proximity,) “cruising safely off the bridge at the far end” (cruising safely off the far end of the bridge,) “All was not necessarily lost though.” (Not all was necessarily lost,) “it was no place for a claustrophobic” (the noun is claustrophobe,) hingeing (makes sense for a Scottish writer to spell it this way as hinging is Scots for hanging.)

Driftnet by Lin Anderson

Luath, 2003, 256 p. One of the Scotsman’s 20 Best Scottish Books.

Driftnet cover

Yet another crime novel on one of these “best of Scottish books” lists. Set mainly in Glasgow the chief viewpoint character is Forensic Scientist Rhona MacLeod but many scenes are seen through the eyes of others. The case involves the murder of a teenager – with a startling resemblance to Rhona – who is apparently a rent boy.

Anderson’s writing is fine enough but to my mind there were several factors which marred the reading experience. Typical of the protagonists in such novels Rhona has relationship problems but here her backstory is far too convoluted. Granted, it helps to progress the plot but it all felt too contrived, too neat, too enmeshed. Another flaw was that the murderer is easily identified on his first appearance. Anderson tries to finesse the point but that only succeeds in making Rhona look too naïve – or stupid. (Her realisation earlier than she does would have made for a shorter book though, and less jeopardy for others.) Also far too many of the characters are connected to the murderer’s orbit. It stretches belief beyond credibility for so many to be so close to the perpetrator. I thought that the description of the criminal ring he is a part of as containing paedophiles – while probably correct in a legal sense – skirts on the margins of that definition; at least on the evidence of their victims as presented here. For a tale supposedly centred round a Forensic Scientist too little time is spent in the lab; there are only really two instances of any forensic detail.

This may not technically be a detective novel – even if DI Bill Wilson is given several viewpoint scenes – but the function of such a story is to set the world back on an even keel. In Driftnet that does not happen – which may be truer to life but does not provide the sense of satisfaction that the form demands. Another serious misstep was Rhona’s moment of release on the third last page which wasn’t justified by any of the foregoing and is only there to provide a spurious sense of uplift.

I did scoot through it in two nights reading, though.

Pedant’s corner:- flate (flat,) Connolly (elsewhere is Connelly,) form teacher (Scots do not use the word form in this sense; register teacher would be the equivalent term,) “when half the population of the street was in the pub and the other half were at the bingo” (half the street is singular and the other half plural? [A half, being smaller than 1, can never be plural],) zipper (the British term is zip, which is used later,) benificently (beneficently,) Sir James’ (Sir James’s,) “she sat down on the sofa to wait. back. She wanted …” (????) paracetemol (x 3 but the correct “paracetamol” once,) “Chrissy wanted looked at Neil willing him to agree” (wanted looked?) “‘and find out what happening’” (what’s happening.)

The Scotsman’s 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read

This is a list which was published in 2005.

Again those in bold I have read. 11 out of the 20. Most of the rest are on my “to be read” list for this year.

Driftnet by Lin Anderson
Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark*
Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin*
Buddha Da by Anne Donovan*
Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie*

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
Boswell’s Edinburgh Journals
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Selected Poems of Carol Ann Duffy
Greenvoe by George Mackay Brown*
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Lanark by Alasdair Gray*

The Missing by Andrew O’Hagan
New Selected Poems by Edwin Morgan
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks*
Young Adam by Alexander Trocchi*

Waverley by Sir Walter Scott
The Cone-Gatherers by Robin Jenkins*
Divided City by Theresa Breslin

Again we find Sunset Song and Trainspotting; the two constants in such lists.

2016 in Books

The best of what I read this year, in order of reading. 13 by men, 8 by women, 1 non-fiction, 5 SF or fantasy, 12 Scottish:-

Ancient Light by John Banville
The Secret Knowledge by Andrew Crumey
Clara by Janice Galloway
A Twelvemonth and a Day by Christopher Rush
Fergus Lamont by Robin Jenkins
In Another Light by Andrew Greig
The Quarry Wood by Nan Shepherd
The Lighthouse Stevensons by Bella Bathurst
The Scottish Tradition in Literature by Kurt Wittig
A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde by Kevin MacNeil
This Census Taker by China Miéville
Revenger by Alastair Reynolds
1610: A Sundial in a Grave by Mary Gentle
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
The Misunderstanding by Irène Némirovsky
Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson
Daughter of Eden by Chris Beckett
The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh
Young Art and Old Hector by Neil M Gunn
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
Among Others by Jo Walton

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