Books

Review | ‘The Broken Journey: A Life of Scotland 1976-99’ by Kenneth Roy

02/05/2017 Alastair Stewart

That’s extremely important given today’s politics. So much of Scotland’s past is used as a resource to fuel arguments, on both sides, of the constitutional debate that it’s rare to find a rhizomatic reading of history concerned with how well the system worked. How the Scottish justice, health, education systems operated with and through the Scotland Office; its ministers and its instruments and scope of its power in Scotland make for a fascinating read and serves an accessible index of political parties and policies still asking for your vote today. (Read More)

Books

Why Tam Dalyell is the passing of the Old Guard

03/04/2017 Alastair Stewart

“Dalyell’s final title is fascinating in that not only was he was an eyewitness to events, but a participant over the last five decades. It’s a genuine a breath of fresh air because he writes with a decency to candidly admit the highs and lows of his contribution, successes and failures and all. Every sentence brims with a sense of history that contains the wisdom of a participant who isn’t trying to rewrite his role to suit the turnout.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Review | ‘Sikunder Burnes’ by Craig Murray

30/03/2017 Alastair Stewart

“Does he vent, passive aggressively, about a subject not dissimilar to himself? No, but even in the expose which made his name, ‘Murder in Samarkand’, there was never frothing bile save for an honest representation of the facts. To the contrary, Murray’s prose is self-aware enough to do justice beyond hagiography and he never lets any slight against him prejudice his assessment, both critical and admiring, of his subject.” (Read More)

Books

‘It Can Happen Here’ is as relevant as ever

26/01/2017 Will Lane

Michael Meyer’s wonderfully acute, succinct and thought-provoking introduction describes the book’s protagonist, Doremus Jessup, as ‘a mild, rather indolent and somewhat sentimental liberal’. If only the world today was full of indolent sentimental Liberals. Similar to those in It Can’t Happen Here, with the exception of Jessup, today’s Liberals seem on the one hand content to hold together a world that is evidently not working for the majority of people, while also to their credit are able to identify a truly dangerous, hapless president who poses a threat not just to their world but to the ideals of the whole population. (Read More)

'Books are power' / CC
Arts & Culture

Why you should be reading Ian Gardiner

09/05/2016 Alastair Stewart

A noted Royal Marines serviceman who retired as a Brigadier in 2001, Gardiner’s books are impressive but not technically niche. The Yompers is a unique combination of writing about frontline fighting combined with wider reflections on the Falklands War, and war in general, from someone who understands the military and combat, but can write in a way that is not overwhelming in its military minutia.
(Read More)

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Books

Gore Vidal’s Afterlives: A Few False Starts

04/11/2015 Graham Paterson

For this reason, passive selling carries its own quiet satisfaction: getting a title you personally cherish into stock, knowing no-one else will bother, sticking a blurb on it and watching it sell itself reliably month after month. My first choice was always Gore Vidal’s essay collection United States. (Read More)

'Our fiction writing' / CC
Arts & Culture

Looking back at the rack #2 – Civil War

29/10/2015 Ross Graham

So last month, we talked about Planet Hulk, in all its green-rage, monster-fuelled (and sword and planet styled) glory! This month, we’re going to look a little closer to home.

When people ask me, “I’m looking to get into comic books, what do you recommend?” I almost never suggest Marvel’s cross-title Civil War. It’s not because it’s bad (far from it!), but because you need to know a little bit about the Marvel universe beforehand so you can truly understand the grand scale of this all-out Marvel event. (Read More)

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Books

Book Trailers: Friend or Foe?

20/10/2015 Christine Lawler

I am in turmoil over the recent popularity of book trailers, I despise the use of technology where literature is concerned. I was forced to get a Kindle to allow authors to send me their books for me to review as that is the route most authors prefer. But reading on a device is not the same as holding a book in your hand, the feel, smell, and intimacy can not transcend to an e-reader. I understand it has made literature more widely available to the masses which is not a bad thing however I can only hope they in no way serve to eradicate actual books. I will never understand anyone preferring a kindle to an actual book, it is beyond my comprehension. (Read More)

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Books

Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

04/10/2015 Christine Lawler

Those familiar with Haruki Murakami will know of the fantasy elements that run through most of his books; parallel universes, taking cats, and mysterious wells being just a few. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage is a break away from that. Like his 1987 novel Norwegian Wood, this focuses purely on the people and the relationships between them. Being an ardent admirer of Murakami I spent the whole novel seeing foreboding where there wasn’t any and seeing potential supernatural within the story. This did not lead to disappointment however. As always the writing holds such a magical quality to it that attention is captivated without the need for magic in the plot. (Read More)

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Books

Review: The First Bad Man: A Novel by Miranda July

04/10/2015 Christine Lawler

Cheryl Glickman is not a typical protagonist; middle aged, not a conventional beauty, neurotic, and extremely weird. Cheryl Glickman is a human being. A refreshing change compared to a lot of women within fiction. Her quirkiness is endearing and almost overwhelming as her personality slaps you in the face from every page. Her main concern to begin with is being a strong career woman and capturing the attentions of colleague Phillip. this all begins to fall apart, however, when another colleagues daughter becomes her supposedly temporary room-mate. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Review: The Ghost

30/09/2015 Alastair Stewart

This review has the rare distinction of straddling two sections for the first time. It’s both a review of the book The Ghost by Robert Harris and the film of the same name directed by Roman Polanski with Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan in starring roles. (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Review: Digital Inferno by Paul Levy

29/09/2015 Alastair Stewart

Paul Levy’s latest book is a necessary counter-balance. He doesn’t embark on a proselytising Luddite crusade beginning with ‘back in my day’. From the outset he predicates his analysis with the claim that while technology is good and here to stay, we’ve never had a real discussion on how much it impacts on our lives and changes how we think. (Read More)

Moyan Brenn, Edinburgh Festival / CC
Books

Johann Hari @ Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015

28/08/2015 Christine Lawler

Drugs policy is a controversial topic and may not seem like an interesting topic to use for a book however Johann Hari has done just that. Chasing the Scream uses human tales to advocate the legalization of drugs. Hari has travelled to many countries to speak with many people on their experiences of personal drug abuse or those associated with it. (Read More)

Moyan Brenn, Edinburgh Festival / CC
Books

Evie Wyld and Joe Sumner @ Edinburgh Book Festival

13/08/2015 Christine Lawler

As part of Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015 Joe Gordon chairs the discussion with author Evie Wyld and illustrator Joe Sumner. Together Wyld and Sumner have created the graphic novel ‘Everything is Teeth’ which is a memoir of Evie’s childhood growing up in Australia and her fixation and fear of sharks. This project began as a short story by Wyld and has taken 6-7 years of collaboration to become what it is today. (Read More)

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Books

Review: “The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, Violence, and Coexistence” by Shaul Mishal & Avraham Sela

27/03/2015 Alex Beck

Among Israeli politicians and the media there has been a tendency to project a one-sided image of Hamas as being merely a terrorist cell, driven by religious fundamentalism and ready to pursue its stated aim of destroying Israel at any cost. “Islamic and national zeal, bitter opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and strategies of terror and violence against Israel have become the movements hallmark” write Shaul Mishal and Avraham Sela in The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, Violence, and Coexistence. (Read More)

Books

Looking Back at the Rack # 4 – Decimation

08/02/2015 Ross Graham

Stan Lee proposed what he calls a “lazy” approach to an origin story: mutants. Lee would often get bored or stuck having to write longwinded superpower back stories for characters. His now timeless solution was to invent mutants, using ‘genetics’ as the springboard for new characters. (Read More)

Books

Looking Back at the Rack #3 – House of M

19/01/2015 Ross Graham

What House of M does differently is that it turns a novelty into a reality on a much more industrious scale. It’s like a ‘what if’ comic that’s actually canon. Scarlett Witch with all her reality altering craziness pretty much turns the world inside out and mutants become the dominant ones, and humans are the ones living in the shadows as the inferior species. That’s pretty much what Magneto has wanted to do for years anyway. And everyone just believes the back-story that’s been created for the world. It’s well written and I particularly like the vision of what that world might look like. You’re probably already asking questions like, ‘so no more sentinels?’,- no they are still included – ‘and S.H.I.E.L.D?’. Sort of, kind of still there. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Books

In which the New Year begins, and the author tries to cut down

12/01/2015 Graham Paterson

At a guesstimate, I’d say I own something upward of a thousand books, say around 1,200. That’s only 200 more than Montaigne, though I will assume the great man struggled on without the benefit of Fior, Son of the King (Scripture Union, 1981), The Windlesham/Rampton Report on ‘Death on the Rock’, or the April 1975 edition of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The inability to get rid of books is not uncommon, and is of long standing, to judge from Carl Spitzweg’s painting The Bookworm, in which the eponymous figure is not only confronted with more volumes than he’s ever going to read, but more than he can physically handle. (Read More)

Books

Looking back at the rack #1: Planet Hulk

04/10/2014 Ross Graham

People frequently ask me “I want to get into comics, what should I read?” If I were to answer honestly and carefully consider a response for each individual person, I would undoubtedly get it wrong. Everyone is different and everyone’s exposure to comic book universes varies. I’m familiar with a lot of the Marvel universe, but I would hardly consider myself well-read enough to know every little detail or reference in every issue. But what I can do is tell you what I do know. So, looking back at my comic book rack, where should we begin? (Read More)